Fresh, homemade bread — just 30 minutes in the kitchen. A few hints and tips through the process make it a snap. No need for bread pans.
Surprised? Most people are. It takes about 20 minutes to mix, 90 minutes of hanging around doin’ nothin’ and around 40 minutes to bake.
There is a recipe to try, but the tips throughout apply to any yeast dough, your family loaf to Philadelphia Sticky Buns.
Let the adventure begin:
I will give you my my messiest recipe card and we will work through it together.
Hang in there and make some coffee.
Basic Family Bread
Ingredients: (don’t worry there is a little bit of room for play here)
2 cups of water
1/3 heaping cup Non Fat Dry milk — Don’t have any? Check the tips below
3 Tablespoons Sugar
1 packet of Active Dry Yeast (2 and 1/4 teaspoons from the jar)
1 1/2 teaspoons Salt
3 Tablespoons Oil ( Your favorite is fine. Out? See tips below)
6 cups flour (approximately, more on this later)
We will discuss both with and without a mixer. Without is just a better workout for your arms.
1. In a nice large bowl or mixer, blend 2 cups of the flour, non fat dry milk, sugar, yeast and salt.
2. Heat more than 2 cups of water to 110 – 120 degrees F. (Can anyone give me the Metric for this whole post?)
No thermometer? Think cozy, hot bath water. I take mine to 125 then measure the 2 cups from that precisely. It cools as you measure and pour.
3. Pour the water into the dry ingredients and mix for two minutes.
Yup, time it. Or you probably won’t do it long enough or way too long
4. Add the oil and 1 more cup of flour. Mix at a higher speed for two minutes.
By now it really should be smelling like bread.
5. If you are using a mixer, switch to the dough hook. By hand, take a deep breath.
6. Add enough flour to make a nice dough.
What the hell is a nice dough?
This is the step that keeps most people from trying to bake bread themselves. My mother says, “until it pulls away from the sides cleanly. It’s okay if the bottom is sticky” I’ve heard people say, ” it should feel like the jiggle on the back of your upper arm.” More accurately, it should feel like your earlobe. I’m not kidding. That is the best indicator of the proper consistency. It will vary with the humidity in your kitchen, so add the flour by feel.
7. Knead it for 10 minutes. Yup, set a timer. If you are working by hand, this is where you decide to skip going to the gym.
8. Cover and let the dough rise until doubled.
What the F*&#?
Now, now there will be none of that. Let me explain.
Cover the dough with a clean dishtowel and place it in a quiet, draft-free place to rise, like a cold oven, microwave, little corner somewhere. This can take anywhere from… maybe 40 minutes to …hm… an hour.
How do you know when it has risen enough?
Gently poke the dough with the second knuckle of you index (pointy) finger. If the dough springs back a bit, recover it and let it rise longer. If the dent stays, it is ready.
9. Punch it down. ( yes, punch) one quick punch and it will deflate.
10. Dump it onto a lightly floured board. Sprinkle flour on the clean counter and smear it around.
11. With a rolling pin, roll it into a big rectangle about 1/4 of an inch thick. The point here is too remove any large bubbles. Yes, you may stab them with a knife if you need to.
12. Starting at any edge, roll up the dough. Obviously, one way will give you a chubbier loaf than the other. It can be as long and thin as your sheet pan can hold or kind of thick and chubby. your choice.
13. Place it on a lightly greased sheet pan. (cookie pan)
14. Paint the loaf with oil and gently with a nice sharp knife cut some slits in the top. Optional.
Un-nescessary, but I like this step. The oil helps to achieve a softer crust. The slits will open up and just look pretty.
15. Cover it and let it rise to doubled again.
Yes, I know, but your in the home stretch now. This rising time is usually around half the time of the first one. Again, check it by the dent method mentioned above.
16. Uncover and bake the darn thing in a 350 degree Fahrenheit oven. ( a medium oven)
Yippee, you’re almost done. Try not to drool as that smell overtakes your home.
17. The timing… my recipe says 40 minute, but sometimes its faster. You bread is ready when you knock on it and it sound hollow.
Remove it and give it a moment to cool slightly before you cut into it or else it doesn’t cut as nicely.
You did it! I’m so proud of you. The first time is by far the worst.
No non fat dry milk?
Substitute regular jug milk for the water and non fat dry milk. This may affect how much flour you need, but you know how to judge that now. Earlobe, remember?
Flour: I use whatever I have. Whole wheat, unbleached, bleached, “bread flour,” part whole wheat, part regular, whatever. Just not self rising.
To eliminate any bug issues, when you bring flour home, put it in the freezer for 24 hours. No one ever seems to know this tip. Weird.
Out of oil? Substitute and equal portion of butter, margarine, bacon grease… get the idea? Let it partially melt as you heat up the water and toss them in together.
Yeast- if you end up baking all your own bread, either look into buying yeast from a baking/restaurant supply (WAY less expensive) or learn to make sour dough. Another post perhaps.
If you messed up your first loaf, so what? Try it again. You’ll get it. It’s a practice thing.
What to do with messed up or stale bread:
Cream Dried Beef on Toast
The folks at Well Preserved make Creamed Peas on Toast, although I suspect Dana is taking over with my suggestion of beloved edamame (soybeans, ) instead.
Please feel free to ship any questions, if I was at all unclear. All comments are welcome.
Did any of that help?