Hello friends. It has been a LONG time since I last posted. I kept getting ideas and then… getting lazy and not following through. Which is not like me.
I guess I’m in a “rut” as they say.
But, enough of that nonsense. I want to share with you my secrets to making homemade bread, one of my absolute favorite things to do in the world. Not only is it one of the most delicious and satisfying things to eat, but the process is a beautiful, enlightening experience. Take care of your dough. Give it love, and it will love you back.
I first had homemade bread in the summer of 2008. I was living with a friend of mine from my summer job and her mom and sister. Things had fallen through in a very bad way with my living situation, and they graciously took me in, fed me and gave me a bed to sleep in. I will be forever grateful for their kindness.
One night after work, we came home to her mom’s potato leek soup and homemade bread. Fresh and hot from the oven, I had never had something so wonderful. A crunchy, crusty crust, and heavenly, warm and squishy, yet springy center. I felt alive. I’d never considered making homemade bread, and assumed it would be pretty long and involved, but I vowed to learn how to create something so wondrous. It was nothing like the preservative laden, limp bread you get at the grocery store.
Later that summer, I moved into my very first apartment, and started baking bread. It was just as wonderful as I remembered, and I loved sharing it with everyone who came over: friends, even my flute students. Over the years, I have refined my technique, and have baked many different kind of bread: potato bread, braided breakfast bread, seed bread, oatmeal bread, rosemary focaccia, the list goes on and on. But, the secret is that each “type” of yeasted bread is based on a simple “base” recipe which I am going to share with you.
The good thing about making your own bread is that there are no preservatives, and you can control what you put in it. Don’t want high fructose corn syrup and other additives? Done. Of course you can buy bread without all the crap in it at the grocery store, but it’s usually very expensive. Even your average loaf of bread is $3. Making you own bread is incredibly economical. A bag of flour is what, about the same price if not less? Making bread is fun, delicious, and it saves money. Who doesn’t like that?
My bread recipe is based off of the teachings of this wonderful book by Edward Brown. I highly, highly recommend this boom if you are interested in bread making. It also offers many pastries, non-yeasted breads, compound butters, and breakfast recipes.
If you’ve ever made bread before, the method below may seem a bit different. It is a longer process involved what he calls “the sponge,” but it result in higher, lighter, springier, bread. Be patient, but most of all, believe in yourself! You can do it! I promise it will be worth it…
Rebecca’s Homemade Bread
Recipe Yields Two Hearty Loaves
- 3 cups lukewarm water (not hot!!!!)
- 1.5 TBSP yeast (2 packets). Use an additional 2 TSP in the winter
- 1/4 cup sugar or maple syrup
- 1 cup dry milk
- 4 cups whole wheat flour
- 4 TSP Salt
- 1/3 cup non GMO expeller pressed canola oil (or butter)
- 3 cups whole wheat flour
- extra flour for kneading, if needed
1. Start by dissolving the yeast in the water in a very large bowl. Please make sure the water isn’t too hot (125F or above), or it will kill the yeast, thus botching the entire project. 85-105F degrees is ideal.
2. Add sweetener and dry milk and stir to dissolve. It will look a but clumpy like this, but don’t worry, it doesn’t need to dissolve all the way.
3. As the mixture thickens, begin beating the dough, in circular motions up and down. Make sure you scrape the sides periodically. Then beat 100 times, scooping the spoon under the surface. The “sponge” (as Brown calls it_ will become elastic as the air incorporates into the
4. Now, cover with a damp towel and let rise for 45 minutes. In summer, just go ahead and leave it on the counter as it will be warm in your home. In the winter, I suggest keeping it in a warm place, such as an oven that has been turned on to the lowest setting, and then turned off. Remember, you MUST keep the dough in a place that is under 125F, or the yeast will die and your bread will stop rising (this happens when you bake it later on).
5. After 45 minutes, your “sponge” will be a huge, airy, gloppy mess. Go ahead and fold in the oil and salt. Then, begin adding the rest of the flour about 1 cup at a time. Continue to use to “beating” method, not stirring, as you want to keep the dough in one piece. Keep scraping the sides of the bowl. Soon, it will be difficult to beat as the dough will become incredibly thick. Keep going until you have a lump of shaggy dough.
6. Now, here’s the fun part: kneading. Transfer your dough to a floured flat surface. Make sure that your surface is low enough for you to straighten your arms and push down with your body weight. Begin kneading for about 8 minutes. Press the heel of your hands down and away from you, really pressing with your body weight. Turn the dough counterclockwise, flip the dough in half towards you and push down again. The dough will stick the cutting board and your hands, just keep sprinkling a little flour as you go.
Eventually, you will have a smooth, elastic ball of dough that does not stick. You shouldn’t have flour stuck on your hands anymore (that’s usually when you know it’s done).
7. Next, oil the bowl you mixed everything in. Place your dough inside, and then flip over to make sure all sides are well-oiled (to prevent dryness and cracking). Cover, and return to the warm place, Let rise 50-60 minutes, until doubled in size. *Feel free to do some chores, read a book, study or run an errand. Just mare sure you’re back in time! Sometimes, I go for a run.
8. Wow! Your dough is huge! It’s aliveeeeee!!! With your fist, “punch down” the dough to release the air. Cover AGAIN and let rise 40-50 minutes.
8. Ok, now you’ve been working on this thing forever. It’s time to get it ready for the oven. Oil two bread pans. Then, transfer your dough back to the floured surface (cutting board). Give it another knead or two with one hand.
9. Cut the dough in half using a sharp knife. Place each half in a bread pan and lightly press/stretch into the pan with the backs of your hands so that it conforms to the shape of the loaf pan. Flip the dough over to oil the other side. Cover, and let rise AGAINNNN (last time, sorry) for 25 minutes.
10. Meanwhile, pre-heat your oven to 350 and prepare and optional egg wash. Beat an egg in a small bowl with a fork and add a slash of milk. When the loafs are done rising, cut slits on the top with a sharp knife, and then brush tops with egg wash using a pastry brush. Now they are ready to bake!
11. Bake at 350 for 50-60 minutes, or until shiny, golden brown. Loaves should sound “hollow” when you tap them . Remove from pans and cool for at least an hour if you want clean cut slices. Or, just each the whole thing right away if serving lots of people. Enjoy the fruits of your labor!!
*Tips for Storing.
- I usually store in a plastic ziplock once cool, or in an old bread bag from the store, or even plastic bags I use from the bulk department at the health food store. Just make sure they’re covered and won’t go stale.
- In the summer, store in the fridge so they don’t go moldy!
- You can easily freeze the bread in an airtight bag.
- Also, save time later by slicing slices after cooling so you don’t have to later!
Well, that was a longggg post. Here are some kittens.
From left: Natasha and Boris, shortly after I became their mother.
See you next time, where I’ll be sharing a decadent macaroni cheese recipe!