Ever since my mom taught me how to bake my own bread I haven’t liked buying it from the store. Not only does homemade bread TASTE better but it’s such a joy to make. Having the opportunity to add whatever ingredients I want to it–aside from the basic recipe–and actually be AWARE of what ingredients are in it!…to touch the dough, to shape it, to monitor the baking time, and most deliciously, to SMELL the dough baking is what makes my heart smile every time.
Making bread really isn’t that difficult. I used to think so, but with practice and after establishing a routine, it’s no hassle anymore. So I want to share with you some methods that I’ve found useful so that maybe, just MAYBE you’ll be inspired to bake bread at home, too. :)
- I bake bread on a day I’m at home for at least 3 hours.
- I follow the recipe, every time! Modifications, if any, are specific so that proportions stay the same.
- I make two one-pound loaves in each batch because that’s all my bowl will hold (if you have a Kitchen Aid mixer you could quadruple the recipe if you like!) Trying to make more than that at once becomes confusing with a small bowl and elbow grease.
- I don’t let my yeast touch the salt! Sugar feeds yeast but salt kills it.
- I don’t use a bread maker, which over-kneads my dough, resulting in a mushy mess and a dense texture once baked.
- I always use a timer.
So, to the recipe!!
- 2 cups water heated to 110F
- 4 TBS brown sugar
- ~6 cups flour (4 cups initially and up to 2 cups for kneading)
- 2 tsp salt
- 4 tsp yeast (2 packets)
- ~2 TBS olive oil
- To begin, warm up 2 cups of water in a glass measuring cup in the microwave for 1 minute. Technically the water's supposed to be at 105-115°F but if you don't have a thermometer then make sure the water isn't steaming.
- Mix 4 TBS brown sugar in the water and set aside.
- Assemble the dry ingredients in a small bowl: 4 cups of flour (2 cups wheat, 2 cups white if you wish to be a bit healthier ;) ) and 2 tsp salt. Sometimes I whisk in 1 TBS of wheat germ and/or flaxseed meal at this point as well -- keeping in mind the amount so I don't add too much flour later.
- Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients with a fork. In this well, pour the water/sugar mixture. Then, sprinkle the yeast over the sugar water. **Note: because yeast loves sugar and hates yeast, this is why we're adding it over the water and not to the salty flour.**
- Add a glug of oil at this point and with a fork, slowly combine the flour mixture into the water-yeast mixture, making circling motions. Once the majority of the flour is incorporated, begin using your dominate hand to fold and press and essentially "pre-knead" the flour in the bowl until it forms into a loose ball.
- Pour that ball onto a floured surface, pressing it flat and sprinkling flour over the top. Knead the ball of dough for 3-5 minutes, sprinkling flour as you go until it no longer sticks to your hands; and when you poke it the indent pops back.
- Lightly grease the bottom and sides of a deep bowl. Place the ball of dough in there and gently turn it over so the top is also greased. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise for 1 hour on the counter top in a warm place.
- FROM HERE YOU CAN MAKE ANY BREAD RECIPE (rolls, bread, pizza etc.)
- After 1 hour, lightly grease a 13x9 pan. Punch down the dough and peel the perimeter towards the center. Give it a couple kneads so it's back to a smooth ball.
- Taking a dough cutter/scraper or a sharp knife, cut the ball into eighths and those eighth pieces into three (so you should have 24 rolls). Place the pieces in your 13x9 pan, letting them touch but not putting them shoulder-to-shoulder persay.
- Cover the rolls with a towel and let them rise another 30 minutes. While they're rising this second time, preheat your oven to 350F.
- Once they've doubled in size again, place the rolls in the preheated oven and bake for 15-20 minutes until a toothpick stuck into the most center roll comes out clean. You can also insert a food thermometer in the center of the center roll. If it's 190F then they're finished. (Read more about testing doneness at http://www.thekitchn.com/fresh-baked-how-to-tell-when-b-106715 )
- As soon as they're finished, brush (or pour) melted garlic butter over the top and serve hot!
- You can freeze the cooled rolls for up to a month!
- ROOM TEMP: warm in microwave for a few seconds, or crisp into a toaster oven for a couple minutes.
- FROZEN: wrap in aluminum foil and bake in a 350F oven for 10-15 minutes until warm.
Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get this recipe (or another other bread recipe) right the first time. I’ve been making bread for 5 years and I’m still learning what works with different brands of flour, different proportions of ingredients and even the weather!
Let me know your thoughts, your recipes and your tips below!