October 23, 2012

A Beginner's Guide to Bread Making


Bread making is one of those really quite simple domestic tasks that can be intimidating in it's newness. But fresh baked bread isn't hard to make (especially if you have a stand mixer to do the kneading for you), is super thrifty, and can transform a simple soup into a fabulous and comforting meal.

Note: This recipe makes 4 loaves of bread.  Back when I had less kids and a smaller stand mixer I would normally halve this recipe, making only 2 loaves. If you have the "classic" KitchenAid or another standard size mixer, the full recipe is a tight squeeze.

To start, measure 2 cups of milk into a bowl or large measuring cup.


Add 2 cups of boiling water, so that you now have 4 cups of a warm water/milk mixture.


Pour approximately half of the milk/water mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer.  To the mixture left in the original bowl add:
  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 Tbsp salt

To the milk/water mixture in your stand mixer add:
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp quick-rise yeast (if you don't have quick-rise yeast, go ahead and use regular yeast and double the rising times)
  • a pinch of sugar (because yeast "eats" sugar, so this will help the yeast to do it's yeasty thing)
The yeast granules will grow and get puffy.


Once your yeast is puffy, pour the two mixtures together so that they are both in the standmixer bowl.  Kneading with the dough hook attachment, add approximately 9 cups of flour, one cup at a time until your dough comes together, pulls away from the side of the bowl, and is slightly tacky but not super sticky.


Q: Why are the flour measurements in bread recipes approximate? 
A: The amount of flour a bread recipe needs depends on things like humidity and temperature, so it won't be exactly the same every time. You have to touch and see the bread dough to know when it has enough flour.  (Which is part of the reason why bread machines are evil....that and because they are giant, bulky, cabinet space stealing uni-taskers...)


(P.S. I swear this post isn't sponsored by KitchenAid.  But I do love my kitchen aid mixer.  Dear KitchenAid, please sponsor me, I *love* you...)

Set the dough aside in the bowl you mixed it in. Put a towel over it and let it rise for about 1 hour.


If I'm not in a hurry I will let it rise a little bit longer, if dinner time is approaching and I'm in a rush I will let it rise a few minutes less.  While rising, it will double in size.


Dump your dough out on a floured surface and cut into four pieces.


Shape each piece into a loaf by stretching it into an approximate rectangle and then rolling it into a tight little log, pinching it closed.



Lay the loaves, pinched edge down, into greased loaf pans. Let rise for another hour.  Again,the hour is flexible depending on how much time you have.



Bake at 350 degrees for about 35 to 40 minutes. Remove from pans and let cool slightly before slicing.


When you first pull them out of the oven the crusts will feel hard, but don't worry, they will soften as they cool.

Serve with soft butter and good soup and enjoy your new level of domesticity. 


If you don't have a stand mixer:  Do everything the same, except when you add the flour to your liquids you will stir it together with a wooden spoon until it gets too thick to stir, and then you will knead in the rest of the flour with your hands, pushing the dough over on itself on a floured countertop until the dough is smooth and springy and not too sticky to handle. 
 [This is day 23 in a 31 day series celebrating all the cozy wonderful things about autumn. Click here for more fall ideas!]

31 comments:

  1. Hi, just wanted to say I love your blogs! They really encourage me! I am a newlywed and my husband and I want to live simply, and with purpose for the Lord. I decided a while ago to make bread instead of buy it, but my hubby uses it for sandwhiches almost every day and I think all the recipies I have tried are just too dense and flat. I have not tried one with milk though, so I am hoping it will make the difference! Is this a springy sandwhich bread? Or more of a dense bread like a soup side?
    I would be using whole wheat flour and add 7 whole grains, and use unrefined natural sugar. Does that make a difference?
    Thanks!

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    Replies
    1. Hi Chelsea. Whole wheat flour doesn't rise as well, so this method would turn out quite dense if you substituted all whole wheat flour. Find a recipe that is meant for whole wheat bread and look specifically for one that uses what is called the "sponge method." I've found the sponge method the only way to make whole grain bread that cooks through properly and is not too dense.

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    2. I was wondering if you could sub part of the flour for whole wheat. Would that be too dense as well?

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    3. @Cleverpiggy: Again, you'll want to use the sponge method....which means you'll add a few cups of white flour to the other ingredients and allow that an extra rise to get all "spongy" and then you will knead in the whole wheat flour and proceed with the instructions. I hope that makes sense....

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    4. @chelsea

      I have found that in search of a simple whole wheat bread recipe what works well is to take a recipe like this one, a white bread recipe, and leave a cup or 2 of the white flour in it. Then begin playing with other types of flour to make up the rest. I have used whirled up oats as oat flour and whole wheat with a lot of success. I also add a tablespoon of vital wheat gluten per loaf which really helps the rising process when there isn't much white flour left. This way I avoid the sponge method and make bread just as quick as this!

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    5. That reminds me...you can increase rising a bit by decreasing the salt. Salt inhibits yeast growth, and admittedly this recipe has a lot of it.

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  2. Thank you for this post!
    I've always sort of wanted to try to bake bread, but the process seems intimidating.
    Is there any way of baking bread without the bread baking form? I've checked the stores, and even the cheap ones aren't exactly cheap. I don't want to buy one or two of those in case I never really get into the bread baking thing :)
    Ieva

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    Replies
    1. Yes Ieva, you can just shape it into a log and bake it on a pizza stone or greased cookie sheet.

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  3. I tried and tried to make good, homemade bread, but it always came out too dense. Then, I found out that my husband's grandmother's secret recipe was really frozen bread dough. :) I am going to give this a try and I am pinning it to my food board, if that is OK?!

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    Replies
    1. I love it when people "pin" my posts...thanks!

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  4. Looks like a great recipe! I've always loved making bread, and for the past year have been using a bread maker. It does a fabulous job for me... and it makes jam, too! The bread maker is just $100, and for all the jam and bread I've made with it so far this year, I think we might be close to recouping the original expense!

    Here's how I make jam in my bread maker: http://makingroomwithus.blogspot.it/2012/08/making-jam-in-my-bread-maker.html.

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  5. Hi! Thanks for the encouraging post! I may actually have the gumption to try this thing! Quick question: if I don't need all the loaves at once, and wanted to save some for in the future, at which point should I freeze? Pre-rising? Post-rising? Baked? Thank you!

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    Replies
    1. Hi Stephanie! I've only ever frozen them baked. But I'm sure you could experiment with freezing them raw too. If you do, let me know how that turns out :)

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  6. I can't believe your bread rose that much in a mere hour. Must be our house is too cold, because it usually takes 2-3 hours for my dough to double in size. How warm is your house? Or do you let it rise in a warm spot?

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    Replies
    1. I don't think our house is particularly warm. and I just let it rise on the kitchen counter. Do you use quick-rise yeast like I mentioned in the recipe? It's designed to cut rising times in half.

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    2. Ding ding ding, we have a winner! I read that in your post and then promptly forgot. It really makes that much of a difference? I may have to switch. The rise time is the main deterrent for me!

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    3. I'm not sure about Canada, but in the states the "instant" yeast that is sold in a jar for some reason is branded "bread machine yeast.".

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    4. When I bake my homemade bread, I always turn my oven on 200 degrees F and when it reaches it, I turn it off. then its nice and warm and no draft! I put my dough it there with a damp cloth over the top and let it rise... always works wonderfully for me. When it's all risen, i let it sit on the counter (with the towel still on top) while I pre-heat my oven to the baking temp. Then pop them in and voila!!! Fresh bread!!!

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  7. I have started exclusively making homemade bread when I got my mixer, I will have to try this recipe- I have one that is decent enough, but yours looks a lot fluffier:)

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  8. THANK YOU for posting step by step instructions with PICTURES. I think I will be brave enough now to try bread making on my own!

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  9. YUM! I love to make bread, but usually don't plan ahead well enough. It is 4pm and I think how yummy bread would be for dinner... oops. Thanks for the recipe! Do you buy any bread or do you make all of yours from scratch? Have a good week!
    -Sandy

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  10. I have been making bread for several years using my mom's time tested method. It is a lot like this one! A few suggestions- add a few shallow cuts to the top of the loaves as they rise in the bread pan. It eliminates "bubbles" inside it. Also, a few sprits of water on top just before baking help it rise a bit in the oven as it bakes. Lastly, if you want to speed up the rising time, set your oven to 100F. Turn it off and place your bread loaves in there, with the door slightly ajar. It is better to have it rise on the counter (prettier loaves), but it does help out in a pinch.

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  11. This may be a silly question but what kind of flour do you use?

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  12. Hi Kelly! I am in the process of making this recipe now! It looks great so far. I did a bit of research online and I found that you can freeze dough after the first rising (which I did with part of it because it's just Hubs and me). The article I read says that the dough will keep for 4 weeks in the freezer. When you're ready to bake it, let it thaw and come to room temperature, then shape and bake! Looking forward to some fresh baked bread on Thanksgiving now!

    Thanks again for this recipe!

    Elle

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  13. I'm getting ready to attempt bread making, so this recipe is really great. Thanks for the tip in the above comment that you can freeze it too!

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  14. This is a neat little guide, it demystifies making something simple that many of us consume a lot of.
    This is something that could be done on a day off, the start up isn't too expensive, but I'd bet you would save a lot if you ate bread every day.
    I may have to see about getting an inexpensive mixer and making my own.
    -Andy Bowman

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  15. This looks absolutely yummy! Thanks for sharing it! Do you happen to know if this recipe would work to make individual breads, instead of one (or four) big loaf? :o

    Thank you, in advance, for your reply and, again, for sharing this. <3 It's incredible!

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  16. Thank you for this wonderful recipe and easy step by step instructions. My husband wanted to make homemade bread and I had remembered reading your recipe on your blog. He made 4 loaves and hasn't stopped thanking me for showing him the recipe since. He is so excited that it was 1. easy to do 2. cheap to make. Now he wants to make bread for the family every Sunday! Thank you!!!

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  17. I made this this evening (half batch for my husband and I). To say we loved it doesn't cover it. I will say I substituted honey for sugar as I've read it will help preserve it a smidge longer. could you give tips on storing this bread because i'd love to maek some in advance . most of what i have read suggests freezing it. <3

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