My husband and roommate have gotten really into baking bread lately, and for a week or so I would come home to find 2 or 3 fresh loaves of bread everyday.
Of course, that was when they were trying to perfect their technique. Now that they have, the loaves of bread come a little less often, but we still have fresh bread on hand most days. It’s pretty awesome. My husband has started writing down his recipes and taking pictures of his masterpieces so that he can create a digital portfolio to add to his resume. I thought I would also add some to my blog for those of you who want to try your hand at making your own bread.
Basic White Bread
3 1/4 cups of hot water (110 degrees)
3 Tbsp yeast
4 Tbsp oil (Generally olive oil, or canola oil. If you prefer an oil like coconut or sunflower it will significantly change the flavor.)
1/2 cup sugar
8 cups flour (the higher the gluten level better: bread flower, whole wheat flower. My chefs recommend King Arthur flower)
3 tsp salt
A large mixing bowl, large enough for you mixture to double in size
A wooden spoon
3 or 4 bread pans
Note: My roommate likes to cut this recipe in half. He says that half the recipe fits perfectly in a Kitchenaid.
Step 1: Bloom the yeast: Add your yeast and hot water to a large bowl. If it makes you feel better to stir the yeast and water, you can, but you do not actually need to. Leave it to sit for about 5-10 minutes. This will activate the yeast. You will know that it’s ready when the yeast is bubbling and looks frothy.
Step 2: Add sugar, oil, half of your flour, and salt to your blooming yeast. Mix well to combine. Cover with a damp towel, place the bowl in a warm place, and allow it to rise for an hour.
Note: it will rise in a cool location, however, it will take double the time. My chefs say the ideal temp is around 80-90 degrees, and will often put the rising dough on the back of the stove while the oven preheats.
Step 3: Your dough, at this point, will be very sticky. Add two cups of flour, 1 cup at a time, using a wooden spoon to incorporate the flour. Once your dough is no longer sticking to everything it touches you can remove it from the bowl and place it on a floured surface. Slowly add your remaining flour, mixing it in with your hands. (You’ll want to remove rings from your fingers at this point or you will never get the dough out of them.) You’ll want to knead your dough for 10-15 minutes. Return your dough to the (slightly oiled) mixing bowl, cover the bowl with the damp towel, and let it rise again for another hour, or until double in size.
Note: My chefs do this last part differently. My husband returns the dough to the bowl to rise a second time, while my roommate places the dough in a bread pan and allows it to proof in the pan. My roommate has found that his bread has better volume when proofed in the pan, while my husband prefers the consistency of his bread that is double proofed in the bowl before being added to the bread pans.
Helpful Hint: It is possible to over-proof bread. You’ll want to try to catch the bread at it’s peak (this will take experience), but if it looks like it’s starting to deflate, or you see something that looks like an air bubble at the peak of the dough, then it is starting to over-proof.
Step 4: If you did not proof you dough in the bread pans then remove it from the mixing bowl and divide it into 3 or 4 loafs. Place the dough into oiled bread pans, and allow it to rise again while you preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Place an oven safe pan on the bottom rack of your oven while the oven preheats.
Step 5: Cut a small slit in the dough, using a very sharp knife, down the center of the loaf. This will allow expansion and steam to escape from your bread without cracking it. As you become more brazen with your bread you can make this slit decorative. Place your bread in the oven, and add a cup of water to the oven safe pan on the bottom rack to create steam. Bake for 45 minutes or until the internal temperature is 160-165 degrees. You may want to rotate your bread halfway through baking.
This is a beautiful specimen of the white bread recipe above. However, this took several tries so don’t give up when it doesn’t look like this on your first try. Also, bread is a fickle creature. The outcome of your recipe will be affected by your environment, your oven, the type of flour you use, etc. This recipe was tweaked by my chefs until it worked where we live, which is at sea level. You will likely have to do some tweaking of your own to make a loaf of bread that you are happy with and that works where you live.
Final Note: If your bread doesn’t come out just right do not get mad and toss it. If your bread is very dense then get ready for some crazy awesome french toast! You can also use your less than best bread to make bread crumbs. So take heart, “It is always OK to fail, but it is never OK not to try.” – Denny Axlen