Tuesday, November 11, 2008

How to make GREAT homemade bread (it's soft!)

I used to be scared of yeast. Honestly I would try anything in the kitchen- as long as there wasn't any yeast in it. I've overcome my fear of yeast with just a few recipes that are tried and true.

I also used to have a hatred of homemade bread. My mom made bread rather than buying it because she had nine kids and it's MUCH cheaper to make bread than buy it (especially when you buy the ingredients in bulk). Now I've come to appreciate a great loaf of homemade bread for the taste, consistency and the price! With this recipe my kids prefer homemade to store bought bread.

From making bread


From making bread


Here is my no fail bread recipe:
3 cups of hot water (about 110 degrees- but just 'hot' when you touch it)
1 Tbsp. salt
1/3 cup canola oil
1/3 cup honey
2 Tbsp dough enhancer
2 Tbsp Vital wheat gluten
5 cups of whole wheat flour
2 Tbsp instant yeast
3-6 cups white flour

A couple of items about the ingredients.
Dough Enhancer and Vital wheat gluten are what makes this bread soft. If you decide to only use white flour instead of whole wheat then you can omit these ingredients. You can generally purchase vital wheat gluten and Dough enhancer at health food stores.

You want your wheat flour to be freshly ground. If you've got a high quality blender you can blend your wheat into flour in that.

From making bread


The benefits of whole wheat flour are that the whole of the wheat is present (the bran, germ and endosperm) so that there are fiber and protein that refined white flour is missing. This recipe you can add as much or as little whole wheat flour as you like- I generally do 5 cups of whole wheat to about 3-5 cups of white.

Here is my whole wheat flour in comparison to my white.
From making bread


In a mixer with a dough hook add the water, salt, oil, honey, dough enhancer, and vital wheat gluten. Then we'll add the whole wheat flour and the yeast. Begin mixing and add white flour slowly until the dough is 'cleaning the sides of the bowl.'

video
From making bread


On a sunny day I'll usually only add 2 1/2 cups to 3 cups of white flour, but the day that we made this is was pouring down rain outside- so there was more humidity in the air and we used almost 5 cups of white flour in this dough. It will vary- the important thing is the consistency of the dough- not the number of cups of flour. If you find that you've added too much flour you can add water a Tablespoon at a time to fix it. Dough is less finicky then you'd think.

Knead the dough until the gluten is developed, I usually knead it for about six minutes. If you're kneading by hand you'll want to knead for at least 12 minutes.

The dough will no longer be sticky and you'll see that it starts to 'stretch' a bit- that is the gluten developing that you're seeing.

video
From making bread


After kneading you'll immediately form it into loaves and place them in greased pans.

video
From making bread


Let the loaves rise in a warm place covered with a clean towel or paper towels until double in size. They will rise a bit more once you place them in the oven, but not much, so it should be about the size you want your loaf to be when it's baked.

From making bread


My middle loaf didn't quite get enough dough- and the loaf on the side got a little too much- but that's okay. Mine took about 45 minutes to rise- but it varies depending on the warmth of your house. On warm days my bread will be ready to go in the oven in 25 minutes. I generally start preheating the oven when the bread has been rising for 15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. When you put the bread in immediately drop the temperature to 325. This causes the bread to 'poof' up a bit more. Bake for 25 minutes or until the bread is golden and sound 'hollow' when you tap on it. Remove from oven to a cooling rack and immediately spread butter on the top of the loaf. This helps keep the crust soft. Cool 5 minutes and then remove from pan to cool completely on cooling rack. Put in plastic bag or airtight containers when cool. Extra loaves can be frozen until you're ready to use. Remember- we didn't add preservatives so a homemade loaf will mold faster than a store bought loaf!

Enjoy!

From making bread