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.'

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.

From making bread

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

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!


From making bread


montanadays said...

Thanks for the tutorial! I'll definitely try your recipe - I just need to get gluten and dough enhancer. I am fortunate to buy hard red wheat straight from the field across the street - so I grind my own wheat.
I have a question - I have trouble with the bread rising and staying that way. It seems that when I move it to the oven it collapses a bit and doesn't recover during baking (I let it rise near our woodburning stove and take it to the oven). I guess the gluten and dough enhancer will help?
I want to perfect a mean loaf of wheat bread for neighbors! I'll start here!!
BTW - I found your blog through BBC

Amber said...

If your bread is falling it could be for a couple of reasons.

1. You're letting it rise too long.
2. You're not being gentle when you move it.
3. Shutting the oven too hard can cause it to fall as well.

I'm guessing it's #1

I generally let my bread rise on the stove so that I have to move it as little as possible.

The gluten and dough enhancer will help it be a little more stable.

Good luck!

montanadays said...

Thanks! I'm sure it's #1 as well - I've been doing 2 one-hour risings. I'm excited to get the gluten and dough enhancer and try your recipe!

Kimberly said...

Mmm...I adore homemade bread. Now that it's cooled down up here I really ought to start doing that again!

~Emily~ said...

I really want to make this but I don't have a mixer. Think I still could?

Aaron and Emily said...

You can do it by hand. We moved around alot and couldn't bring our bread maker. We didn't even have wooden spoons. I found that it was easy to do by hand.

Wendy said...

Mmmm, bread. Homemade bread is one of my absolute favorite things in the world. My question about this recipe is: have you tried it using solely whole wheat flour? If so, how did it turn out?

Chef Tess said...

I'm a pastry chef and Mormon mommy food blogger. I loved reading your posting on homemade bread! There should be more gals like you trying to bring this art back home! Thanks for sharing!

John L. said...

Hmmm. Bread was invented way before electricity and electric mixers, so I'm betting you can make bread without a mixer. It will be more work though.

Ciera said...

It's pretty easy to do it by hand as well.

What I do when I make it by hand, is this:

Place your warm water, and sugar/honey in your mixing bowl, sprinkle the yeast on and give it a little stir. Let that sit for a few minutes until the yeast looks kind of creamy. This starts up the yeast, and also if you have dead/stubborn yeast, you wont waste the rest of your ingredients/time. I've heard this called proofing the yeast.

After that, add your fats/oils dough enhancers, gluten and salt. Keep stirring in flour by spoon until you cannot stir by spoon, then turn out to knead for 10 - 12 minutes.

Generally when you do by hand, you need to do 2 risings. One the full dough, place it in a well oiled bowl, and turn to coat the entire ball of dough, cover and let rise till doubled. (If you press two fingers into it, and the dough doesn't bounce back, you're good)

Punch it down, knead it just a little bit, then divide into pans, rolls, or whatever else shape you are going for, and let rise again.

Usually its about 1 hr for a first rise, and 30 min, for the second, less if you have a warm house.