The smell of good bread baking, like the sound of lightly
flowing water, is indescribable in its evocation of
innocence and delight... it is one of those almost
hypnotic businesses, like a dance from some ancient
ceremony. It leaves you filled with one of the world's
sweetest smells... there is no chiropractic treatment, no
Yoga exercise, no hour of meditation in a music-throbbing
chapel. that will leave you emptier of bad thoughts than
this homely ceremony of making bread.– M.F.K. Fisher,
The Art of Eating
Many people think baking your own
bread is somehow complicated. But people
invented bread baking a long time ago. So, how difficult
can it really be? It takes less of the cook's
time than –
– getting into the car,
– driving across town to a grocery store,
-- finding a parking place,
– hiking across a forty acre parking lot,
– finding the bread section – always located as far as possible from the front doors,
-- standing in line to pay.
– All this work so you can buy a cheap loaf of inferior bread.
There are about ten million different recipes for bread. My focus is on the basics. One of the fun things about baking bread is that even if you make a mistake, the result is so much better tasting than anything you buy at the grocery store that everyone will think you are a genius. Bread making may not be the answer to life, the universe, and everything. It isn't making nuclear bombs and destroying the rain forests either.
If you learn how to make bread, you will be popular forever with friends, family, and housemates. You will never lack for an inexpensive gift that will be treasured and savored without exception.
When it comes to making bread, it doesn’t matter how much or how little of a kitchen you have.
While we mostly think of baking bread in an oven, bread can be baked on top of a stove, on a hot plate, a griddle, or in a crockpot. Even if you live in a dormitory room with no kitchen, you can make your own flat bread and cook it on a hot plate or electric skillet. You can bake a loaf of bread in a crockpot! (You’ll have lots of friends when you do this. They will all want to help you eat the bread.)
And make it you should, there can be no doubt about that. Once you’ve done it a few times, it is so simple you’ll wonder why everyone doesn’t make their own bread.
Here are five reasons you should bake your own bread:
Taste – there is nothing quite like the taste of freshly baked bread, still warm.
Food safety – when you read the list of ingredients of an ordinary typical loaf of white bread sold in a supermarket, you’ll need a degree in chemistry to understand what’s happening in your food. Consider this list of ingredients for a loaf of store-bought whole-wheat bread. Besides ordinary non-scary things like flour, water, oil, salt, and yeast, we have:
– mono and diglycerides,
And then there is the dreaded high fructose corn syrup. Blecch. . .
Better for the environment, starting with “not wrapped in plastic” and going on to “wheat bought directly from a farmer,” if you can manage that. That’s easier than you think in most areas.
Makes you popular with friends, roommates, and spouses. If you can bake bread, you will be a popular person when mealtime comes around.
baking is frugal. A decent one-pound loaf of bread
can easily cost you three dollars or more at a
supermarket. A cheap loaf of balloon bread, will cost you
at least $1.50. Certified organic wheat flour, bought
directly from a farmer, or even at a grocery store, is
around sixty cents/pound. That’s the primary cost of a
loaf of home-baked bread. Multiply that out over a year,
and see how much money you can save.
The Simplest Method for Baking Bread
The simplest and quickest method for baking bread is, in general, known as the “No-Knead Method.” It is popularized in the “Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes” book. This method saves time because you make more dough than you need for one loaf with this method and keep it in a covered bowl in your refrigerator. You can have fresh-baked bread every day without having to make dough every day.
IMPORTANT NOTE ABOUT HANDLING DOUGH: Before handling dough, put cooking oil on your hands. This makes the dough-handling process much easier. Replenish the oil as necessary to keep the dough from sticking to your hands.
Miscellaneous Dough Mixing Note: Always add wet ingredients to dry. Don’t add dry ingredients to wet.
– 3 cups water (just a little above body temperature, warm like a baby’s bottle),
– 1-1/2 tablespoons yeast,
– 1 tablespoon salt (or to taste)
– 6-1/2 cups of whole wheat flour. Or
white flour. Or half whole wheat, half white.
Important note about flour:
Always refrigerate whole wheat flour,
because unlike white flour, it has wonderful nutritious
and tasty ingredients that can go bad over time. That's
why using fresh whole wheat flour is important. Look for a
"mill date" on the package. Even better, grind your own!
Back to the instructions. . .
This will make enough dough for about 4 one-pound loaves of bread.
Mix all the ingredients, let rise at
least 2 hours in a covered bowl. You can use it for
bread-making any time after 2 hours, but it will be easier
to shape if it sits in the refrigerator for at least three
hours, and it will be best if it has rested in the
refrigerator for at least 18 hours. So
make your dough a day ahead of when you want to bake it.
Make the dough in a covered container that you can put in the fridge. This should not be an air-tight container, as the dough will give off a small amount of gas as it sits. If it is an air-tight container, when you put it in the refrigerator, cover it loosely – just set the lid on, without clicking it in place to produce the air-tight environment. It will give off small amounts of gas as it sits in the refrigerator and you don’t want your container to explode.
You can keep dough in this way in the refrigerator for as along as a week. Use it as you need it.
To make skillet flat breads from this dough:
Pinch off pieces of dough, about the size of a golf ball, and roll them flat with a rolling pin, or pat them flat in your hands, pulling and stretching them a bit.
The dough is a little sticky so I sprinkle the rolling pin and surface with extra flour and dust the ball of dough with flour.
Cook on a flat cast iron skillet, with just a bit of oil, on each side until done, medium-high heat, about 2 minutes each side.
To make a round loaf with this dough:
Sprinkle a flat cookie sheet (no sides) or a flat cutting board or a baker’s peel (if you have one) with some cornmeal. Don’t be stingy with the cornmeal. The cornmeal keeps the dough from sticking to the pan.
Dust your dough with some flour, then cut off a one pound piece. This is a piece of dough about the size of a grapefruit. Use a serrated knife.
Form the dough into a ball. Gently stretch it and wrap it under itself. If you look at the bottom, it will look like four folds. These flatten out during the rest of the process.
Put your ball of dough on your cutting board/cookie sheet/peel. Let it sit about 40 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees for 20 minutes of preheating. If you have a baking stone, or an unglazed quarry tile (the “unglazed” part is really important), put it in the oven. Put an empty pan with sides on a lower shelf in the oven.
If you don’t have a baking stone, the next best pan is cast iron.
If you don’t have cast iron, use a regular cookie sheet. With the cookie sheet, it will help to put the dough on parchment paper, which most grocery stores sell. Preheat the cast iron and the cookie sheet in accordance with the instructions for the baking stone.
At the end of 20 minutes oven preheating, sprinkle some flour on top of the dough, and using your serrated knife, slash the dough about 1/4 inch deep across the top. You can make a cross, or a tic-tac-toe pattern, or several parallel cuts.
Open the oven, and in a quick forward jerking movement, slide the dough onto the stone (or into the pan) and pour a cup of water in the empty pan on the lower rack. Close the oven door quickly to trap the steam inside. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the crust is dark and firm. Remove the bread from the stone (or pan) and place on a wire rack to cool. Allow it to cool before slicing because the baking continues inside the loaf. If you cut it too quickly, it will remain doughy inside. Waiting for the loaf to cool is the hardest part of baking.
How to bake bread in a crockpot –
To make hot rolls with this dough:
Pinch off pieces of dough about the size of a golf ball.
Place on a baking sheet and let sit for about 30-45 minutes.
Bake at 450 degrees for about 15 minutes until golden brown and done.
Additional resources for this method of baking bread are:
The website for the authors of the Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes/Day is http://www.artisanbreadinfive.com/. It has lots of FAQs, a blog, online discussion, and recipes.
One of my favorite bread sites is Breadtopia – http://www.breadtopia.com/ – a rich site with deep wisdom on baking which also has video tutorials.
HINT: Buy yeast at a
bakery supply store or large warehouse store. It is much
cheaper in bulk than the little packets sold in grocery
stores. (Those packets run a buck or so for about 3
tablespoon fulls, and a 4 ounce bottle is five bucks or
more. But you can buy 2 pounds of yeast for five dollars
or less. Store it in an airtight jar. An even more
frugal strategy is to make sour dough breads, then you
don't have to buy yeast! If you are in the OKC
area, Midwest Bakers Supply at 2716 NW 10th has what you
need for your yeast. It has just about everything else
you need regarding baking too, at rational prices.
Your Basic Very tasty Bread Recipe
This is my original recipe for baking bread. I baked bread with it for 20 years and did just fine. Then I learned the Artisanal Bread recipe, described above, and switched. This method takes a bit more of the cook's time, but it is time well spent, as kneading dough is very restful. I swear it lowers my blood pressure.
This kind of bread takes more time than the "Quick Breads" like corn bread, because it has to "rise", but the actual involvement of the cook is about 15-20 minutes, max. Bread is liquid, flour, oil, and yeast. The various possible combinations of these ingredients, plus additional ingredients for flavor, produce the various kinds of breads. Once you understand the Your Basic Very Tasty Bread recipe, which is based on my own grandmother's recipe, feel free to experiment.
Begin by measuring into a large
mixing bowl 1 cup of warm water -- and the emphasis here
is warm, not hot, about the temperature of a baby's
To knead the dough, flatten the dough and fold it over, pressing on it with your hands. Turn the dough sidewise and do the same thing. Flatten, fold, press, turn, flatten, fold, press, turn and so on and so forth. Get the kids involved here. You can say the Lord's Prayer while you do this, and build a little rhythm. If you do this, you will find that at the end of the kneading you will be experiencing a marvelous feeling of inner peace and happiness. (It really does work.)
When you have finished kneading the bread, roll it into a big round ball and put it in a greased bowl, rolling the dough around in the bowl so a thin film of oil covers the dough, and cover the bowl with a cloth or paper towels. Say a little prayer and thank God for this bread.
Let it rise in a warm place for about an hour. It should double in size (that's those little yeastie beasties doing their job). "Punch down" the dough. That is, make a fist and press it right into the middle of the dough. It will deflate. That's OK. It's what it's supposed to do. Let it rise again until almost double, for about another 30 minutes.
Divide the dough into two equal parts and let it rest for 10 minutes. Shape into loaves and put into pans. Let it rise again, until sides of dough reach the pan and the top is well rounded (30 minutes to 1 hour). Be sure to grease the loaf pans first. (Shortening is best for greasing any baking pan.)
To make dough into loaves: flatten it into a rectangle. The width should be about an inch longer than the length of the pan, the length should be about 12 inches. Fold dough in half lengthwise. Flatten into a rectangle about 15 inches long and five inches wide. Press down on dough with hands. Fold in thirds by overlapping the ends. Press with your hands. Fold toward you, 1/3 of the way at a time, pressing on each fold with the heel of your hand, so it is making a round cylinder. Roll back and forth. Seal each end by pressing with the edge of your hands. Smooth the loaf with your hands so it is even. Put in a nine inch loaf pan with the edge down.
Bake the loaves at 425 degrees for about 25 to 30 minutes. The loaf pans should not touch each other or the sides of the oven. To test for "doneness", tap the crust, it should sound "hollow". It is doesn't, bake a few minutes more.
When done, immediately remove the loaves from the pans. Set on wire racks or across the edges of the loaf pans so that air can circulate around it. Let it cool at least 20 minutes before slicing and eating. Do not skip this step. If freshly baked bread is sliced too quickly, the inside remains damp and "doughy".
Brush the baked loaves with melted butter after removing them from the pan, to make a soft, tender crust. To make raisin bread, add one cup raisins to the dough when you knead it. For sweet roll dough (such as for making raised cinnamon rolls), increase oil or butter 1/2 cup, increase eggs to 2 eggs, add sugar -- 1/4 to 1/2 cup, use 1-1/2 cups milk, reduce water to 1/2 cup. Make into desired rolls after the second rising. For Dinner Rolls, prepare as sweet rolls, use 1 cup water and 1-1/4 cups milk. Dinner rolls bake in a 400 degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden brown. Form dinner rolls by rolling dough into small balls (after second rising), let rise a half hour, then bake. For whole wheat bread, you can use 100% whole wheat flour, or you can use some whole wheat and some white flour. Experiment until you find a combination you like. If you go 100%, use buttermilk or add 2 tablespoons of vinegar to your liquid.
Potato Rolls: add 1cup mashed potatoes to the water and yeast. This makes a good dough for keeping in the refrigerator for use as needed.
For Crescent Rolls, after first rising, divide dough in half. Roll each half into a circle, spread some melted butter over the dough. Cut like a pie, and roll each piece up starting with the large end first. Let rise until double, bake at 400 degrees until golden. Variation: in addition to butter, spread dough with some kind of filling, roll up, let rise, and bake.
Freezing bread: Use good freezer bags. Allow about 3 hours to thaw a 1 pound loaf of bread. Slices of frozen bread can be toasted in the toaster without thawing. Frozen rolls and biscuits can go directly from the freezer to the oven. Heat in a slow oven (275-300 degrees) for 10 to 15 minutes.
Sweet roll dough | sugar | cinnamon | melted butter
Roll sweet roll dough into a rectangle, spread with melted butter, sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon. Roll up and pinch seam to close (sometimes it helps to dip your fingers in water as you pinch the seam). Cut into 1 inch rolls. The best way to do this is to slice the dough with a thread or dental floss. Holding the string in both hands, slide it underneath the roll of dough, then cross your hands so the thread pulls through the soft dough.
In a 9 X 13 inch pan, mix together the following: ½½ cup butter (melted), ½½ cup brown sugar, 2 tablespoons Karo white syrup. Coat the bottom of the pan with this mixture. Set the cinnamon rolls in the pan (don't crowd them). Let rise for 30 minutes or so. Bake at 350 degrees until done, about 20 to 25 minutes. This makes a cinnamon roll with a crunchy caramelized bottom. If you don't want the crunchy bottom, just place rolls in a greased pan to rise and bake. When you make this recipe, be sure to double it, or you won't have any left over to have with your coffee the next day.
Making Bread is Easy as One-Two-Three-Four!
1. Put 1 cup of warm water plus one teaspoon sugar in a mixing bowl. Add two tablespoons of yeast. Let sit for about five minutes.
2. Add three cups of flour, 1 cup of milk, dash of salt, 2 tablespoons of sugar, and 3-4
tablespoons of oil or melted (and cooled) butter or shortening. Stir 50 times clockwise, and then 50 times counter-clockwise.
3. Add another 3 to 4 cups of flour and mix until the dough forms a good ball. Turn dough out of the bowl onto a floured surface and let it sit for ten minutes. Then, knead the dough for 5 to 10 minutes.
4. Let rise in a greased bowl for about an hour (it should double in size). Punch down the dough. Let it rise again for 30 to 45 minutes. Divide into two equal parts and shape into loaves. Place in loaf pans and bake at 425 degrees for about 25-30 minutes.
Homemade Bread for Busy People
Make a big batch of dough once each week & keep it tightly covered in the fridge. Each day, take some out, form into biscuits, buns, or loaves, let rise, and voila, daily home-baked bread. Use more yeast (up to double) for refrigerator dough.
Quick breads use baking powder and baking soda to make the flour rise and are usually ready in less than 45 minutes, start to finish. Dry ingredients can be assembled ahead of time into mixes and they are convenient, nutritious, and oh so tasty. One of the secrets to good quick breads is to thoroughly combine the fat and the flour. You can use a mixer to do this. You can substitute whole wheat flour for white flour in any of these recipes.
Best Basic Buttermilk Biscuits
2 cups flour | 1/2 tsp baking soda | 3-4 tbsp butter | 2/3 cup milk or buttermilk | 2 tsp baking powder | salt
Mix dry ingredients, add butter (or oil), mix thoroughly. If you don't have buttermilk, add a teaspoon of vinegar to the milk, let it set for few minutes, add to dry ingredients (or use real buttermilk). Knead about 30 times. Roll11/2 inch thick, cut into biscuits, or form by hand into buns. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes. This basic recipe can also be used as a topping for casseroles, meat or vegetable pies, and with extra sugar can be a quick raised cinnamon roll dough.
6 cups flour | 3/4 cup oil or butter | 9 tsp baking powder | 1-1/2 tsp salt
Mix dry ingredients, add oil or butter, mix well. Store in a tightly covered, airtight container, in a cool place. This makes enough for 3 bakings of biscuits. To make biscuits for 3 people, combine 2 cups mix with 3/4 cup buttermilk (or milk with 1 tsp vinegar added). For dumplings, use 1 cup biscuit mix 1/2 cup milk, and add 1 beaten egg. For cheese biscuits: add ½ cup grated cheese to recipe for biscuits.
2 cups corn meal | 2 tsp baking powder | 1-1/4 cup milk | 1/4 cup oil or butter | 2 eggs, beaten
Mix dry ingredients,
add oil or butter, mix thoroughly, beat the eggs in the
milk, add to dry ingedients, stir quickly but
thoroughly. Bake in 400 degree oven until done. To test
for doneness, insert a knife into the middle, and if it
comes out clean, the cornbread is done - takes about
20-25 minutes. Note: don't add sugar to cornbread. It is
reliably reported that the fall of Western Civilization
began when people started adding sugar to cornbread.
Instead of baking, you can cook this batter like
pancakes. To avoid GMO contamination in your corn meal,
buy organic corn meal OR blue corn meal. Blue corn
meal is a traditional corn grown by Native Americans.
Cornbread made with it will taste just like regular
cornbread, only it will be a blue-lavender color.
1-1/2 cups flour | 3 tbsp butter | 2 tsp baking powder | 3/4 cup milk | dash of salt | 2 eggs
Mix dry ingredients, add butter,mix thoroughly. Beat the eggs in the milk and add to dry ingredients. Stir only until blended. Drop by spoonfuls into boiling soup. Reduce heat, cook slowly for ten minutes with kettle covered and ten minutes uncovered.
Quick Cinnamon Rolls
Add 4 tablespoons of sugar and 2 tablespoons oil or butter to 2 cups Biscuit Mix, add 2/3 cup water and mix thoroughly (or use your favorite recipe for biscuit dough). Roll dough into a rectangle, 1/4 inch thick. Spread dough with 2 tbsp melted butter. Sprinkle with mixture of 1/4 cup sugar and 1-2 tsp cinnamon, add raisings if desired. Roll up, beginning at the wide side, and seal the seam well by lightly wetting and then pinching the edge of the dough. Cut into 1" slices using a string. (Loop the string under and around the dough, cross over the top, and pull, voila, quick sliced dough.) Place cut side down on greased baking sheet or in greased muffin cups. Bake in 400 degree oven abou 12-15 minutes. Spread with Quick White Icing. Makes about 16.
Your Basic Muffin
1 egg | 2 cups flour | 1 cup milk | 1/4 cup cane sugar | 2-3 tbsp butter | 3 tsp baking powder
Mix dry ingredients together. Beat milk and egg, stir melted butter into dry ingredients, add milk to dry ingredients. Stir fast until flour is moistened. Batter will be lumpy. Do not overmix. Fill greased muffin cups 2/3 full. Bake 20 to 25 minutes in 400 degree oven. Makes 12 medium muffins. Variations: Jelly - full muffin cups half full of batter, drop a scant teaspoon of jam o jelly in center of batter, add mor ebatter to fill cup 2/3 full. Blueberry: Add 3/4 to 1 cup blueberries, fresh or canned. Apple: Add ½ tsp cinnamon to dry ingredients, add 1 cup grated raw apple, decrease milk to ½ cup, decrease flour to 1-1/2 cups. Make 25 to 30 minutes. Maple syrup muffins: Substitute ½ cup maple syrup for ½ cup of the milk.
2 cups biscuit mix | 4 tbsp cocoa | 1 egg | 1/4 cup sugar or honey | 2/3 cup or water
Beat egg slightly, mix dry ingredients, and egg and liquids, stir until moistened. Fill muffin cups 2/3 full. Bake in 400 degree oven for 15 - 18 minutes. Makes about 12.
Use a glass
container that will hold at least 3 times the volume of
the ingredients. Mix the ingredients lightly with a
wooden or plastic spoon. Mix 1 cup flour and 2/3
cup non-chlorinated water. If you have a start,
add it; if not, you will "catch" yeast from the
surrounding air. That takes a little longer.
Let it set uncovered in a warm place for a few hours
before covering it.
Loosely cover the
jar with a cloth held in place with a rubber band. It
will begin to bubble and rise and then fall. It will
smell sour and have a greyish color.
Sour Dough Bread