Perhaps you were gifted a bread maker for Christmas. Or maybe you’ve decided that in this New Year you’re going to eat healthier, less processed foods. Or you’re just looking to up your kitchen skills. Whatever the reason, if you’re looking into making your own bread, I’ve got the skinny for you! Making your own bread is pretty easy once you’ve got the basics down, and it’s definitely healthier and more cost effective. So, what do you really need for baking bread?
- To use a bread maker or not: You definitely don’t have to use a bread maker. It helps in my opinion, but it’s not a necessity. If you’ve got room for the gadget and want to give it a try, this is the one I’d suggest. Otherwise, you’re going to need some bread pans.
- A mixer like this iconic one.
- A wheat grinder, if you’re going for the true made from scratch taste.
- Some patience. Because yeast, man. It can work or it can not. I have a love/hate relationship with it. Ha ha!
Now that you’ve got the basics of baking bread, here’s a basic recipe to get your feet wet.
Basic White Bread
- 1 pkg. active dry yeast
- 2 1/4 warm water (110-115F)
- 3 Tbsp. sugar
- 1 Tbsp. salt
- 2 Tbsp. canola oil
- 6 1/4-6 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
Process: In your mixer, dissolve the yeast in warm water. I’ll be honest, I often warm the metal bowl as well before starting so that the cold metal doesn’t slow the process. Mix slowly until the yeast dissolves. Then, add the sugar, salt, oil, and 3 cups of the flour. Go ahead and with your dough hook beat it until it’s nice and smooth. Now comes the hard part. You’re going to mix in the remaining flour 1/2 of a cup at a time until you get a soft dough that doesn’t stick when you touch it. Turn this dough onto a floured surface and knead until it’s elastic. This takes about 8-10 minutes. The goal is to stretch the gluten so that your bread is nice and fluffy. If you don’t have the hand/arm strength to knead by hand, then it’s totally okay to knead it in your mixer for 6-8 minutes. Transfer the ball of dough into a greased bowl and roll so that the entire thing in lightly greased. Cover with either a warm towel or cling wrap and place in a warm place so that it can rise until it’s doubled in size. This takes about 1 1/2 hours. If you’re baking bread in the winter, I like to put the oven on warm, let it heat up just a bit, then turn it off and place the bread in. Once your dough has risen, punch it down. I mean punch it! Turn it onto your lightly floured surface and divide it in half. Shape each loaf into an oblong oval and place each loaf into a greased loaf pan. Cover again and let it rise for 30-45 minutes (it should double again.) Bake those loaves at 375F for 30-35 minutes or until the bread is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped. Remove and allow to cool, or serve warm with butter and jam (a family favorite!).
Once you’ve mastered the basics, then you’re ready to mix it up a bit! Test your skills of baking bread!
Whole Wheat Bread
*Okay, let’s talk about this for a second. If you want to mill your own flour, go for it. I think there is a taste difference, and it’s definitely fresher, and therefore better for you. The trouble is that wheat flour is sharp and can make rising difficult. So, a few recipes will call for a dough enhancer to help the dough rise. You can use them, or you can skip. I think it lends a fluffier recipe, but you do you. I also have done a 50/50 with whole wheat and white flour and it’s been scrumptious. Better for making sandwiches than just the whole wheat in my opinion. But try it out and see what works best for you!
- 1-1 1/8 c. lukewarm water (more if your climate is dry or it’s winter)
- 1/4 c. vegetable oil
- 1/4 c. honey
- 3 1/2 c. whole wheat flour (home-grown or store-bought)
- 1 packet active dry yeast, dissolved in 2 Tbsp water from the recipe
- 1/4 c. nonfat dried milk
- 1 1/4 tsp. salt
Process: In your mixer, combine all the ingredients and mix with your dough hook until it pulls away from the bowl. If you want, leave it in the bowl, lightly covered for 20-30 minutes so that the wheat can soften a little. Then either transfer to an oiled surfaced, lightly oil your hands, and knead for 6-8 minutes. Or keep in your mixer and knead for 5-6 minutes. You’re looking for a smooth and supple dough that is soft, but firm. Transfer to a lightly greased bowl, roll it so that it’s lightly covered in oil, then cover and allow to rise until almost doubled. This takes an hour to two hours. Once it’s doubled, transfer to your lightly oiled work surface and shape into an 8″ log. Place it in a lightly greased loaf pan, cover with greased saran wrap, and allow to rise for another hour or two. You are looking for it to rise about 1″ above the top of the pan. Then flip on your oven to 350F and bake for 35-40 minutes. It’s a good idea to “tent” your bread or lightly cover with aluminum foil about halfway through so that it doesn’t over-brown. Remove from the oven, and put on a wire rack to cool. If you want to take it over the edge, rub the top crust lightly with a stick a butter. Slice and enjoy!
Last up, we have the iconic Pumpkin Bread! This is a great one because it’s seasonal, flavorful, and a little sweet treat. Baking bread can really help you get into your seasonal moods.
- 1 2/3 c. all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 c. sugar
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 3/4 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
- 2 large eggs
- 1 c. canned pumpkin
- 1/2 c. canola oil
- 1/2 c. water
- 1/2 chopped walnuts (optional)
- 1/2 c. chocolate chips (optional
Process: Start by warming up your oven to 350F. In your mixer, combine the first 8 ingredients. In a small bowl, mix the pumpkin, eggs, oil, and water. Slowly fold into dry ingredients until it’s just combined. Fold in walnuts or chocolate chips. This is a really wet dough that you won’t knead. Just pour it into your greased loaf pan and bake until a knife inserted into the middle comes out clean. This should take about 60-70 minutes. Allow this to cool in the pan for about 10 minutes before turning it out and cutting.
And there you have it! Three recipes to get you started making your own bread! Baking bread is so easy! Happy baking.