Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Tutorial: How to make Bread

Making bread is therapeutic for me. I love being able to create something that makes the house smell so delicious and there is nothing quite like eating a fresh slice of home made bread. These photos show amounts for 2 loaves of bread, so that is the recipe I'll be sharing with you. If you only want one loaf simply cut the recipe in half. Although add 1 Tbsp sugar to the warm water before adding yeast no matter how many loaves you are making.
First, start out with water - 2.5 cups warm water. You want it to be about 110 degrees (if you want to test the temperature - use a meat or candy thermometer if you have them.) Add 1 Tbsp granulated sugar to the water. Stir to combine. Add 1-1/2 Tbsp yeast to the sugar water. Let sit until yeast 'blooms'. Once yeast starts blooming, it goes pretty quickly, but is fun to watch!
The photos above illustrate the yeast blooming. The end picture is after the yeast is completely ready to add the other ingredients. This is typically referred to as the yeast being bubbly.
Next add 1/2 cup or 1 cube unsalted butter (you can add salted, but you will want to reduce the amount of salt added to the bread dough. Most butter has about 1/2-1 tsp salt per cube, so reduce the amount of salt about that much.)  I like to add honey (1/2 cup) to bread, you can also use sugar (1/4 cup). Next add 2 tsp salt (when using unsalted butter.) Mix until combined. I do not add milk or milk powder to my bread as it makes the bread go bad faster. If you do add milk to bread you will want to use it within a day or two. 

To the wet yeast mixture add 4-5 cups flour and mix by hand (I used a fork) until dough forms. Once dough forms, sprinkle (or dump) 1/2 cup flour onto a clean surface to knead the dough.
Just a quick reminder:
If it is a smooth ring with no design or jewels, it will probably be fine... but kneading with a diamond is never a good idea!
Place the dough onto the flour, and cover with 1/2 cup more flour. You may need to add more as you are kneading.
Knead the dough by folding it over on itself... Over and over and over again. I think this is the most therapeutic part about making bread - if you are frustrated/stressed you can get some stress relief during the next 10 minutes.
I like making 2 loaves at a time because I find it is just the right amount of dough to knead - 4 loaves is quite a but to knead and is more of a workout!
Once the dough is kneaded, place into a bowl sprayed with non-stick spray. Turn once to coat.
Cover with a damp towel and let rise until doubled in size (about 1 hour).

Now on to how to shape a great loaf of bread.
First, punch down the dough that has risen until double in size. Then place the dough on the counter and shape roughly into the size of a loaf pan. Fold the sides in and pinch together, continue pinching all down the length of the dough. Next fold the end over. Repeat on other end.
Once dough is doubled, bake in a 350 degree oven (or a 325 degree oven if you used honey) for 25-35 minutes. The top should be golden brown.
At this point, your house has an aromatic scent of fresh bread.
 Go ahead and give into the craving to eat the fresh bread!
A few hints about cutting fresh bread - let it cool down for about 10 minutes so you don't burn yourself.
Using a sharp serrated knife and using no/gentle pressure saw back and forth to cut through the whole loaf.

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