Okay, first and foremost can I just say…what the heck took me so long to make homemade bread? I’ll admit that I used to have a slight phobia of yeast, but since I conquered homemade cinnamon rolls and tsoureki, I put my yeast-less cooking days behind me. Still, I hadn’t bothered to attempt a regular ol’ loaf of bread. Until now. Let’s just say that I didn’t even know what I was missing. In fact, as I type this (one-handed), I’m feasting on a fresh-from-the-oven slice of bread smeared with butter. It’s warm, slight chewy and seriously delicious. I’m not a huge carb person, but this bread might turn me into one.
My desire to bake bread all started with a simple cookbook that was recently given to me by my darling friend, Meg. It’s called, Make the Bread, Buy the Butter: What You Should and Shouldn’t Cook From Scratch. When the author lost her job, she embarked on a journey of trying to economize by making everything from scratch (and by everything, I mean she bought goats for milking and turkeys for slaughtering!). The book is a hilarious account of her experiences and adventures and it also happens to include tons of 2recipes of things to make at home as well as detailed descriptions of exactly how much hassle each thing is. I read the entire book cover to cover and then I embarked on making her first “Make it yourself” recipe: bread.
Here’s the recipe exactly as it appears in the cookbook:
1 teaspoon instant yeast
3.5 cups warm (but not hot) water
5.5 cups all purpose flour
1.75 cups whole-wheat flour
1/4 cup flaxseeds
4 teaspoons kosher salt
Since it was my first attempt at making bread, I didn’t bother with the 2 different types of flours. Instead, I just used unbleached all purpose flour (I think it was King Arthur Flour).
All you do is mix all of the ingredients together (I first used a wooden spoon and then my hands). Then, split the dough in 2 parts and put it in greased bread pans (I greased mine with canola oil).
Cover the pans with a clean kitchen towel and put the dough in a draft-free place to allow it to rise for 2 hours. Since I live in the mountains and its COLD here, I have to preheat my oven to 200 degrees, turn it off and put the pans in there if I want my bread to rise. It works like a charm.
Once the dough has risen to be level with the top of the pan, the bread is ready to bake. The original instructions say that you should bake the bread in a 450 degree oven for 30 minutes and then to bake it for an additional 15 minutes directly on the rack. My bread was slightly overdone when I followed the instructions exactly. The second time I baked it, I lowered the heat to 400 degrees and it came out perfectly.
I have eaten a lot of wonderful things in my life and bread fresh out of the oven ranks right up there with the most scrumptious. The three of us almost polished off an entire loaf in the first 10 minutes that the bread was cool enough to touch. The rest of the loaf was eaten the following day and we’re just now finishing the second loaf of bread.
This bread keeps on the counter top (wrapped tightly in plastic wrap) for a week and if you wrap it in plastic and then foil, it can be frozen for 3-6 months. Now that I know how easy it is to make bread at home, I think it’s going to be a regular occurrence around here and I think it will be fun to try different variations. I also can’t wait to try more recipes out of the cookbook. Naturally, I’ll report my results back here for you all. Happy baking!