A few weeks ago, on my adventures in grocery shopping, I bought three packages of yeast. I wasn’t quite sure why, but I had this overwhelming urge to make bread. Something I’ve never done before but apparently, there was a yearning.
Those three packages of yeast have been sitting in my cabinet for those few weeks just dying to be used. When I would remember them, I would think about making bread but afraid to jump right in. I’d read horror stories from other first-time bread makers and well, okay, maybe they weren’t horror stories, not in the true sense of horror. But to a breadmaking newbie, they were distressing. I even read a story about one woman’s four attempts at making bread. Hot water killed the yeast. Didn’t punch it well enough. AND something about gluten strands. 4th time was a charm, I guess! Scary stuff to someone who has grandiose break making ideas.
Yesterday, I didn’t have much to do. Laundry was folded and put away and frankly, I’d just spent a whole weekend, marathon-Zelda-Wii-gaming with my hubby, that the thoughts of even turning the TV on was scarier than gluten strands. (Note to self, read up on what exactly gluten strands are and their importance).
So, I made bread.
I ate bread.
YES! It was successful. It was such a great experience. Phooey on those naysayers. My first attempt at making homemade bread was a success. Was it perfect? No. (Another note to self, find out why bread had a sideways crack in it and crumbly in an area…oooh, perhaps I need to work on my punching dough skills). Was it edible? Yes. Winning!
Cooking and baking, for me, is not just about cooking and baking. It’s feeling, it’s the experience! Making bread was an experience that was satisfying and delightful and fun. I had so much fun that my family thought I was crazy. I don’t know why they are always so surprised at my craziness. I. AM. CRAZY.
Anyway. I measured out all my ingredients, first. I know, that should be a given. But sometimes I don’t do this because it seems so time consuming to do so but it really is rewarding and less stressful to do this first. Plus, there’s something very satisfying about having all these bowls sitting around filled with the measured ingredients, waiting to be mixed and mashed into the others, creating an end result of tasty.
Here’s what I used (from this recipe) and it made two small loaves. I couldn’t find my large loaf pan, so I used two smaller ones. Also, according to some recipes you can just bake your loaf on a baking sheet.
5 cups white all-purpose flour (divided 4 cups and 1 cup to set aside)
2 T yeast (or 2 7g packages)
2 T sugar
1 t salt
2 cups warm-hot water (use a thermometer that will measure between 75 and 110 deg.- you want your water about 100 deg. that’s what I did)
1/4 cup cooking oil (I used canola)
Preheat oven to 400F
Put 4 cups flour, yeast, sugar and salt into a large mixing bowl.
Pour in hot water and oil and mix. It will be sticky.
Using the 1 cup of flour, set aside, add small increments into your mix until dough is no longer sticky. I had about 1/4 cup leftover
Knead dough on the counter (sprinkle some of that leftover flour onto the counter) for 5 minutes. It will become elastic and smooth.
Oil a bowl and place dough inside, cover bowl with a damp tea towel and let it rise for about 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes, punch it down and divide into two pieces, one for each loaf.
Roll each piece so it is long enough to fill a well-oiled loaf pan and let it rise again until it reaches the rim of loaf pan.
Bake at 400F for 40 minutes.
I didn’t have to do this, but the recipe says to rub hot bread with water and wrap in a tea towel so that it will “sweat” and soften the crust. My crusts were not too hard and softened as they cooled. I did drape a tea towel over them, so the steam may have been the “sweat”.
Making these was a lot of fun, as I mentioned. I don’t have a bread machine or a stand mixer that would withstand mixing dough (it’s an el cheapo that I got from a yard sale so that I could just say I have a stand mixer because I’ve never actually used it).
There is something about using my hands for maximum satisfaction when I cook. In this case, the kneading and punching down the dough was so cool. Watching it rise, knowing that the yeast is performing such an important job. Maybe I put too much thought into it but I tend to do that with everything.
Happy baking and if you’ve never made bread before….please do it, at least once.