Although I have always loved to bake, something about bread seemed mystical and entirely intimidating. But a few years ago at Christmas I decided to conquer my fear and boy, am I glad I did. Now I want to help everyone overcome any fear they may have about baking bread – no bread machine required!
Here is the basic recipe I follow, but I am going to spell out the steps to help clear up any confusion you may have: Basic Bread Recipe for Beginners. Their instructions are in bold type below, with my commentary added in.
Bread for Beginners Ingredients:
- 3/4 cup warm water
- 1 package active dry yeast (2-1/4 tsp)
- 1 tsp salt
- 1-1/2 tbsp sugar
- 1 tbsp vegetable shortening
- 1/2 cup milk
- 3 cups all-purpose flour, approximately
In large bowl, add the warm water. Slowly stir in dry yeast. Continue to stir until yeast is dissolved.
When you work with yeast, the first step is almost always to “proof” the yeast. This essentially preps the yeast and ensures it is alive and growing.
Here are some fun facts to remember when working with yeast that will serve you in many contexts:
- Yeast needs warm water to grow
- Water that is too hot (near boiling/boiling) will kill the yeast
- Yeast feeds off sugar
- Salt slows down the growth of yeast
When you see the bloom, you know you’re ready for the next step.
Add salt, sugar, shortening, and milk to bowl. Stir.
Shortening doesn’t mix in well. Don’t worry too much about it. Try to break it up into smaller pieces. You’ll really mix it in when you knead the dough.
Mix in the first 2 cups of flour.
If needed, begin adding more flour, one tablespoon at a time, until the dough chases the spoon around the bowl.
I stir by hand, which I enjoy because it lets me tell more up close what it happening with my dough. Here is where you can derivate from exact measurements of flour.
Go ahead and mix in the first two cups of flour. After that, your goal is truly to just get the dough to a consistency where it chases around the bowl on your spoon. They say to add flour a tablespoon at a time, but I usually use a quarter-cup measuring cup. As long as you’re not going crazy with flour, it is hard to over flour. Don’t try to use all the flour the recipe calls for, just because it calls for it! Many factors can influence how much flour you need on any given day (weather, humidity, etc).
Your dough can still be a bit sticky as you enter the next step.
Turn dough out onto floured board and knead, adding small spoonfuls of flour as needed, until the dough is soft and smooth, not sticky to the touch.
Kneading is fun! You can add small amounts of flour to keep the dough from sticking to your hands, which will also help you get the dough to the right consistency. Once it is soft, springy, and not sticky, you’re ready to move on.
Put dough in a greased or buttered bowl, turn dough over so that the top of dough is greased. Cover and let rise in warm spot for 1 hour.
I generally put my dough in the oven after having it on “warm” for a little while. If it’s a cold day, then I’ll keep my oven on “warm” and open it a crack so it doesn’t start baking. If I’m in a hurry, sometimes I don’t let it rise a full hour. If it has risen well (and trust me, you should be able to have noticed it’s growth), I take it out after about half an hour.
Punch down dough. Turn out onto floured board and knead.
Preheat oven at 375 degrees F.
Form dough into loaf and set in buttered bread pan. Cover and let rise for about 30 minutes.
More kneading! This is where you decide what shape your bread will take. Loaves are lovely, but I often to do rolls to made serving sizes easier. Basically, this step is a last rise in the actual shape your bread will cook in.
(If you are making a loaf) Score dough by cutting three slashes across the top with a sharp knife.
Put in oven and bake for about 45 minutes or until golden brown.
I generally don’t cook mine for a full 45 minutes. It just depends on a number of factors, including your oven. Just check for the top to be a golden, crusty brown. And for the mouth water smells to overtake you.
There you have it- your first bread! We don’t need no stinkin’ machine! Make some for your family and impress everyone!
Originally posted December 29, 2015