Anyone who has ever sliced into a loaf of bread while it’s still warm from the oven and taken a bite knows how glorious freshly-baked bread can be. Few of us are lucky enough to live next-door to a bakery, but homemade bread is far easier to make than you realize, and the end result is as economical as it is delicious.
What You’ll Need:
- A large bowl
- A mixer (a hand-mixer will work if you don’t have a countertop one)
- Measuring cups
- Measuring spoons
- Wooden spoons
- Rolling pin
- Two 9″ x 5″ bread loaf pans
- Cutting board
- Kitchen knife
- 6 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 cups milk
- 3 tbsp sugar
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 package active dry yeast
- Butter or margarine
Step 1 – Mixing:
In a large bowl, combine sugar, salt, yeast, and 2 cups of flour. In a medium saucepan, heat milk and 3 tbsp of butter or margarine on low heat until very warm.
Step 2 – Beating:
Gradually beat the liquid ingredients into the dry ones using your mixer at low speed, until they’re just blended. Increase the speed to medium, and beat for 2 minutes, occasionally scraping the bowl with your spatula. Beat in another 3/4 cup of flour (or enough to make a thick batter), and continue to beat for another few minutes, scraping the bowl often. Then use a wooden spoon to stir in enough flour to make a soft dough (approximately 3 cups).
Step 3 – Kneading:
Knead the dough on a floured surface for about 10 minutes, then form into a large ball, and place it in a pre-buttered bowl, making sure to roll it around so it’s greased all over. Cover the bowl with a clean cloth and let rise until it doubles in size (roughly 1 hour).
Step 4 – Rising and Resting:
Punch into the dough by pushing your fist into the center of it, and pulling the edges in. Transfer the dough to a floured surface, cut in half, and cover with the bowl. Let it rest for 20 minutes or so.
Step 5 – Forming:
Butter your two 9″ x 5″ loaf pans. Use your rolling pin to roll out the dough halves into 12″ x 8″ rectangles, pat them all around to shape them into loaves, and then place them, seam-side down, into the pans.
Cover them with towels and let the dough rise again in a warm place until doubled (about an hour to an hour and a half).
Step 6 – Baking:
Preheat your oven to 400F, and brush the tops of the loaves with a bit o melted butter. Bake them 25-30 minutes until the tops are golden-brown and spring back when you press on them lightly. When you tap the loaves, they should sound slightly hollow inside.
Set the loaves on a rack to cool for a few minutes, then use a serrated knife to saw off a piece, slather it with your favourite topping, and enjoy. There’s nothing quite like biting into a fresh loaf of bread that you’ve baked yourself, is there?
This is a very basic bread recipe, but you can tweak it various ways to create many different kinds of bread to suit your tastes:
- Use 4 cups whole-wheat flour and 2 cups all-purpose for a more whole-grain loaf, and add a tbsp of molasses to balance the bitterness of the whole wheat.
- Add grated cheddar and minced green onions into the dough before it rises, and sprinkle with fresh herbs and a bit of garlic powder.
- To make cinnamon-raisin bread, pre-soak a cup of raisins in warm water for an hour, drain well, and add them to the dough before setting it to rise, along with 1/4 cup of sugar mixed with 1 tsp ground cinnamon.
- You can add a handful of chopped nuts, fruit, or seeds into the bread for texture and added nutrition, but they may delay the rising time. Try combinations like walnut and chopped apple, flax and honey, or even just pre-soaked sunflower seeds.
- You can make a pseudo-foccacia bread by adding a couple of tablespoons of olive oil to the wet dough mixture (reduce the milk by the amount of oil that you’ve used), and add ingredients such as chopped oil-soaked sundried tomatoes and rosemary, or sliced olives and capers.
- With this dough, instead of making loaves, you can divide the dough into 6 rolls and bake them as individual kaiser buns instead. These can be made plain, or filled with spinach and feta, broccoli and cheddar, caramelized onion and swiss, etc.