For the longest time I thought home baked bread was a skill reserved for the Ma Ingalls type of woman. You know, the woman who plucks her own chicken, sews her own apron, cuts her children’s hair, picks eggs, and grinds wheat.
I don’t hold a candle to Ma Ingalls. I may get my craft on every once in a while, but I am no Betty Crocker, Martha Stewart, or Pioneer Woman. I respect all these women and their amazing talents, but I simply cannot walk in their shoes.
I burn the chicken and set my stove on fire.
Sometimes I am downright dangerous in the kitchen, as evidenced in last night’s chopped finger.
Besides, baking bread always seemed so complicated. You had to kneed and punch and rise and bake and rise again…I quit before I even finished reading the recipe.
I love bread though, like I really LOVE it. I shouldn’t because it’s one of the dreaded carbs and carbs kill (or something like that), but I don’t care. Freshly baked bread with a thick layer of store bought butter is like a little piece of fat-filled heaven.
So I started thinking about this bread-baking thing.
People bake their own bread every single day in tons of countries where Wonder Bread does not exist. If they can do it in their brick oven, surely I can manage a loaf or two. After all, I have a Kitchen Aid, quick rise yeast, and an electric stove on my side.
So I began reading recipes, lots of recipes. And I noticed something. You only need a handful of ingredients to bake a loaf of bread.
Flour – Yeast – Water – Salt – Sugar – oil
That’s it! It really is that simple.
Now you can trade the sugar for honey or pure molasses, and maybe sometimes you want to trade the oil for butter, and the water for milk, but it’s all basically the same. If you want a cake-like type of bread, you add eggs. If you want healthier grains, you use unbleached whole wheat flour and add ground flax seed and maybe substitute a cup of flour for oatmeal.
There’s so much you can do!
Once I began looking at baking bread through simplistic eyes, I started thinking maybe I didn’t need to be Ma Ingalls after all. Maybe, just maybe, I could bake bread too.
Recipe: (Adapted from Amanda’s Cookin’. I follow her recipe pretty closely, but her flour measurements just did not work for me.)
5 cups bread flour (or all purpose flour, whole wheat flour, white whole wheat flour, etc.)
You can also substitute one cup flour for one cup oatmeal.
3 tablespoons honey
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 tablespoons yeast (I use Flieshmann’s Active Yeast (the jar) and I always keep it in the freezer.)
1 1/2 tablespoons oil (I use olive oil, but your favorite will work)
1 3/4 cup warm water
Combine dry ingredients in a mixer and mix using a dough hook. Slowly pour in warm (not hot) water, honey, and oil. Knead for about 5 minutes. You want the dough to stick together and form a ball in the mixing bowl.
Here’s the tricky part. Humidity, temperature, and elevation all affect bread, so you may need to adjust the recipe slightly for your area or season. Maybe you’ll need a slight bit more water or flour. Don’t freak out, just add it. You’ll get accustomed to baking bread. It’s not rocket science, no matter what the cookbooks tell you.
This recipe makes two loafs. I only have one loaf pan, so I make one loaf and shape the other half of the dough into a ball and bake it on a lightly floured baking stone.
I grease my loaf pan with oil or butter and lightly flour it.
Then I put the loaves somewhere warm to rise – either in the same room with the woodstove or into a warmed oven. I generally let my bread rise for about an hour, sometimes longer if I get busy. You want the dough to double.
Bake at 350 degrees for twenty-five minutes.
I melt a couple of tablespoons of butter and brush it on the tops of my loaves about five minutes before baking is complete. It causes the tops to brown nicely and it’s Oh, So Yummy!
Do you bake your own bread?
My kids want me to bake it so they have fresh bread every single day, but we don’t need to be eating a loaf of bread every day, so I bake it often, but not too often.