Homemade Breads

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Posted by gilly

One of my great wishes is that we had unlimited access to a local bakery. I love the notion of stopping by a market on the way home, and picking up a fresh-from-the-oven loaf of soft, chewy, delicious bread. Unfortunately, the few bakeries in our vicinity either keep regular business hours (i.e. they are closed by the time we get there), or are completely out of our way.

Since I am not a fan of processed foods (even more compelling reasons here), I rarely buy bread at the store. If my husband and I want bread, it is typically made at home.

Bread making is one of the most rewarding things you can do in your kitchen. Despite initial concerns about working with yeast, I think everyone should try their hand at it at least once. Even if you are a die-hard yeast hater – there are still a variety of delicious flat breads, and biscuit recipes out there that deserve attention.

Besides time, what are some other basics a bread maker needs to make their wares?

  • A large bowl – for combining ingredients

  • A wooden spoon – for mixing

  • A bread board, table, or counter-space to working on

  • Flour – enough for the bread itself, for kneading, and for your hands as you work

  • Water or other binding liquids

  • Butter/Fat – enough for the bread, and for greasing bowl, pans, etc.

  • Yeast (optional)

  • Additional ingredients for variety (optional)

  • Loaf or other pans for baking in

  • An oven

For those wary of yeast – here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Be sure to know and understand the type(s) of yeast you have on hand – and check your recipe to be sure that you are using the appropriate type. I only use dry active yeast, but have become quite comfortable with it.

  • Only combine yeast into lukewarm liquids – I like working between 95F-115F. If you are unsure, use a thermometer to check. If you add yeast to very hot liquids, it will kill them. If the liquid is too cool, there is a risk that it will not proof correctly.

  • Sweet breads, heavily grained breads, and breads with a high percentage of fat are much more difficult to raise – and often require more time - than regular white breads. If you are just starting out, try a simple bread recipe (see below), and work your way up from there.

  • I like letting my dough rise in a warm kitchen environment, but if that is not possible - let it rise in the oven – turned off but with the light on.

  • Most bread dough will double within 1-2 hours – be sure to give it the time it needs to raise.

For more tips and tricks, the King Arthur Flour site has a very comprehensive write up (and bread recipe).

Here is a straightforward recipe I've made a few times now. For best flavour and texture, be sure to use up your freshly made bread within a few days, or freeze it - the lack of chemicals and additives reduces its shelf life.

Recipe: Foccacia Bread
Adapted from No Need to Knead by Suzanne Dunaway

2 cups lukewarm water (95F-105F)
2 tsp dry active yeast
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp salt
3 tsp olive oil
chopped fresh rosemary
coarsely ground sea-salt for sprinkling

Place lukewarm water into a large bowl and sprinkle the yeast on top. Allow to sit until the yeast has foamed up. Gently swirl in the first 2 cups of flour and the salt until smooth. Slowly add the next 2 cups, a bit at a time until encorporated, and the dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl. The dough will be fairly damp and tacky, but will still form a loose ball. If more or less flour accomplishes this, that is fine.

Cover the bowl and allow to sit in a warm place (or in the oven - turned off - light on) until doubled in volume - 40-50 minutes.

Moving the baking rake to middle of the oven, preheat to 500F. Grease your pans - either bread pans, a 9" skillet, 2 5" skillets - or as I've used above - a 9"x13" pan. Carefully loosen the dough from the bowl and gently 'pour' the dough into the pan(s) - keeping the dough as inflated as possible. You may need to gently push the dough around if you want a perfect shape, however, irregular shaped breads will be lighter. Dimple the top of the bread using a finger dipped in flour, then brush with olive oil. Sprinkle with rosemary and sea-salt.

Place the pan in the oven, and quickly reduce the temperature down to 450F. Bake for 15-20 minutes - until a golden crust has developed. The bread will also have a 'hollow' sound when you knock it. Move to a wire rack to cool, then slice and enjoy!

I make my focaccia into a large flat bread. I cut a piece out, then divide it through the middle to make a delicious panini holder - accomodating all kinds of delicious sandwich ingredients.

I wish you all the best with your breadmaking. If you have a favourite homemade bread recipe, or helpful hints for our readers, we'd love to hear about it in the comments section!

Until next time I wish you health, happiness, and balance!

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This Post was written by gilly from Humble Pie


I have always wanted to bake a cake or a bread, but am yet to buy an oven:)... which type of oven do u use for baking - microwave or electric?


Anna said...
May 4, 2007 at 9:08:00 AM GMT+2  

Hi Anna! Thanks for your question!
I use an electric range oven to bake my goods in. I'll admit, I've never tried microwaving my baking before, so I'm not able to comment on how well that works. If you have any more questions, feel free to ask!

gilly said...
May 4, 2007 at 2:52:00 PM GMT+2  

Hi gilly,

Thanks for the reply. I am planning to buy a microwave oven, and the sales people claim that the cakes baked in it will be as good as the other. I was a little doubtful. Thank you for clearing it before I made the blunder:). So now, I can go for a microwave with the basic functions:)


Anna said...
May 7, 2007 at 3:43:00 AM GMT+2  

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