There is nothing, and I do mean nothing, like the aroma of homemade bread baking in the oven. The fragrance has a way of wafting through the entire house, floating room by room, and tapping sleepy heads on the shoulder. It’s whispering, “Get up! Breakfast awaits you.” Bread’s cohort, butter, adds to the temptation of giving up the extra few minutes of sleep to enjoy a warm slice of bread with melted butter on top.
Nov. 17 is slated as National Homemade Bread Day, and it’s a good time for bakers everywhere to try their hand at baking bread, otherwise known as, “The staff of life.” It is not as difficult as it may seem to make your own, and the hardest part is the investment in time to proof the dough and let it rise. Watching the dough rise adds to the anticipation of bread’s scrumptiousness once baked, so let’s explore some of bread’s history and a simple recipe to try.
Bread is as old as civilization itself. As humans became agrarian, they learned how to grind and mill the grains they grew into flour. History has recorded that the earliest breads were made in Egypt and Turkey nearly 9,000 years ago. Actually, bread is probably the oldest food ever recorded. The Egyptians are credited with having been first to use yeast when making bread. Interestingly, today in our modern times, Germany is known for baking the most varieties of bread compared to any other country. There are many varieties of bread to enjoy, such as brioche, sourdough, focaccia, ciabatta, rye, multigrain, whole grain, challah, naan, pita, pumpernickel and many more. It’s safe to say that the staff of life is also the spice of life!
The basic ingredients in any bread are flour, water, yeast and salt. If you are longing for homemade bread but fear the process, a bread machine is a wonderful way to have something else do the work for you! Just follow directions for the bread machine in the order you place ingredients in the pan, set the cycle, and the machine does the rising and baking for you. Some bread machines allow you to set up the ingredients the night before, along with an internal timer, so that it is baking for you early in the morning, and you will wake up to delicious, warm, and healthier homemade bread sans any chemicals. Or you can try your hand at the kneading and shaping of the loaf yourself by following the following recipe:
– 2 ½ cups warm water (not hot – it will kill the yeast)
– ¼ cup sugar
– 1 ¼ teaspoon salt
– 1 tablespoon yeast
– 5 cups all-purpose flour
– 2 tablespoons oil (try olive oil)
1. In a stand mixer, add the warm water, sugar, salt and yeast. Let the yeast proof until it bubbles for about 5 minutes. Using the dough hook, start adding the flour one cup at a time until the dough combines and forms a soft dough.
2. On a floured surface, knead the dough until smooth and elastic and form a ball. Add the oil to the large bowl, coating the bowl, then add the dough to the bowl and cover with a towel. Ideally, place the bowl is a warm area. Let rise until it has doubled, about 1 to 1 ½ hours.
3. Grease and flour two 9 by 5-inch pans. Punch the dough to release the air. Lay the dough onto a flat surface and cut into two loaves. Roll each loaf up and place into the loaf pans. Let rise until it doubles, another 1 to 1 ½ hours.
4. Bake in a preheated 350°oven for 30 to 35 minutes or until golden brown on the tops. Remove from the oven, and let cool for 10 minutes before slicing.
- If you don’t have an electric stand mixer, you can mix the ingredients by hand in a mixing bowl. Combine until the dough has formed and is smooth. Then proceed to knead the dough on a floured surface.
- A word about sugar in the wet ingredients: yeast can proof without it; however, the sugar helps the yeast release carbon dioxide, which results in a faster rising of the bread.
- During bread making, after each time of handling the dough, allow the dough to rest a bit. This is advantageous to allow the gluten to relax and reform itself into long protein chains, creating structure to the finished loaf.
- Bread reacts to the atmosphere. If there is humidity in the air, the flour absorbs some of that moisture. You might hold back on a bit of the water. On the other hand, if the air is dry, you might find that your dough ball needs a tad more water to soften it. If the dough appears wet, slowly add a little bit of flour at a time to have the ball come together. Experience will teach you how the dough should look and feel.
Recipe from TheRecipeCritic.com