How to Bake Bread Like You Know What You’re Doing

How to Bake Bread Like You Know What You’re Doing

If you want it, then you knead it..or maybe you don’t knead it at all.

In this day and age, time consuming tasks aren’t our cup of tea.  We like things to be simple, yet we treasure recipes made from scratch.  Today, I’m going to introduce to you the way I “cheat”  with  making bread.  These are my own personal secrets  and recipes.  My guess is that my bread making ways probably aren’t the way any fancy culinary school would tell you how to bake bread.  This is one of those things where someone would point and say, “That is SO wrong.”  But, if you ask my husband, he’d say, “How did people manage to cook before culinary schools came along?  It’s the people who were the home cooks that made that all happen.”

I like his line of thinking.  Who makes the cooking rules anyways?  Aren’t rules meant to be broken?  Let’s all be bread rebels among the society of proper bread bakers.

Besides, is there really any right or wrong when it comes to producing something you enjoy without having to try so hard?  I’m all about finding tips and tricks to succeeding without hurting yourself mentally and physically over it.

This is for all of you who have bread machines stashed somewhere with dust collecting.  Clean the machines off.  They’re about to be put to use…permanently.  No more wondering why you bought that machine.  You’ll wonder how you ever let that beloved piece of appliance heaven sit in storage.  Apologize to it…NOW.  It deserved so much better.

People name their cars.  Those of us who enjoy cooking should name our appliances.

For those of you who do not have a bread machine, it obviously isn’t necessary for baking bread.  This post involves the use of one.  So, if you have a hankering to go out and buy one, but aren’t sure whether or not you would use it all the time, try this:  there has never been a time for me where I haven’t spotted one in a thrift store.  Every time I’ve gone into a thrift store, there seems to be a bread machine.  In fact, I have two that I purchased for $3 a piece.  They were in brand new condition and both were missing paddles.  I was able to order the paddles online for under $10.  The machines would’ve cost me over $100 if I had purchased them brand new.  It’s well worth checking out a thrift store.  Almost every machine I’ve found looks like it’s never been used.  Try to get one for a two pound loaf.  If you see one and note that a paddle is missing, either call someone to look up the part for you or use your smart phone.  Here’s a machine I bought that is missing a paddle. I haven’t used it yet, but wanted to show you how the interior of the pan looks without a paddle.

missingpaddle

Now, another expense you can save on is yeast.  Those little packets of yeast can run you a lot of dough.  🙂 Look for coupons for the yeast and buy a bigger package if at all possible.  One of the best places I’ve bought yeast was a wholesale club.  After I opened the bag of yeast, I put it in a freezer zip bag and stored it in the refrigerator.  That way, the yeast kept well and didn’t spill everywhere.

When I let my membership run out at the wholesale club, I wasn’t sure where to turn.  I found someone selling large packages of yeast on ebay which was cheaper than my other alternatives.  More recently, I found a food distributor that sells to the public selling large packages of yeast for $7.99 for a two pound bag.  Look around both online and in stores for the best deals.

Flour:  I use a variety of flours when baking bread.  Keep an eye out when purchasing flour.  The higher the gluten content, the better rise you’re going to get.  I really don’t push a lot on brands people purchase, but the best bread loaves I made were using Heckers flour.  Usually, I purchase whatever is on sale.

Whole wheat, white whole wheat, bread flour, and regular flour are all game in my bread making world, but bread flour generally rises better due to it’s gluten content.  If you don’t have one type of flour and are just starting out, search for recipes using the flour you have on hand.  You’re experimenting, so have fun with it!  Don’t give up after one failure…or even ten.  Look at it as a learning experience, and you’ll be so proud of yourself when you master the art of bread making.

One more suggestion before getting to the bread making:  arm yourself with a great bread knife.  Nothing is better than a bread knife that smoothly cuts through your fresh bread like butter.  A high quality, sharp bread knife is in order.  When you start making bread weekly (or in some cases, DAILY), you’ll be so thankful for it.  Your bread will stay fresher if you slice as you need it rather than having it sliced all at once.  But, if you don’t feel like slicing bread all the time, you can purchase a food slicer and set it so you get a particular width of a bread slice.  It’s kind of fun to do this, and Waring Pro carries a great food slicer that you can use for other foods outside of bread.  Just think:  after this we can move onto lunch meats and that slicer will come in handy.

My first recipe I’m going to introduce to you is my own personal recipe for Honey White Bread.

The Hudson Valley Handymom’s

Honey White Bread

1 1/4 cups milk (lukewarm)
1 egg
1/3 cup honey
4 cups of flour (I prefer unbleached flour and Heckers)
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 TBSP of vital wheat gluten (optional-you can omit if you use Heckers)
2 1/2 tsp of active dry yeast
1/4 cup butter, cut into pieces

Remove your bread pan from your bread machine.

Put all the liquids (milk, egg, and honey) into the bottom of the bread pan.
liquids

Add all of the dry ingredients on top of the liquids.  Tap the pan so they move down.

Make a well in the top of the dry ingredients.

Pour the yeast into the well.

Lay the pieces of butter around the edges of the interior of the bread pan.
wellwithyeastbutter

Close the lid to the machine and set the setting on dough setting (for two pounds).  This setting differs for various bread machines.  My Breadman Plus’s setting is 10.

You may be wondering why you should add vital wheat gluten or where to purchase it.  Quite simply, it’s going to give you a better looking loaf of bread.  You don’t HAVE to add it, but, from personal experience, it produces a beautiful, well risen loaf of bread when I use it.

Toward the end of your dough making cycle (the last five minutes- set a timer to remind you if necessary), heat your oven up to the lowest temperature possible (170 degrees on my oven).  Allow the oven to heat up, and turn it off as soon as it is preheated.  You don’t even have to preheat it all the way.  What you want is a warm feeling oven.  If you make it too hot, you’ll kill the yeast and make this little trick of mine into an epic failure.  Keep the door shut until your bread dough is finished. We’re just warming up the oven…NOT trying to cook anything.

Spray your bread pan with a nonstick cooking spray.  Remove the dough from your bread machine.  Place it in a ball on a lightly floured surface.  Press down on the ball to flatten it.  It won’t be hard to do this because the bread is rather pliable.

Take the long edges and have them meet.
breadseams

Turn the bread seam side down into your greased bread pan.
Fold the side edges under a bit.
breadseams2

Press the dough down into the pan to fit the pan.  Place the loaf into the oven and shut the door.
breadinpan

Allow the bread to rise for about 40 minutes.  Set a timer because, if you’re like me, you might forget about that loaf of bread in the oven.

I may not look at bread the way other people do.  I like my bread to have that little rooftop over it.  Instead of just waiting for the dough to double the size, I wait to bake the bread until the dough extends about an inch above my loaf pan. I wouldn’t have it go past what you see in this picture because this expands a lot while baking:
rising

When the bread has risen to my desired height…well, here’s another confession….I don’t take it out of the oven to preheat the oven to a perfect cooking temperature.  I make a foil tent to cover the top of the bread loaf so it won’t get extremely brown.  Then, I set the oven to 375 degrees and bake the loaf for 30 minutes.

When your bread is done baking, take it out of the oven, INHALE…it smells so awesome, doesn’t it?  Place the pan on a cooling rack momentarily.  If you would like the bread to have a soft top, get a stick of butter and rub it all over the top.  I’m not asking you to melt that whole stick of butter into the top.  I just thought I would make that clear so no one blames me for gaining butter butt in the near future.

butterontop

Gently take your bread out of the pan and put it on the cooling rack.

When your bread is COMPLETELY cool, store it in either a container for bread or a zip or tie bag.  You may have to cut a couple of slices off and eat them to make sure the bread fits in the bag.  It might be your duty to do so to help keep that bread fresh.
finalloaf
I hope my recipe and instructions help you create that beautiful loaf of bread you’ve been longing!  Tomorrow, I’m giving up my personal recipe for whole wheat bread.

 

 

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8 thoughts on “How to Bake Bread Like You Know What You’re Doing

  1. Well that looks fantastic! I don’t have a bread machine but I do have a large kitchen aid stand mixer that does most of the work for me!

    1. Donna

      Thanks, Laurie! My KA is my life! Work that dough hook!

  2. Perri Pender

    I am still on the hunt for a bread machine, this helped me so much! I can’t wait to try this!!!!!!! I am determined to master the bread making.

    1. Donna

      That’s a sweet tasting bread. I’m putting up my own recipe for Whole What tomorrow. I like to have a slice of Whole Wheat toasted with some sugar free jam on it for breakfast…usually because I wait too long to eat.

      1. Deborah

        Perri get an “Oster”, you will not regret it.

  3. Deborah

    Your instructions are clear and understandable and amusing. Your love of cooking comes through and yours pics are great. Thanks for taking the time to show this.

  4. LOL I love it! 🙂 I bake bread often at home by hand and enjoy the “duties” that come with getting your bread to fit in the bag….

    1. Donna

      I enjoy making bread either way, but I know some people really feel like they just can’t do it. Can you imagine if we were alive back in the day where obtaining a certain oven temperature had to be done using firewood and guessing? Sometimes, I just can’t believe our ancestors managed so well.

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