Make Your Own Bread

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There are already a large number of bread recipies available to anyone who is interested in making their own bread. Here is one more. It is more of a how-I-do-it than a formal presentation of measured ingredients.

This is white bread. I dont care for whole wheat. Not that I wont eat whole wheat, I just find whole wheat more difficult to make. Whole wheat does not rise as much. At least not in my kitchen.

I take a plastic bowl. Maybe large enough to hold half a gallon or more. I start with four cups of hot tap water, add two table spoons of sugar, add one package of dry yeast, stir, then let sit for a few hours.

Check it and make sure it has a fluffy, frothy head on top of the liquid. If not, start over. This time with fresh yeast.

Start adding flour a cup at a time while running a mixer in the bowl to combine ingredients. While the mixture is still fairly liquid, add a couple teaspoons of salt. Mix some more and add flour until the dough thickens to the point where the mixer bogs down.

Add a couple cups of flour on top of the dough in the bowl and start mixing with a plastic or wooden spoon or ladle. After the mixture begins to take on the consistency of wet dough, clean the dough off the spoon, add another cup or two of flour and begin to kneed by hand.

It will take another four to five cups of flour before the mixture becomes thick enough to be dough. You are done when the stuff no longer sticks to your fingers. It is fine if it is wet and sticky just not so sticky that you cant touch it without it clinging to your hand.

I dont remove the dough to kneed it. I leave it in the bowl. I find things remain cleaner that way.

Form it into a ball, brush it with oil or butter, leave it in the bowl, cover it, and set it in a warm place to let it rise.

You can speed up the process by putting the bowl in an oven set to warm but keep an eye on it. Even at the warm setting my oven gets too hot for this. If I use the oven, I set the timer for 15 minutes and remove the bowl from the oven, placing it on top of the refrigerator for the remaining duration of the first rise.

It takes one to two hours for the dough to rise. It will rise to about double the original size. Punch it down and remove it from the bowl.

Dust a board or table top with flour. Plop the dough onto the dusted surface. Now we have to decide what sort of bread sizes we want. I usually divide the dough to make a couple of small loaves as well as some hard rolls. I use a knife to cut the dough in half, and then in quarters. I shape two of the quarters into fat cigar shaped loaves and put them on a flour dusted cookie sheet. No forms needed.

The remaining two quarters are divided in half two more times and formed into balls by rolling them between the palms of my hands. Dough balls the size of hens eggs will make a roll large enough to be used as a quarter pounder hamburger bun.

The rolls are added to the cookie sheet. The whole affair is covered with a cloth and set asside to rise once more. If the oven was used to heat the dough for the first rise, it is probably still warm and the cookie sheet can be set into the oven and the dough allowed to rise once more.

Dough size will double again on the second rise which will take another hour or two. After the second rise, brush the surface with oil or butter, sprinkle lightly with salt, adjust the oven to 400 degrees farenheit, set the timer for 20 minutes, and let the bread bake. Check on it after 20 minutes. Stick it with a needle. If dough clings to the needle when you withdraw it, give it another 10 minutes to bake. You can also check it for doneness by thumping it with your finger. If it makes a dull hollow sound, it is probably done.

If the crust is not a golden brown, go to broil and give it a few minutes at broiling temperature. Keep a very close watch on it so it does not burn.

Remove from the oven and let it all sit on the counter to cool. Dont cut or try to taste it until has cooled close to room temperature.

If you have been keeping track of time we are now 3.5 to 6.5 hours into our baking project depending on how much time we allowed the yeast to bloom and the bread to rise. Dont start a baking session like this unless you can finish it and that will take a minimum of 5 hours.

This same recipie can be used for making pizza. The only difference between bread and pizza dough is how thin it is rolled.

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