This is my story about
Making Bread at Home
Making a good loaf of bread depends a lot on the technique you might be using… Bread machine? (there is a lot of control in this technique, leaving less room for error, if you can follow instructions!) Mixer? or by Hand?
1. Bread Machine:
If you have a bread machine with the proper instruction booklet, etc., use it and it should be kind to you. If you want to do something a little bit different however, you may have to know a little bit more about the chemistry. This may take a year or so of experimenting and/or asking specific questions, as someone on the site who makes dill bread with cottage cheese, in his breadmachine and now makes Whole Wheat bread in his breadmachine.
Probably the next easiest way to make bread, you just have to have your quantities right. Once you know how much water the flour you are going to use is going to absorb. The temperature in your kitchen and anywhere else you are going to put the dough, is at least stable, your home free. A white bread recipe could be:
3 to 3½ cups bread flour
1 ½ cups Liquid (could be water or milk or butter milk, you just have to know that if you use milk, butter or other dairy products your baking time should be lower)
1½ teaspoons yeast. (temperature and speed are factors here. You want a nice bread that doesn’t taste of yeast, long rising and moderate temperatures are the way. Your in a hurry, put more yeast and pump up the rising temp to 80° or 90° F – not more as you will get frankenbread.)
1 teaspoon Salt
This is your basic French and/or Italian or if you will paysan – pesant – recipe. This is what a top notch French or Italian baker might use for a baguette or miche.
This is how I do it… All the dry ingredients (Flour and salt) in the mixer, except the yeast. I take the temperature of the ingredients so I can control the process, but for your needs, try to get warm water, either from you tap or warm it up a bit on the stove. Not hot, just warm. Baby formula warm.
Turn on the mixer (low to medium, I would say? I have never used anything but a commercial mixer for making bread, twenty or so at a time.) and start adding the water, in a steady, not too fast, not too slow, stream, until most of it is used. Let it mix for a while and see what is feels like in a minute or two. If it is moist and coming together let it be. If it really looks and feels dry and is not coming together, put in the rest of the water, in the same way. If it still looks dry, (give it another 1 or two minutes), add more water.
Let this stand for twenty minutes. Now turn on the machine again and add the yeast. If you don’t like this technique, add the yeast at the beginning also and continue from there.
Let it mix for 5 to 7 minutes, of until it is nice and silky, like a babies bum. Or you can take it out before this and kneed it by hand until it becomes silky.
Let this rise for as long as it takes to arrive at double the volume (I the oven it should take about 1 hour, out of the oven it could take up to 2 – 2½ hours, depending on the temperature of your home. If your home is in the 70° area, it might take only 1 hour and ½). I always put it in a bowl, and then put it in an oven that had been turned on, then turned off once the elements got red, and the light turned on. If you own a gas stove with a pilot, just use it as is, no pre-heating needed. Make sure the bowl is covered with a damp cloth, not wet, but well wrong out, damp cloth. Once it has doubled in volume, take it out of the bowl and get the air out of it. I know most people say punch it down, but I don’t punch it down, I roll it between my hands, on a board, until all the air bubbles are more evenly distributed. This process also re-stimulates the yeast.
Now Place it back in the bowl and if you used the oven, back in the oven. Again until doubled in size. If the ambient temperature hasn’t changed, this should be about half the original time.
Now If you are using the oven method to proof your bread you will have to time this next part a bit. Once the dough has risen to double (or close to) it’s volume when you put it in the second time, you take it our of the bowl and redistribute the air bubbles again. If you are going to form your bread into a loaf, put it aside and cover it. Go get your bread pans and grease them, I use ½ liquid lecithin and ½ extra virgin olive oil, a very thin coat. Use what ever you feel is best. After you bread has rested for ten minutes, not more please, if you do you will see why, form it into a loaf by first gently flattening it, into a flat rectangle shape. Now fold in the two sides about ¼ to ½ and inch. Now roll into a cylinder closing the seem at the bottom as well as you can. It gets easier with time. Put it the pan and let rise till double in size, usually half the time of the step before. You can use the oven if you want but you do have to take the bread out of the oven early enough to let the oven warm up and so your bread doesn’t over proof. This last process usually take about ½ an hour. Your oven should be at about 450° F.
Put in you dough when everything is ready and through in a cup of so of water, on the bottom, or just put a pan of water on the bottom shelf. Your bread should be around the middle of the oven, by the way. Let that baby cook for ten minutes, then turn down the temperature to 350° F. Let it cook for another 45 to 50 minutes or until it has a hollow, thud, sound when you rap it with your knuckles or a wooden spoon on the bottom. Yes is should come out of the that easily at this point, if it doesn’t, I don’t know what to say, except, your cooked.
3. By Hand:
The recipe would be the same by hand. The process of mix everything by hand and kneed by hand can be tough work if your not ready for it. It should be kneaded for about 20 minutes. You can do it in a bowl or on the counter, either way you put in your dry ingredients, yeast included, and you make a whole in the middle of the flour, then you pour in your liquid ingredients and send the flour, bit by bit into the center with MOST of the liquid, reserve a bit in case, it shouldn’t be long before you know if you need more. Once all the liquid is incorporated then you can start kneading. It can be a bit sticky at this point, but it should be wet, not white flour at any rate. If it is really too wet add more flour, if it is really too dry – breaks up or doesn’t come together – add the rest of the liquid, or more liquid. Now follow the instructions for the mixer.