How To Make Perfect Homemade Bread

IMG_1120

So, I know a lot of you are trying to make your own bread at home this week.  I know because I always buy 25 pounds of flour when I shop and where is the flour now? Gone, gone, gone.  No flour in the store.  So now that you have a 25 pound sack of flour (and maybe weren’t making bread two weeks ago) here are two detailed, basically foolproof recipes for amazing bread.

There’s a lot of emotion tied up with good homemade bread.  It’s a skill that most of us don’t have anymore when it is easier to simply buy our bread.  When I first married, like most wives throughout all of history, I made very bad bread.  So bad that my husband eventually suggested we just buy our bread, and so for several years that’s what we did.  Store boughten bread is pretty good, and fairly cheap.  But there’s just something heartwarming about fresh bread, so as a more experienced wife and homemaker I went back to baking bread with success this time.

The first thing to realize about baking bread is that you’re probably not going to save any money.  It’s not economical anymore.  It feels like it is because you spend a lot of time doing it, but you’re money ahead to just buy it at the Walmart like every else.  Here’s how the costs break down for a two loaf recipe:

Ingredient Cost/unit Cost for Recipe Cost/loaf
Milk 0.06/c 0.21
Butter 1.47/c 0.74
Sugar 0.01/tbsp 0.03
Salt 00.3/tbsp 0.06
Yeast 0.38/tbsp 0.57
Whole Wheat Flour 0.21/c 0.42
Bread Flour 0.17/c 1.45
Total 3.48 1.74

Secondly, and more positively, baking your own bread probably doesn’t take as long as you think it does.  You have to spend several hours at home to keep an eye on it as it rises, but you can do other work during that time.  The actual time I spend actively making bread or cleaning up from it is 50 minutes for two loaves.  Two loaves lasts our family about a week, which isn’t bad. 

I’m going to give you two recipes, first the Best Bread Ever, then the Economy Loaf.  We’ll get into how the Economy Loaf can save you money later, but for now lets focus on the Best Bread Ever.  Below are the step by step instruction and down at the bottom we’ll have a shorthand recipe if you want to just wing it.

  1. Pour 3 1/2 cups whole milk, 4 tablespoons butter, 3 tablespoons sugar, and 2 tablespoons salt in a microwavable bowl and heat it until it is just slightly hotter than the hottest thing you would give your children to drink.  Too hot kills the yeast, not hot enough causes it to not react as well.  In my microwave this is 3 minutes.  Obviously you could use the stove top, but you probably have a microwave.

    IMG_1121
    Melted milk, butter, sugar and salt
  2. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of yeast and stir until mostly dissolved.  Do not use a silver or copper spoon for this.  These are both antimicrobial metals that can kill your yeast.
  3. Let this sit about 10 minutes while your yeast proofs.  This isn’t a necessary step, but it will make your bread rise faster and gives you peace of mind knowing that at least when you started your yeast was alive.  
  4. When you can see a raised foam in the bowl add 2 cups of whole wheat flour and stir.
  5. In portions add 7 1/2 cups bread flour.  Bread flour has more protein than all purpose flour and will make a more elastic dough, and a springier, chewier loaf of bread.
  6. Knead the dough 10 minutes adding in approximately 1 more cup of bread flour as you do.  When you knead bread the goal is to fold the dough over on itself again and again.  This stretches the gluten fibers and strengthens the dough.  Good bread is more a result of kneading and rising technique than it is of recipe.
  7. Put kneaded dough in a greased bowl and put in a warm oven.  I usually set my gas oven to 180 degrees while I’m kneading and then turn it off to put the bread in to rise.
  8. Let bread rise until about doubled in size, approximately 35 minutes.
  9. Again knead the dough but using only oil to keep the dough from sticking (no more flour).  The dough will quickly become tougher and harder to knead than before.  I usually only knead it about two minutes this time, but you do want to truly knead it not just “punch it down”.  Kneading before the second rising redistributes the yeast and sugars allowing the yeast to access more food and rise well the second time.  The second kneading is really essential to the final texture of the bread.
  10. Divide the dough into halves and put in two greased bread pans.  Put pans back in a warm oven and let them rise until they are about doubled in size again.  About 30 minutes this time.
  11. Put in a preheated oven at 370 degrees.  If you are using the same oven to rise the bread as to bake it you must take the bread out while the oven preheats otherwise the bread will over-rise.

12. Brush with butter and bake approximately 30 minutes.  Brush with butter again immediately after removing from oven.

IMG_1149
You can see what a difference brushing the loaf with a second layer of butter makes!

Best Bread Ever

Short Hand Recipe:

Warm in bowl

    • 3 1/2 C whole milk
    • 4 Tbsp salted butter
    • 3 Tbsp sugar
    • 2 Tbsp salt

Add and stir until dissolved

    • 1 1/2 Tbsp yeast

Add

    • 2 C whole wheat flour
    • 7 1/2 C bread flour

Knead in additional

    • 1 C bread flour

That’s the Best Bread Ever recipe.  This is the bread I give as thank you gifts, and the bread I want to feed my family every time.  But sometimes we need to be more economical, or maybe someone panic bought all the bread flour and now all you have is all purpose.  The Economy Loaf is still a very good bread, but uses only all purpose flour instead of the more expensive bread and whole wheat flour combination.  This gives it a finer, slightly more crumbly texture and less overall flavor.  I also reduce the milk to just one cup (you could eliminate it completely) and skip buttering the crust before and after baking.  As you can see below this reduces the cost to $0.86 per loaf so you could actually save a little bit of money baking your own bread using this recipe.  

Cost/unit Cost for Recipe Cost/loaf
Milk 0.06/c 0.06
Butter 1.47/c 0.37
Sugar 0.01/tbsp 0.03
Salt 00.3/tbsp 0.06
Yeast 0.38/tbsp 0.57
White Flour 0.06/c 0.63
Total $1.72 $0.86

The instructions for kneading and baking are all the same so I’ll just include the shorthand recipe if you want to try it.

Economy Loaf

Short Hand Recipe

Warm in bowl:

    • 1 C milk
    • 2 1/2 C water
    • 1/4 C butter
    • 3 Tbsp sugar
    • 2 Tbsp salt

Add and stir until dissolved:

    • 1 1/2 Tbsp yeast

Add

    • 9 1/2 C all purpose flour

Knead in additional

    • 1 C all purpose flour

Incidentally, (in light of the current flour shortage) if this doesn’t work out for you, I’m currently  trading homemade bread for flour.  One loaf of perfect, fresh bread for every 10 pounds weevil free all purpose flour…  

IMG_1157

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s