Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Baking Bread

One of the things that I knew I was going to have to do when we decided to change our eating habits and go to eating more whole foods was make my own bread. Bread is so simple, 6 ingredients or less for a basic bread. The most time consuming part is mixing it, you don't have to do anything during the rising stage, and that's the longest part, aside from the actual baking of it in the oven. So have you ever asked yourself why even the "healthiest" breads on the market have upwards of 30 ingredients?!? Sounds like a lot of crap and fillers to me and I just am not sure I want to be eating all of that! (Don't believe me, go pull your bread out of the cabinet. I have an older loaf that I'm going to be turning into bread crumbs. Looking at the label it has 32 ingredients on it, most of which I cannot pronounce!)

When I was growing up we never had store bought bread in our home. My mom was a stay at home mom and she baked bread every day, to every 2 days (she also ran a daycare from home so we could easily go through 2 loaves a day!). I had never had store bought bread until I started school. And my mom clearly remembers me coming home and telling her that I wanted to start eating the "gooey white bread" like we had at school. What was I thinking!?! Clearly I didn't know I had a great thing going!! lol

Now, let me take a minute to make a little disclaimer here. I have a few friends who read my blog who work outside of the home. I think I make them feel bad when I write about these things that I'm doing (like baking my own bread, or making my own baby food) and they think they must be failing somehow because they aren't doing those things too. Well, let me just say this: if I worked outside of the home, I can promise you I wouldn't be doing any of this stuff!! I wouldn't have the time or the energy! And when I was at home I would want to be spending time with my kids and my husband, not be in the kitchen baking bread or mixing up my own laundry detergent (post coming soon!) But, being a SAHM this is my job! My job is to save as much of my husband's (and mom's) hard earned money as possible. My job is to put made from scratch meals on the table. My job is to keep the house clean, the laundry in check and the kids happy. I know for a fact I couldn't do all of that and do what you do! Know that you have my respect! Because being a working momma is hard! And I am so grateful to have a husband (and mom) who provide for us so that I get to stay at home with my kiddos!

And for those of you wondering if making your own bread really saves you money, I'm estimating that I make this bread for about $0.75 a loaf. Not too shabby seeings that the bread I used to buy was over $3.00 a loaf!!(Again, why so expensive?!? It's bread for Pete's sake!!)

OK. So onto the bread! This is a recipe I found in my mom's recipe box. It is delicious and makes two loaves. And just in case you're wondering if it's any good (besides the fact that I just said it's delicious!!!) take a look at the recipe card. At some point it got torn in two pieces and was stapled back together! Now that is a well loved recipe!!

And this is a recipe card from the '80's if I've ever seen one! lol

4 C white flour (I use All Purpose flour that we have started buying in 25 pound bags from GFS. Have I mentioned my love of GFS lately!?!?)
2 C Whole Wheat Flour (I use King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour. It's made from white winter wheat instead of red winter wheat which my family prefers. It makes a less dense bread. And it has more of the texture of store bought bread that they are used to. It's also very good with the red winter wheat. I actually prefer that, but that's what I grew up with!)
4 TSP salt (Here comes my disclaimer...if you use salted butter like I do at times you will want to reduce the salt by half. Or else you end up with a salty bread. And I don't know about you but I don't like salty bread!)
2 1/2 TBSP yeast (I use instant active dry yeast which I keep in a bag in my freezer. I've had this yeast for over a year now and it's still going strong!)
2 1/2 C warm water (be sure it's warm...too hot and it kills your yeast, not hot enough and your yeast won't "bloom".)
sugar (I don't have a measurement for this...you'll see why in a minute.)
1/3 C honey
1/4 C butter, softened (salted or unsalted, your choice! Just remember what I said about the extra salt!!)

Alright, here we go!! Put on your apron (no, I'm serious! Making bread is messy, messy work!!) and let's get to work!

In your mixing bowl add the 2 1/2 C warm water, 2 1/2 TBSP of yeast and a few pinches of sugar. The sugar isn't 100% necessary but I find it helps the yeast to "bloom" by giving it something to "feed" off of. Another trick I have found: before I add the water I run warm water into the mixing bowl to warm it up. Adding warm water to a cold bowl seems counter productive to me. Just don't get the bowl too hot or you'll warm up your water even more and kill your yeast! 

While the yeast is blooming (about 5+ minutes) mix together your dry ingredients. I usually add my white flour (running it through a sifter to get rid of any lumps), my wheat flour (again, running it through a sifter), and then my salt. Then I mix it together with a spatula and set to the side.

Depending on how long it takes you to measure and sift and mix your dry ingredients your yeast may now be looking like this:

See how it's looking foamy, especially around the edges of the bowl? Perfect! If it isn't doing this your yeast might have died. Try again with cooler/warmer water (depending on the water temp the first time around). If it still doesn't bloom your yeast might be too old.
Now's the messy part. Put on your dough hook and make sure you add your splatter guard to your mixer if you have one...you'll be really glad that you did! Trust me! (And I wasn't kidding about that apron!!)

My mom's beautiful Kitchen Aid Mixer! She doesn't have room in her kitchen for it and I was always going downstairs asking to borrow it so she just told me to keep it up here. It maintains a permanent spot on my counter! I love it! She's had this thing for almost 20 years and it's still going strong!! Love Kitchen Aid!!!

Add half of the dry mixture to the water and yeast and mix on medium low. Add in your honey and your butter. Continue mixing on medium for about 2 minutes. Add the rest of the dry mix and continue mixing until fully mixed together, scrapping down the sides as needed. I know it's ready when it starts climbing up my dough hook and out of the bowl! lol Don't forget to use the lock feature on the mixer head! It'll keep the mixer from shaking and banging around!

Dough climbing the dough hook! See, I wasn't kidding! It tries to escape!
Perfect! Nice and doughy!!
Now comes the most time intensive part of making bread: letting it rise. This part really does take the most time. Luckily it requires no work on your part. So go do some laundry, clean a bathroom, organize a cabinet, make some phone calls, pay some bills, feed a baby...you get the idea. 

The first rise can take anywhere from 30-50 minutes (depending on how warm your house is.) You know it's ready when the dough has doubled in size, or has pretty much filled up the entire bowl. My bread hardly ever takes 30 minutes to rise, but we keep it at 72 degrees during the day in the winter, so it's pretty warm in here.

Put that apron back on because here comes another messy part. Sprinkle flour on the counter:

Plop the dough in the middle of the flour:

Roll around a little and then cut in half. (I use my Pampered Chef bread knife to cute my dough. It works perfectly every time!!)

Shape each half into a loaf:

Place into a greased bread pan:

And get ready to let it rise...again! I wasn't joking when I said this was the most time intensive part! Go ahead and preheat your oven to 375 degrees. When the bread has reached the top of the bread pan it's time to go into the oven. (This second rise can take anywhere up to 50-60 minutes. I've never had it take that long before, but again it depends on how warm your house is.)

Bake for 40-50 minutes or until golden brown. I immediately run a stick of butter over the top of my bread to give it that pretty glossy glow!

Allow to cool for a little bit and then take out of the pans and put on a cooling rake to finish cooling. But don't let it get too cold before cutting a piece and slathering it with butter and honey! That's your reward for all your hard work!


**Linking up to the Homemaking Link-Up at Raising Homemakers**

1 comment:

Shelly said...

That looks delicious. I currently have some sundried tomato with rosemary and thyme in my bread machine to go with dinner tonight. I forgot how much I love homemade bread. I think I'll be giving my machine a work out a lot now. .