Sunday, September 23, 2012

Home Baked Bread

My First Real Loaf
My friend came over and we had a cooking fest!  We made soup, stew and two loaves of bread.  Today I will try to teach you how to make your own bread.

In the words of my friend ... "Bread is really not that hard."  I have heard that before, but in this case it really was pretty easy.

Now my friend, Elizabeth, has a blog of her own and has written up all the instructions there (follow the links to read it and other great posts), but I took a bunch of pictures, and I don't know about you, but for me, pictures really help.  Elizabeth encouraged me to write this, so I'm not worried about that either.

So here is my rendition of Elizabeth's bread recipe.   


Before you start be aware that with bread making you can't use metal (except for the cookie sheets).  You want all your bowls, spoons, measuring cups and such to be NOT metal.  (I did use a metal measuring spoon for the olive oil, I guess you just don't want metal to touch your yeast mixture)

You will need a bowl to mix the dough, and another shallower bowl, coated in olive oil, to rise the dough.

Sourdough Starter 

Elizabeth arrived with the sourdough started that she had made the night before.  Here's what she did.  

2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups tepid water (meaning not cold, but not warm)
1 teaspoon yeast

Let it sit at room temperature or 80°F (Elizabeth keeps her starter in the bread machine at 80°, so I guess that works).  For the rest of us we can just let it sit out or keep in the fridge if you are keeping it for a couple of days.  Keep the starter in an open container (not air tight) that is big enough to have the yeast double in size.  If you want to keep it for a couple of days all you have to do is feed it (like a puppy, hehe).  Elizabeth recommends adding two tablespoons of new flour and a teaspoon of sugar every forty eight hours.  From everything I have read yeast feeds on sugar so this makes sense.  

Sourdough Bread "Recipe"

Because bread is so funny I think it is better for me not to give you a traditional "recipe" but to just give you guidelines and rough estimates.  The element you want to focus on is the consistency of the dough not the amounts of ingredients.  As Elizabeth told me bread is different in every house, in every kitchen, and at different times of the year (I see this with pie dough too).  So read the descriptions, look at the pictures and take the measurements with a grain of salt (hehe, pun intended).  

Activate Yeast Starter

Before you start baking you want to get the yeast going again, you should add two tablespoons of flour and a teaspoon of sugar to the starter and let it rise for about half an hour.  My friend had to drive over and she put the starter under the heat on high to get it ready.

The starter looked like this when Elizabeth got to my house.  This is enough for two loaves.  

Mix one cup of the starter with one cup of tepid water, a table spoon of oil and a teaspoon of salt.(Elizabeth's blog notes that you can use any sort of oil or shortening, or even butter.  I noticed she never uses butter, I think it is an Italian thing.  I like olive oil best, but might play around with it.)

Your dough will look like this.

Add two cups of flour.  We used half white and half whole wheat.  

Because the dough was too wet we added another cup of white flour.  (That makes it two cups of white flour and one cup of whole wheat.  Remember not to rely on measurements...this is an example of that) You want the dough to be pretty dry.  

Then poor out the dough on a wood surface and gather dough to incorporate.  

It is not pretty, but once you kneed it and let it rise your bread will look better.  

Elizabeth's dough looked like this.  She said you want to be sure everything is incorporated and there are no seams.  

Then put in an oiled bowl.  

Cover your dough with a clean cotton cloth and let it rise for about two hours.  My house was a little chilly today so we tried putting the dough in a low oven, it got a little too hot.  I might not try that again, or at least keep it in the oven for less time.  The bread turned out fine, but if I'm cooking on a winter day I can just put it near the heater (or in the sun in the summer).  

Coffee Break

We took some time to make an espresso-like drink.  I don't remember the Italian name, but it was a double shot of espresso with a touch of steamed milk and a little foam.  It was yummy.  

Back to the Bread 

After the bread has risen it should look like this:

Because of the oven debacle, we had a little stickage (that's word, I swear) to the bowl.  I was busy making soup and Tagine, so Elizabeth put the dough onto a flowered wood cutting board and kneaded it "just to get out the air" as she put it.  

You will want to kneed the dough for a few minutes.  Our dough was still very wet, so we added a little more flour until it was a drier consistency and did not stick to the board.  Then you want to roll the dough into a long shape with a small seam that is not too defined.  As Elizabeth put it "you don't really want a seam."  

The bread (I'm calling it bread now, wow.  I wonder where the line is between bread and dough?), should look like this.  

Take a clean knife and cut three lines in the top.  I'm not sure what this is about, but since Elizabeth said to do it, I will (hehe). 

Put the bread (I almost wrote dough, sheesh), on your oil lined backing sheets (mine are so embarrassing, I just can't get them clean, no matter how many cleaning-baking-sheet-tips I pin).  Cover with the same cotton cloth, and let rise one more hour in a warm spot (the oven was cool enough that we put them back in there).  

After the bread has risen one more time you will see that the cuts in the bread looks much better and a little more bread-like.  

Pretty On Top

To add a nice topping you have to make some sort of binding agent.  This is really cool, so keep reading.  You take about three tablespoons of water in a little pot, and a teaspoon and a half of cornstarch.  Heat the water and cornstarch mixture over a low heat and whisk or mix with a fork until it forms a thick paste.  Brush the paste onto the bread with a pastry brush and sprinkle your topping.  We used quick oats because that's all I had.  I would love to use sunflower seeds, yum.  

Looks good already, but now you have to bake it.  

Bake the Bread 

Bake the bread in a preheated oven at 450°F for ten minutes, and then turn down the heat and bake for twenty minutes more at 350°F.  When the bread is cooked and a good golden color it is done.  


Cool the bread on a rack.  I had to try a piece while it was still warm.  It was so good.  

I put butter on the bread and it was so delicious that I had to stop myself from eating the whole loaf (I still want to eat more bread right now, as I write this.  My mouth is, literally, watering).  I really have to try this bread the way Elizabeth likes it, with salt and olive oil (see no butter).  

I know it looks complicated, but really it is harder to write the recipe than actually make it.  Part of me wants to eat this whole loaf so I can make another one.  I can't wait until I am good enough at this to try and play with the recipe.  One hundred percent whole wheat?  Maybe with some flax seeds?  Maybe even an olive loaf or herbs?  I can't wait to try.

Ok, now you have to tell me what you think.  Do you bake bread?  Do you want to try it?  (You should try it, it is so good)  What is your take on the whole "home baked bread" thing?

1 comment:

  1. I make no-knead bread from the recipes in Artisan Bread In Five Minutes A Day. It's so good and so easy it should be illegal.

    Sadly, I don't eat much wheat anymore, so I don't bake much bread. Tasty tasty bread.

    You should be able to get those cookie sheets clean with Barkeep's Friend. It is MAGIC.


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