Baking bread has quickly become one of my weekend rituals. Wake up, make coffee, check on the chickens, feed the dog and start making bread. I love it because I love to cook/bake, and baking my own bread means one less thing to buy at the grocery store. It’s cheaper and tastes better too. It also fills up the house with amazing, wondrous aromas and makes me feel like a real empowered female homesteader that’s going to meet the day and kick some ass. But I hate it because baking is a science and I didn’t do too well in science class. And also because as soon as I take it out of the oven, I have a 170 lb vulture named Dave who swoops down and eats most of the bread before the weekend is over and I have to make a second batch. However, that just means that he really likes it and I appreciate it.
I like to cook a lot of different types of bread; beer bread, challah, honey wheat, sweet breads and more. But my favorite go-to bread has to be this recipe for your everyday white sandwich bread.
- 2 cups lukewarm water
- 2 Tbsp sugar
- 2 Tbsp dry active yeast
- 2 Tbsp butter, softened (or 2 Tbsp oil, I’ve found both to work equally well)
- 5 cups bread flour
- 2 tsp kosher salt
yields 2 loaves
First, I proof the yeast by combining the water and sugar together and whisking thoroughly. Then, I add in the yeast and mix again. The yeast eats the sugar, therefore the sugar is like an appetizer for the yeast. Let this mixture sit for 5-10 minutes. After 5-10 minutes, the yeast will become a thick, creamy, foamy layer on top of the water.
Next, I add in about 2 cups of flour and stir to incorporate. After that’s mixed thoroughly, I add in the butter, salt and the remaining flour. The salt kills yeast so I don’t like to add in the salt right after the yeast proofs. Gotta let the yeast get to know the flour first so they can get all friendly together!
After I’ve added the flour, salt and butter and everything starts coming together, I dump it all on a floured surface and start kneading. Yes, I stir by hand and knead it by hand… no bread machines for me! I mean, if you’re going to make bread you might as well go all out, am I right? I knead for a few minutes, making sure not to over work the dough. It should be tacky but not sticky. Then I form it into a ball, spray my bowl down with some Pam or something, then put the dough back into the bowl.
Move the bowl to a warm spot in the kitchen, cover it with a damp towel and let it rise until it has doubled in size (about 45 mins-1 hour). I like to cover mine with a damp towel but you can also cover it with saran wrap that’s been sprayed with cooking spray (our good friend Pam). Covering the bowl retains moisture in the dough. It’s important.
After the dough has doubled in size, I kung-fu punch it down a few times in the bowl and return it to the floured surface. Divide the dough in half, form it into two loaves, place them in two greased loaf pans and cover with a damp kitchen towel. Then I let this rise again for about an hour, until the dough is 1″ above the pan edge.
After the second rise is complete, I pop those babies in a 375 degree pre-heated oven and let them bake for 25 minutes. When the bread is done, pull them out of the oven and let them cool for 5-10 minutes before taking them out of the pan.
This recipe will leave you with a very light crust and light and airy crumb (everything that’s inside of the crust). It’s cheaper and tastier than store bought bread and it’s really rewarding too! Just make sure you keep the hungry vultures away.