I bake bread for my family every week. Home baking is not that hard, not that time consuming, and certainly cheap! You don't need a bread machine or a lot of fancy equipment. This blog features a tutorial on home bread baking, tips on equipment and ingredients, and recipes for real home cooking.
Published Tuesday, February 07, 2006 by Susan Och.
I used to let my loaves rise on the counter under a damp dishtowel, but I found that the dishtowel often stuck to the dough, causing it to fall again before I got it into the oven. Now I set all four loves side by side on the middle oven rack and let them rise in the cold oven.
If you have kneaded well, they will rise for quite a while. When you have more experience you can try for giant loaves. The first time just get wait until they have filled the sides of the pan and rounded an inch or two over the top of the pan.
After about an hour, I check them. If they look nice and plump, I turn the oven on to 350 degrees and set the timer for 40 minutes. (If they are going into a preheated oven they only need 35 minutes.)
Lately I have been using the timed cook feature on my oven to start the bread after I have left the house. This is only a good idea if there is going to be someone home at the end of the cook time to take the bread out of the pans, as it will sweat and turn mushy if it is left to cool in the pans. My teenagers love it when they are home alone and suddenly smell bread baking.
Bread is done when you turn it out of the pan and the bottom of the loaf looks golden and sounds a little hollow when you tap it with your knuckles. If you have an instant read probe thermometer the internal temp should be about 190 degrees.
Cut bread with a bread knife, that is a serrated knife. The serrations make the knife rip instead of crushing. Cooled bread is easier to cut, but everyone wants to eat fresh bread out of the oven, even if the loaves get mashed in the process.When the bread has completely cooled, you can put it into plastic bags for storage.
Published Wednesday, February 01, 2006 by Susan Och.
The last steps of baking bread are to shape the loaves, let them rise a final time, bake, and eat.
When the dough has risen in the bowl about 45 minutes it will look like the classic description “doubled in bulk”. That 45 minute figure is a flexible, of course, but if you let it rise too long, the yeast will exhaust itself and your loaves won’t rise so well. In a hurry, I have started shaping loaves as soon as there was an observable rise and that works out OK, too.
Take the whole pile of dough and lay it out on a floured bowl. Flour your rolling pin and then roll the dough out flat, being sure to pop the air bubbles that turn up at the edges.
You don’t need to roll it paper thin, but you need to eliminate those big bubbles because they will end up as voids in the finished loaves.
After the bubbles are gone, fold the whole thing in half, fold it in half again, then one more time into a wedge shape.
Roll the dough up starting at the point, and then let it rest while you grease your pans.
This recipe fills four 5 by 8 inch bread pans or you can use three 5 by 8 and two 3 by 5 inch pans. Cut the lump of dough into fourths and then cut one of the fourths into two hunks of dough for the kiddy pans. If you are baking with kids, let them grease their pans and then let them take turns rolling out their dough and putting it in their pans. Kids will do what they do and be happy with the results; adults will want to take a more methodical approach.
Roll out one piece of dough at a time into an irregular rectangle, still looking to get rid of bubbles.
Roll the rectangle up tightly from the narrow end, and then fold the ends of the roll under so that the cylinder you have left is the same length as the pan. Lay the loaf into the pan with the seams down. Shape your other loaves the same way.
There's more to food than just nutrition, otherwise we would all be eating custom-formulated kibble.
I didn't exactly learn to bake from my grandmother, but my ancestors, even the ones I never met, have informed and influenced
my lifelong exploration of cooking and food. Want to read more? Check out this entry from my home blog, French Road Connections