Hidden Art Friday

homemade breadHappy Hidden Art Friday!

It’s been a while, but we know that a readership of fellow moms understand that real life requires a lot of time and energy…and sometimes blogging isn’t our top priority. I’m excited today to share our family’s standby homemade bread recipe. Breadmaking is one of my favorite “hidden” arts as a housewife, and it’s a great way to help out the food budget.

I’ve been meaning to post this for a while, but I was spurred to actually do it yesterday when my friend Devin came over with her kids for a homemade breadmaking tutorial. I use this base recipe that my college roomie introduced me to nearly a decade ago, but I’ve tweaked it over the years as I’ve understood more about making bread. I think mine is better, and this is the version I typed up for my friend:

Homemade Sandwich Bread

Time: At least 4 hours start to finish, though most of that is rise time, so you can do this in a morning while also homeschooling your children.

Yield: Four loaves. It can easily be halved, but I find that if I’m already making the mess and heating the oven, I might as well make a whole batch and freeze the extra.

Ingredients:

2 cups boiling water

¾ cup white sugar

¼ cup brown sugar

1 Tbsp salt

2 cups whole wheat flour

1 cup milk (soured with 1 tsp lemon juice) OR buttermilk OR whey leftover from yogurt making

½ cup oil

2 eggs

1 cup warm tap water

2-3 Tbsp yeast

½ tsp sugar to feed the yeast

10-12 cups flour—bread flour works best because the higher gluten content helps the texture, but you can use all-purpose in a pinch, adding in 2-3 Tbsp vital wheat gluten if you want to up the gluten content

Pam spray

4 bread pans

 

FIRST STEP:

In a large mixing bowl, combine white and brown sugar and salt. Pour boiling water over them and stir to dissolve sugar in water. Add two cups of whole wheat flour, stir to incorporate, and let sit 10 minutes to overnight.

SECOND STEP:

Once your whole wheat flour has soaked, dissolve yeast in 1 cup of warm tap water, adding a tiny bit of white sugar to feed the yeast. While the yeast is starting to bubble, add soured milk, eggs, and oil to the sugar-wheat flour mixture and stir. Add in yeast and flour, one cup at a time, stirring with a wooden spoon until dough becomes too thick to stir. Switch to your hands, kneading in remaining cups of flour until dough is springy and elastic. I usually knead for about 10 minutes total, though kneading for longer would probably make your bread even more chewy. Grease the mixing bowl with Pam, put bread back in the bowl, cover with a cloth, and allow to rise about two hours or until doubled.

THIRD STEP:

Once bread has risen to double, punch down the dough, shape into loaves, and set in bread pans greased with Pam to rise for another hour or until double. Cover with cloth.

FOURTH STEP:

About 10 minutes before bread is done rising, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.   Bake bread 25-30 minutes or until golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped. Cool in pans for 5-10 minutes before removing from pans to cool on a cooling rack. We always eat the first loaf of bread sliced fresh from the oven, slathered with butter that melts against the warm bread. Yum!

I had four little assistants helping me knead yesterday. Photo credit to my 8 year old, who is still learning about framing...

I had four little assistants helping me knead yesterday. Photo credit to my 8 year old, who is still learning about framing…

NOTES: I learned from Cook’s Illustrated that soaking whole wheat flour softens the sharp edges of the wheat’s bran (which break up gluten strands, the things that give the bread its springy texture). Whole wheat flour can often taste a little more bitter, and soaking seems to mellow out the edge to its flavor.

You can up the whole wheat flour content and lower the white flour content if desired. Just add extra vital wheat gluten if possible to help counteract the crumbly effects of the whole wheat flour.

The type of liquid used can be varied as needed.  If you’ve just made yogurt and are looking for a way to use up your whey (am I the only one with this problem?), I often reduce the boiling water to one cup and add two cups of whey.  The whey seems to make the crust crustier.  I do always keep that last cup of warm water out for dissolving my yeast.

The amount of yeast required really depends on how humid your kitchen is (I use less yeast on hot, humid days and more on dry, cold days) and how long you’re willing to let your dough rise (Using 1 Tbsp of yeast will certainly require more time for your first and second rises, and I do this when I have all day and don’t need to hurry and get the bread baked in time for lunchtime.) Longer rise develops more flavor—the artisan breads you buy in the bakery have nice, long rise times and less initial yeast.

As nice as kneading by hand is and all, I prefer to knead my bread in an electric stand mixer and save my wrists. However, even while following manufacturer’s directions, I’ve burned out two Kitchenaid pro-series mixer engines making my weekly batch of bread. They don’t make them like they used to, so knead in yours at your own risk. I’m currently saving my pennies for a Bosch mixer! When you do use a mixer to knead, you’ll probably find that you can incorporate more flour that you need to by hand, so add more as necessary.

Because the bread has no preservatives, it only keeps 3-4 days on the counter before starting to go stale. I usually wrap and freeze one loaf when completely cooled, then pull it out to thaw once we’re almost done with our last fresh loaf.

Need more help?  Just so happens that Elsa gave us some in-depth bread making tips last year.

*This post contains amazon affiliate links.*

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