Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Basic Homemade White Bread

I love bread. I absolutely love it. And I simply cannot resist warm bread straight out of the oven! Luckily, it's super easy to make! You just need a few basic ingredients and a couple of hours to allow the bread to rise.

I'll go ahead and warn you now, this post is going to be pretty picture-heavy. I've always been a visual learner, and apparently I'm a visual teacher as well. I can't just explain to you how to do something - I have some deep-seated need to SHOW you. Just go with it.

Ok, first gather your ingredients. You will need:
1 packet active dry yeast
1/3 cup warm water
5 tsp sugar
1.5 tbs butter, melted
1 tsp salt
1/3 cup milk
approx 2 cups flour

Step 0: It's not completely necessary, but I like to warm my metal bowl by holding it under hot running water before I start. Yeast likes things to be warm, not cold.

Step 1: Combine the packet of yeast, 1/3 cup warm water, and 1 tsp sugar in the bowl and stir until the yeast is completely dissolved. Then walk away for 10 minutes. If your yeast is active, it will form a foamy layer on top of the liquid. If you see that, yell "It's alive!" in your best Dr. Frankenstein voice and continue to the next step.

Foamy top - might be a little hard to see in the picture, but it's there!
Step 2: Add the milk, melted butter, salt, and remaining 4 tsp of sugar and stir well. Now it's time for the flour, which can be a little tricky. For some reason, I never use the exact same amount twice so it's hard to give an exact measurement. I start with 1 2/3 cups, mix well, and then add the rest slowly until the dough is the right consistency.

You want the dough to be just slightly sticky. It should form a ball as you stir - if it sticks to the bowl, you should add a bit more flour. If you add to much and it gets dry and no longer sticks to itself to form a nice ball, you can add just a very small amount of water to moisten things up again. It's trial and error at this point, but eventually, you'll get a ball of dough you can hold without it sticking to your hands.

Step 3: Plop that ball of dough down on a floured surface.

 Step 4: Knead the dough for 10 minutes. Punch it, smash it, take out all your stress on it. Yes, your arms will get tired. Yes, you will want to quit early. Don't do it. Sometimes I just carry the dough around and squeeze it and stretch it for a while. Occasionally I enlist the help of some really cute buddies who LOVE to smash the dough.

After several minutes, you will notice that the consistency of the dough is changing. It will become smooth and kind of elastic-ish.

See, doesn't that look different than before?
Step 5: Yay...the hard part is done! Spray a bowl with non-stick spray. I put the dough in the bowl and then flip it over so there is a thin layer of non-stick spray on both sides...I have found that this keeps the dough from getting dry on top.

Then find a warm place for your dough to hang out while it rises. Some people use the light in their oven to generate a bit of heat and put the dough in there. I have a different method. I get the best results when I fill a bowl with hot water, put a rack over it, and put my dough on the rack. Wherever you decide to put your bowl, cover it with a towel and leave it alone for an hour. It should double in size.

From this... this.

Step 6: Move the dough back to a floured surface. Punch it down (it will return to its original size) and knead it a few times. Then flatten it out into a rectangle that's about the same length, but wider.

Step 7: Start at one of the short sides and roll up the dough. Try to roll as tightly as you can.

Step 8: Fold the sizes of your dough under and put it into your greased loaf pan.

Step 9: Put the loaf pan back in the warm place, cover with a towel, and leave it to rise for another hour. Before your hour is up, make sure you preheat your oven to 375.

Step 10: After it rises, move your bread to your preheated oven and bake at 375 for 30 minutes. Take it out of the oven and immediately move the bread from the pan to a rack to cool.

If you are anything like me, you'll probably start eating it before it ever gets a chance to cool. Enjoy!

* This bread is just a very basic recipe. You can alter it by using different types of flour or adding things such as cinnamon and raisins. You can even branch out a little and start making your own pizza dough, bread sticks, and hamburger/hotdog buns! The possibilities are endless!

**Keep in mind that this bread doesn't have the preservatives that store bought bread has, so it won't last as long before growing stale. Enjoy it while it's fresh!

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