Mmmmm. There’s nothing like the smell of fresh, homemade bread filling the air. Brings back memories of living at my home in Nashville, TN. Mom would make a huge loaf (almost 4 lbs, I bet!) of whole wheat bread about once a week. If it had JUST come out of the oven, my family would eat nearly half of it at one meal! Eaten hot or toasted with butter (which melts immediately!), peanut butter, jelly or honey, mom’s bread is truly scrumptious.
I’m thankful she taught me how to make bread before I left home to attend college in Johnson City, TN. When my landlord graciously gave me his bread maker, I immediately began making it. Took a while to get the proportions right, as I was using different flour than mom did. She likes King Arthur…and so do I, but it’s definitely the most expensive brand since it’s also one of the highest qualities at a grocery store. I bought the Kroger brand for a while, which worked very well; but I had to omit 1/2 cup of water from the recipe for some reason.
Now living in Chattanooga, I don’t have access to Kroger, so it’s surprisingly been a struggle to find a brand of whole wheat flour that creates the texture I’m used to eating. Recently, I figured out that making bread by hand (like actually kneading it and stuff) works so much better than with the bread maker. In fact, it’s about just as good as mom’s! (though she must have a special touch to make her’s extra yummy :-))
The other day, when I found a recipe in my recipe box entitled “Bread Making Made Easy” I decided to try it out. The result? Perfection, every time.
The perk about making bread by hand is that you can FEEL what’s going on with the dough…specifically if it needs more flour when it’s too sticky.
I must say that making bread by hand is an achievement that is very self-esteem-building. Thus, I’m very happy to share it, along with some pictures! :-)
PREP TIME: 30-45 minutes | COOK TIME: 30-40 minutes
TOTAL TIME (including rising time): around 3 hours
MAKES: 1 loaf [but I usually double the recipe to make 2.]
- 3 c. all-purpose flour; OR 1 1/2 cups whole wheat and 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flours
- (optional) 2 TBS flaxseed meal
- 2 TBS sugar (brown or white); OR honey
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 envelope (0.25 oz) active dry yeast; OR 1/2 tsp yeast per cup of flour
- 1/2 c. warm milk (120-130F)* [buttermilk is also a good option. If you don’t have milk, replace with water]
- 1/2 c. warm water (120-130F)*
- 2 TBS butter, softened
*Don’t heat liquid too much or you’ll kill the yeast. Let water/milk cool if they’re too hot. Also, make sure the liquid measurements are pretty accurate or actually a bit smaller than the recipe calls for or you’ll be adding LOTS more flour to compensate for the stickiness! Trust me, this happened to me yesterday and I ended up making 4 instead of 2 loaves of bread!
1. COMBINE 1 1/4 cups flour with sugar, salt, (flaxseed), and yeast in a large bowl. Likewise, combine milk, water and butter in a small bowl. Add milk mixture to flour mixture. Beat with an electric mixer (mixing by hand works, too) on medium speed for 2 minutes. Add enough flour to form a soft dough (add just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to your hands; too much will make the bread dry and tough).
2. KNEAD dough on a lightly floured surface until dough is smooth and elastic, 6-8 minutes (lightly sprinkle dough with flour as you go if it’s still sticky). Form dough into a ball, place in a medium-sized greased bowl, making sure to grease the top, too. Cover; let dough rise until almost double in size, about 45 minutes-1 hour.
3. After 45 ish minutes, press 2 fingers into dough. If impression remains, dough has doubled. Grease one (1) 8×4-in loaf pan. Punch down dough; then roll out dough (I used a beer bottle!) to 12×7-in rectangle.
4. Roll up dough (like you’re rolling up a tortilla). Pinch ends and seam to seal. Place dough seam-side-down in prepared pan. Put pan in the oven, but don’t turn it on yet. Let dough rise again until almost double in size, 30-35 minutes. (Don’t press your fingers in it this time, or punch it down.)
5. Turn oven on 350F (325F if using nonstick or glass pan) and bake until browned, 35-40 minutes. Bread should sound hollow when tapped. Also, a toothpick inserted in the MIDDLE should come out clean. Let cool for about 10 minutes and then remove from pan and place on a wire rack to cool the rest of the way.