This year, I decided to make our bread instead of buying it from the store. I enjoy baking and have made bread occasionally in the past, but made the switch to regular bread baking this year. The main reason? When I looked at the cost comparison, I realized it cost me less than $0.50 per loaf of homemade bread – and that is with buying full price ingredients instead of stocking up on sales like I do! Plus, there are no artificial ingredients or excess sugars in homemade bread, and it tastes so much better!
Once I made the decision, I stuck with it. I have yet to buy a loaf of store bought bread in 2015. I think it’s safe to say that for this season of life, I’m now committed to baking our bread. As I’ve spent the past months baking our bread, I’ve refined my process and learned a couple things that I want to share with all of you who are interested in baking your own bread.
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Please know that baking bread is not difficult. If you are scared about the process, don’t be! It takes a bit of time but even the time is minimal – especially if you have a Kitchen Aid Mixer and dough hook that can do the kneading for you. Just try baking bread. It gets easier every time!
If you’re interested in baking bread for your family, give my easy homemade bread recipe a try. And whether you are a new or experienced bread baker, be sure to read all the tips below for additional help.
I use the basic, classic white bread recipe from the old red Betty Crocker cookbook. It’s a simple recipe that even a beginner baker can make. Plus, it tastes delicious – no matter how you eat it. This homemade bread recipe makes for great toast or sandwich bread.
6 to 7 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons shortening
2 packages regular or quick active dry yeast (4 1/2 teaspoons)
2 1/4 cups very warm water (120 to 130 degrees)
Mix 3 1/2 cups of the flour, sugar, salt, shortening and yeast in large bowl. Add warm water. Beat with electric mixer until all is combined. (Use dough hook attachment if you have one.) Stir in enough remaining flour, 1 cup at a time, to make dough easy to handle. Remember that less is more when it comes to flour and bread baking!
If you have a dough hook, allow your mixer to knead your bread for a couple minutes or until the dough is smooth and springy to touch.
If you do not have a dough hook, remove the dough from the mixer and place on a lightly floured surface. Knead for about 5 minutes or until dough is smooth and springy.
Place dough in large bowl greased with shortening, turning dough to grease all sides. Cover bowl loosely with plastic wrap or a thin kitchen towel. Let dough rise in a warm place 40 to 60 minutes or until double. I let my dough rise in a warm oven (using the hint below) for about 45 minutes until it has doubled. Dough is ready if indentation remains when touched.
Grease bottom and sides of 2 loaf pans, 8.5 by 4.5 or 9 by 5 size, with shortening. I recommend using non-stick loaf pans (again, see note below) and skipping this step.
Gently push fist into dough to deflate. Divide dough in half. Flatten each half with hands into a 9 by 12 inch rectangle on a lightly floured surface. Roll dough up rightly, beginning at 9 inch side. Pinch edge of dough into roll to seal. Press each end with side of hand to seal. Fold ends under loaf.
Place seam side of loaf down in bread pan. Brush loaves lightly with butter. (Optional, and I usually skip this step.) Cover loosely with plastic wrap or light towel and let rise in warm place 35 to 50 minutes or until double.
When your bread has doubled and risen above the pan (as shown above), remove your plastic wrap or towel. Leave the bread in the oven and preheat oven to 425 degrees. Bake your bread for 20 minutes, setting timer from the time you start to preheat the oven. Loaves are done baking when they are a deep golden brown and sound hollow when tapped. Remove bread from pans to cool on wire rack. Brush loaves with butter, if so desired.
Additional Bread Baking Tips:
Here are five additional bread baking tips that will help ensure your bread turns out. It’s true that the humidity of the day affects your bread and that is an uncontrollable fact. There are certain elements you can control with these following tips.
Use a thermometer to check your hot water temperature. It’s so simple but the temperature of your water really does make a difference. You don’t want to scald your yeast but you need the water hot enough to react with your yeast. I bought a food thermometer from Pampered Chef this year and now check my water every time. Your warm water should be between 120 and 130 degrees. If you’re looking for a food thermometer, you can buy them almost anywhere for relatively inexpensive but here’s one on Amazon that appears very similar to mine.
Add wheat gluten to your bread. My mom gave me wheat gluten this past year to try and it has made a big difference in how well my bread rises! With wheat gluten (sometimes called vital wheat gluten), you can use all-purpose flour because there is no need to buy a specialty bread flour. The addition of wheat gluten helps make your bread fluffier, too. Truly, I’ve been amazed at what a difference this has made in my bread. I add 1 tablespoon of wheat gluten per loaf of homemade bead. I store a jar of gluten in my fridge and freeze the rest until I’m ready to use it. I buy my wheat gluten at my local Amish store but I have seen it for sale at Meijer near the specialty flours. You can also buy it on Amazon, like the Bob’s Red Mill Vital Wheat Gluten sold here.
To get a perfect warm oven for your bread to rise, put your bread in the oven and turn on your “Warm” setting for 5 minutes. Turn it off and let your bread rise for 45 minutes. I get a doubled rise just like that. I think I read this trick from Kalyn of Creative Savings. I had always struggled with getting my oven the correct temperature for a good rise. This 5 minute rule of thumb has ended that problem!
Use good bread pans. Yes, you can bake bread with any pan but if you are committed to bread baking, invest in a quality bread pan or two. I recommend a non-stick pan so you don’t have to grease your bread pans. If you’re looking for a good bread pan, my mother-in-law gave me these USA loaf bread pans for Christmas and I absolutely love them! These bread pans are unique in that they have corrugated design to help your bread bake evenly. I have been very impressed with these pans and would highly recommend them.
Save yourself time and bake more than one loaf of bread at a time. I bake 2 loaves of bread at a time, as we currently average 1 loaf of bread a week. I bake one loaf and freeze the other. Bread freezes very well! I wrap the entire loaf in foil and freeze it whole to keep it fresh. For those of you with larger families, this endeavor will require more bread. My Grandma Barz still makes 7 to 9 loaves on her bread baking day and freezes many of those loaves. She’s been baking bread for her family (of 9!) since the 1960s so I consider her an expert bread baker.
Whew! There you have it. There is the why and how I make bread. I hope this is helpful to you! If you have more questions about baking bread, please feel free to ask in the comments and I will do my best to help you. If you have other advice for bread bakers, please share that in the comments as well!