Friday, March 20, 2009

Bread Making

I've had a couple of bread making questions recently. The easiest one is first.

I had a question regarding using a bread machine from someone whose message I can't find right now (I'm so sorry!). She had just gotten one and wanted recommendations for bread recipes and a cookbook for the bread machine. For a beginning cookbook, Donna Rathmell German's is just outstanding, because she gives only the most basic of instruction.

I've had mine for 10 years. You can see that it's been used a little bit.
I also scribble recipes that I create in it, so I can replicate them again. Where else would I go to find bread recipes, after all?

Here's a very flavorful, light bread to start out with.


1-1/2 cups water
4 cups flour

2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
3 tsp or 6 tsp yeast

Put the ingredients in the pan, turn on the machine, and let it do its thing.
Note that there is a reason I give 2 amounts of yeast. The lesser amount is if you have time to let the bread machine run through its entire cycle, the greater amount is for the "Express" or 1 hour cycle.

Also note that I use yeast purchased from a restaurant supply house. I asked at a bakery to find out what yeast they used. Given that it is so much less expensive than the individual envelopes sold at the store, I'd advise everyone to do this.

If you're making your bread right away, and not putting it on the delayed cycle, sprinkle your yeast on top of the water, so it starts to soften right away. Your bread will be better. Also, use water that's about as warm as your hand. Too cold, and it won't rise. Too hot, and you'll kill the yeast. If you're using the bread machine, any butter can just be cut in small chunks and added to the mix. If not, it should be melted, and added after the flour, so it won't mix with the water before the actual mixing starts.

Finally, if you're at altitudes over 5000 feet, say, in Denver, reduce your yeast by 1/3. And if you're in a dry climate, increase your liquids by 10%. (I learned this by doing research for a friend who lived in Denver. I've never lived at high elevation or in a dry climate.)

After you've used your machine for a while, you will be comfortable enough to take the dough out of the machine, and shape it into loaves, which is what I do. All of my recipes make a 2 pound loaf in the bread machine, or two small loaves (8"x4" pan), or two long (17") bagu
ette style loaves. When everyone's home, it all gets devoured in one night, and when they're not, I get two days and nights - one per loaf. I also don't buy store bread for sandwiches any longer, because these recipes have so much more flavor.


If you have a stand mixer, bread mixing doesn't get a lot easier. Simply pour warm water in the bowl, sprinkle the yeast on top of it, using 6 tsp if you want it to be done
quickly, and 3 tsp if you have more time, then add the flour and other ingredients. Using the dough hook, turn the mixer on to the lowest speed only to mix your bread. It will take about 10 minutes, after which you can let the bread rise, punch it down, knead a bit more, form into loaves and let it rise again before baking.

If you have a hand mixer, pour the warm water into your mixing bowl, sprinkle on the yeast, and wait a few minutes for the yeast to soften up and sink in the water. Put half the flour, and the other ingredients, into the bowl, and blend with a hand mixer at the lowest setting. Add the balance of the yeast in 1/2 cup increments, until the mixer begins to strain. Then stir in the balance of the flour with a wooden spoon, or knead it in with your hands (remove rings first, or the dough left between the stones will be just nasty!), depending upon how stiff the dough is.

To knead dough:

Sprinkle about 1/2 cup of flour on your counter or cutting board, leaving a pile to the side with which to dust your hands and work into the dough if needed. Turn the dough out of the bowl onto the counter, cover it with the inverted bowl and let it sit for about 10 minutes, which will make the kneading easier. To knead, push the heels of both hands into the ball of dough at the point closest to you, fold the resulting lump on the far side over, so it's doubled over, rotate the dough 90 degrees, and repeat until the dough is smooth, usually about 5 minutes. Return the dough to its bowl, cover it with a warm towel, and let it rise until doubled in bulk, 30 to 90 minutes, depending upon the amount of yeast used. When it's risen properly, if you poke your finger into the dough, it will leave a dent. At that point, punch the dough down (yes, you can punch it with your fist), shape into loaves and place in well greased pans, and let it rise again. The second rise usually takes less time than the first.

Note that you do not want to knead bread dough on a granite countertop. Since granite is cold, it will chill your dough, and greatly slow the rising of your dough. My notes about using less yeast and more liquids at high altitudes and in dry climates are still applicable, however.

Bread is baked at 400 degrees for a metal pan, or 350 for a glass one. Loaves m
ade in my 8"x4" pans usually take 25 to 30 minutes, and baguettes take 17 to 23 minutes. To test for doneness, tap the bottom of the pan lightly. It should sound hollow, because the bread will have pulled away from the sides and bottom of the pan slightly. Remove from the pans immediately, and lay them on their sides on a rack to cool, covered with a towel, or, as I do, put in a basket lined with a towel or cloth to cool. If left in the pans, the loaves will collect condensate on the bottom, and become soggy.


Here are three of my favorite whole wheat bread recipes. Follow the directions above. I promise Ben and the pups will enjoy them.


1-1/2 cups water

1/4 cup butter
2 cups wheat flour
2 cups white flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 tsp or 6 tsp yeast

This bread makes great peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and toast, according to my two youngest bread consumers. It has a somewhat sweet flavor.


1-1/2 cups water
2 cups white flour
2 cups wheat flour
2 tbsp honey
1-1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
3 tsp or 6 tsp yeast

This bread is shaped into baguettes. It's great with beef or ham, and makes a w
onderful grinder, po' boy or hoagie (depending on where you live).


1-1/2 cups water
3 cups white flour
1 cup wheat flour
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp brown sugar

2 tsp salt
3 tsp or 6 tsp yeast

This is a lighter wheat bread, since it contains less whole wheat flour. It's baked in regular loaf pans, and is great with chicken. It also makes good toast and sandwiches.

Hope this helps someone out there!


Ann Made Studio said...

Since reading your blog I "really" want a bread machine :) Your bread always looks so good!

Anonymous said...

You are always so great at explaining things. I miss my bread machine sometimes but I do use my food processor in times like these.

dogyarnfun said...

These breads look yummy. One day I am going to figure out how to use the bread machine my sister gave me. There is nothing as wonderful as the smell of baking bread.

pam said...

I have all 3 volumes of that book!

Anonymous said...

These are such great instructions. I so wish I had not given away my bread machine when I moved. Now I suffer.

tamilyn said...

I have that bread book!

I need to dig out the bread machine. It has sit dormant for too long.

The Blonde Duck said...

Oh my God. I've got to go buy some more flour. My fingers are twitching in delight! Marjie, I bow down to you as Queen of bread! YUM!!!!

test it comm said...

I used to have a copy of that book, and a bread machine. It was so easy to make fresh bread with and fun. Nice looking breads!

Anonymous said...

Wow! What a great tutorial on the art of making bread! Thanks, Marjie. I've tried your bread recipes in the past & they always came out yummy.

buffalodick said...

You know your bread! I only used my bread machine to make pizza or bread dough. I would then put it in a conventional (loaf or cookie sheet) and finish baking it in the oven... no goofy bread machine shape that way!

Anonymous said...

It was me that asked about the bread maker advice. Mine is still sitting in the box, so your advice is much appreciated! Thanks for being so helpful.

Anette said...

Mmmm! I love home made bread! Unfortunately the other people in this house aren't so bothered with it. They're more buns, bisquits and sweet dough people!

Katherine Roberts Aucoin said...

I enjoy baking bread, I just don't like cleaning up my "floured surface". The smell when it's oven the oven, makes up for all of that!

Paula said...

Mmmm ... I'll take a loaf or two of that homestead bread! Actually, any of those loaves are lookin' good to me! Hope you had a great weekend!

Anonymous said...

One more question, Marjie... What variety of flour do you use when baking bread? There are so many options: Bleached? Unbleached? All Purpose?

The Blonde Duck said...

Random question: Could you broil chicken fried steak? I know it's blashemous but for Ben's health, I'd grit my teeth and do it.

Jan said...

I bet your house always smells amazing with all these different breads baking. I can tell that cookbook is well loved.

Thanks for all the tips, one of these days I'll take the plunge and make some bread.

Mitchell Webster said...

I want to make your Babylonian Wheat Bread, though I may reduce the Brown sugar a bit.
I am so glad I found your blog link on my friend Michelle Cooper's blog Mickle's Pickle (Wellington New Zealand)

Basketry/Chair Caning Blog

Elmer said...

Very worthwhile piece of writing, thank you for this article.
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Rita said...

Hi Marjie.
Great post! Louise from
Just told me about you and here I are are both into bread mode; should be fun.