One of the most comforting and inviting smells on a cold winter afternoon is freshly baked bread. The smell grabs right onto your olfactory senses and magically transports you to a very cozy place. Making your own bread may seem intimidating if you haven’t ever tried it, but I am here to tell you that it’s easy. With a little elbow grease and some pretty basic ingredients you can impress your family with fresh baked bread all winter long.
Now, the most important thing to remember when making bread is to relax and find a nice clean surface large enough to make your bread while not making a huge mess. I clear my counter completely whenever I make bread so I have plenty of room to work. Make sure you have measuring cups and spoons a large mixing bowl and a heavy wooden spoon. Having these items on hand will definitely make the process easier. I also recommend getting all of the ingredients out and in a spot that is easy to access. Once you start mixing, your hands will be messy so measuring your ingredients ahead of time is highly recommended.
When choosing a recipe, remember that baking is science. Therefore sometimes a formula (recipe) may not be perfectly written. Variables such as the water and your oven will change the way your bread turns out. Nothing to fear. The worst thing that will happen is your bread isn’t perfect. Adapt your recipe or try a different one until you find something you love. If your bread turns out perfect the first time you attempt it, way to go! If not, try try again and I promise you will get the hang of it. You may even want to take your own notes and re-write a recipe as you go.
Replacing liquids, and types of flour or fat will allow you to experiment and find something that works for you. Try almond milk in place of cow’s milk and olive oil in place of melted butter for a vegan bread recipe. If you are gluten-free there are a number of options available to replace the flour with. The most important things to consider when adapting a bread recipe are not to overheat the yeast, follow the steps in the same order, and work your dough to consistency without being afraid to add more flour if needed.
Here is a very basic bread recipe for you to use as a canvas. Enjoy!
6 cups of unbleached flour, plus more for kneading flour (any kind of flour you like will work, but the quantity will vary slightly)
2 packages active dry yeast
1 cup warm milk (any kind of non dairy milk should also work for this)
2 tbsp butter, melted (olive oil, or vegan butter will also work here)
1 1/2 cup warm water
2 tablespoons honey (you can use any other type of sugar instead)
1 tbsp salt
In a large mixing bowl add together water and yeast and allow to sit for about five minutes. This is allowing your yeast to come back to life and start doing its thing.
Add your honey, melted butter, salt and warm milk to the mixture and stir in to dissolve everything. Slowly stir in your flour a little at a time until a stiff dough forms. Move the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 8-10 minutes or until you have a smooth elastic dough. You may need to add flour to the surface to avoid sticking. This is fine.
Form your dough into a ball and place in a lightly oiled mixing bowl. Cover with a clean moist towel and allow to rise for 45 minutes to and hour or until the dough has doubled in size.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Lightly oil/butter two loaf pans or a large sheet pan (for rustic loaves). Divide your risen dough in half and place into loaf pans or form into loaves on your sheet pan. Cover again with your towel and allow to rise again until doubled in size or for about a half hour.
Bake for about 30-45 minutes or until golden brown.
Remove bread from oven and turn out loaves onto a wire rack to cool. Allow to cool completely prior to slicing your bread
Looking for some great baking related events? Here are a few of Brown Paper Tickets finest!
Sunday, December 1st | Open Kitchen’s Holiday Cookies Cooking Class – Falls Church, Virginia
Learn to make, shape, bake and decorate 3 different holiday cookies – Rolled Sugar Cookie Shortbread Dough with Easy Cookie Decorating Icing, Chewy Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies and Cinnamon Raisin Rugelach. Class includes professional instruction, recipe packet, one glass of house wine, and 1 dozen cookies to take home.
Sunday, December 8th | Pizza Dough: Delicious and Unexpected Recipes – San Francisco, California
Fun and delicious, pizza dough is an infinitely versatile ingredient that can be shaped, twisted, stretched and rolled into breakfast treats, sandwich breads, and sweets. With pizza dough, home cooks can make everything from bagels to breadsticks, flatbreads to calzones, doughnuts to Danish and beyond.
Saturday, December 14th & Sunday, December 15th | Christmas Gifts From the Kitchen – Chattahoochee Hills, Georgia
Join chef Meridith Ford, former AJC dining critic and food writer, chef, teacher and consultant as she shows you how to make festive gifts from your kitchen to give this holiday season: Pumpkin-cranberry bread mix in a jar: the perfect quick bread for the holidays! Layered into Mason jars, you simply add eggs and liquid ingredients, then bake…
Monday, December 30th | New Year’s Celebration Southern Style – Now We’re Cookin’ – Evanston, Illinois
Great Southern cooking is back in vogue! According to tradition, a New Year’s Day supper can set you up for good luck throughout the coming year. Greens are said to represent dollar bills, cornbread the gold, and peas the coins. Eaten together they ensure wealth and prosperity. Don’t miss out! Join Chef Nell as she channels her Southern heritage and dishes on GranNelle’s cornbread, bacon fat as a staple (so glad we’re over that!), and a modern approach to these century-old dishes. May we all be blessed with prosperity in the New year!
Sunday, January 19th | Art of the Pie: Fruit Pie Workshop – Port Angeles, Washington
This is the original Art of the Pie hands-on 5-hour workshop. Included in each workshop class are all ingredients, recipes, yummy snack and more. You will learn the lifetime skill of how to make the Kate’s Art of the Pie Crust, seasonal fruit filling, pie lore plus so much more! Each student will finish class with a pie hot from the oven or ready to bake at home.
Image credit: Jeff Keacher