Sunday, December 8, 2013

"Make a bread"

The year is not so new anymore, but that isn’t stopping me from bringing you greetings and best wishes!

If you’ve been wondering what happened to me, I’ll tell you. I have been super, super busy with work and home and – best of all – my old kitchen is finally getting re-done. It’s been slow going since the weekends are the only times we can do a little bit of work, but thankfully we are getting there. For about six weeks I was unable to cook anything, and it felt like I was  going through withdrawal, actually. However, before the old tabletops and counters were demolished, I was able to do a few recipes, which will also explain why you'll still be seeing the old kitchen, lol.

This week, I am giving everyone something they have been asking me to do on this forum for a long time now, and that’s how to make a good loaf of homemade bread.

Whenever I think of homemade bread, I think of Granny. I can’t help it. She’s the one who called me to stand next to her when she measured the flour. She's the one who let me put the ingredients in. She’s also the one who would pinch off little pieces of dough for me to play with, like plasticine, and I’d make tiny little animals out of them and hide them under the bed. Of course, the ants would find them first… but I digress. 

Now this bread recipe in particular is something that I developed from Granny’s tried and true method of rubbing both butter and lard in the flour, then adding the milk, the water, the yeast, the salt and the sugar. I decided to start heating things up in a little saucepan – before getting the microwave, of course. But I’m getting ahead of myself here. 

In breaking with tradition, I am listing the ingredients first, so here goes....

For two loaves you will need…

½ cup milk (you can also use skimmed milk if you want to)
3 tablespoons sugar (brown or white, it doesn't matter)
2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons butter
1 ½ cups warm water
4 ½ teaspoons instant yeast
5-6 cups all-purpose flour - but measure out 4 cups separately as you may not use all six

(For my two loaves, I replaced a cup of all-purpose with whole wheat flour.)

In a small saucepan over low heat (or in a microwaveable dish or cup in your microwave, which I did here), add the milk, sugar, salt and butter and heat until the butter melts. Cool to lukewarm.
Next, in a large bowl, pour in the 1 ½ cups warm water and sprinkle in the 4 ½ teaspoons of instant yeast: do not mix it; just leave it until it’s frothy. (This will take about 5 minutes.)
Add the lukewarm butter mixture to your yeast, followed by 4 cups of the flour; gently begin mixing it with a large spoon. The dough will gradually get very sticky. 
As you continue to mix, just add in the remaining flour by half cupfuls. (Be sure to leave a ½ cup behind for flouring your kneading surface.) Now, I chose to knead the dough in the same bowl instead of doing it on a board. I just folded the dough over on itself repeatedly until it became smooth - it took about 6 minutes or so. 
As you can see, there were some ends of flour in the bowl, but I threw them out as they just weren't 'coming in' to the ball. Eventually, the dough got nicely smooth and elastic. Next, I got two bowls and sprayed them with some cooking spray. (You can use oil or butter if you like.) I placed my dough ball into it and swirled it around so the ball was coated with the oil. This way it won't get that hard plastic looking "shell" as it rises.

I sprayed the second bowl with the cooking spray and covered the dough and put it to rise. The rising process takes about 30 minutes in a warm place. However, sometimes the kitchen is not that warm to begin with. So, what I did was to light my oven at 350°F for just a minute, then turned it off and placed the bowls in the oven.
Check that out! What did I tell you? The oven trick is a life-saver. It looks just like a beautiful cloud!
So, after it rose, I just took my fist and punched it to knock out the air... watching it deflate is a little sad, but the end result of this always puts a smile on my face! The dough then went back into the big bowl and I simply gave it a couple turns for a few seconds to gather it into a ball. 
With my little scraper I cut the ball in half – this would make my two loaves. I took each one, shaped it into a loaf and pinched the ends closed - this part is what goes on the bottom of the loaf pan.
Speaking of loaf pans, you'll be needing two 8" x 4" or 9" x 5" ones... I used the latter and sprayed mine well with the cooking spray and put the two loaves into them. Once again, I left them to rise for 30 minutes. This part is called proving, and it gives those nice air bubbles in the bread that makes it all spongy and springy.
See how nice they've risen? All I had to do was put them to bake in a preheated 400°F oven for 30 to 35 minutes. 

Voila! All done. 

After baking, I removed the loaves from their pans and gently tapped the bottoms; once they're done, you get a hollow sound.

See how the seam looks when it's baked?

Next, they were placed on my cooling racks to cool. (Don’t ever, ever leave them in the pans to cool, because condensation will make the bread bottoms damp, and we don't want that!

Of course, the next step was the cut into a loaf and spread on some "I Can't Believe it's not Butter" and enjoy. Needless to say, these loaves disappeared fast. 

With Christmas almost upon us, I will definitely be doing this recipe again so we can have something to eat with the baked ham, which incidentally, is a perfect match up for this. (Hey, Granny knew what she was doing!)

Hope you enjoyed this recipe. Until next we meet again - and like I always say - don't forget to mind the pot!


  1. ah liking this recipe. I will definitely be trying it.

  2. Best bread ever! Keep up it up Hal Cie. :) Loving your blog.

  3. No pictures of the sliced goodness? Oh gorsh gyul...a tease!