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Bread Baking 101


Making traditional homemade bread is very easy. Though the whole process takes several hours because of the rising and baking, the actual business of mixing and kneading bread can be done in about twenty minutes. Anyone can do it and the more times you make bread the better and faster you will get at it.


Bread baking is a grand thing to do. Kneading is a kind of revelling experience which is good exercise and gives one’s self a lovely feeling of accomplishment. There is a sense of déjà vu through these primitive motions which our ancestors repeated every week. I began baking bread when I was twelve years of age and used to make a eight loaves at a time. It really isn’t a lot of work once you’re in the mess anyway. These days I occasionally make two loaves of the oatmeal bread shown below.


Homemade bread always kneads easier and rises faster on a sunny day. It needs a warm place to rise and the ideal rising temperature for bread dough is between 26 and 32 degrees Celsius. If you need to speed up the bread-making time, you can use more yeast: 1 packet of yeast to each 3 cups of flour. Use another tablespoon of yeast if you are in a hurry. I always use Traditional Active Dry yeast in the packets or jar. Warm your bowl with hot water before you pour in the lukewarm water to dissolve the sugar and yeast. Yeast takes about ten minutes to dissolve and rise to the top. I use a cereal bowl for the yeast and a huge bread baking bowl for my bread. I have a metal one and a ceramic one. Either one works great.


Recipes for homemade bread all vary a bit. Make sure you add all the liquid the recipe calls for and once you start kneading you’ll probably add more liquid. Making bread isn’t hard at all and eventually you will get to know how the dough feels and if it needs more liquid. You should be able to punch right down to the bottom of the bread bowl. If you can’t then add more liquid and use the flour to eliminate the stickiness. I always grease the bread bowl before starting my bread and grease my hands with olive oil before I begin kneading. It creates less clean up later. Use flour liberally to keep dough from sticking. The water and flour ratio is quite loose in bread baking. Either way your bread will turn out just fine. While kneading keep turning the dough, sprinkling on flour as you need it. Keep kneading until the dough seems smooth and elastic although it might still have a few sticky spots. It is better to have the dough too moist then too dry. This usually takes about 10 – 15 minutes, depending on how much of a work out you want as you are kneading your bread. Cover with a cookie sheet or wax/parchment paper and then a tea towel. It is important that the dough is warm enough to rise quickly. I always keep all the lukewarm water on the warmer side; not hot because that will kill your yeast.

The first bread rising takes about one to two hours. It usually doubles in size. The dough will rise smooth and puffy above the rim of the bread bowl. If you aren’t able to put the dough into bread pans at that time just punch it back down. You can do this a few times before kneading it again and dropping it into the bread pans. You can tell if the dough is ready by a finger tip test; stick your finger deeply into the risen dough, if the dent stays your bread is ready to be kneaded again to get the air bubbles out and put into the greased bread pans. Use some flour if the dough is too sticky. Cover these bread pans with a tea towel and let them rise again in a warm place till the dough is smooth and round over the tops of the pans – about an hour or two. Pop them into a preheated 350 degree F oven for 30 minutes and your house will smell divine.


Enjoy!


BASIC WHITE BREAD RECIPE


Yeast Mixture

1 cup lukewarm water

1 tsp. white sugar

2 tbsps or 2 packets yeast granules

Pour lukewarm water into warmed pottery bowl. Dissolve white sugar in the warm water and sprinkle the yeast granules over it. Let stand about ten minutes. Yeast will have risen to the top. Stir well to dissolve all the yeast.


Flour Mixture

9 cups all-purpose flour

½ cup white sugar

1 heaping tbsp salt

Stir the above flour mixture and make a well in the middle with a wooden spoon.

Add ½ cup salad oil, yeast mixture and 3 cups lukewarm water. Stir until stiff. Grease hands and begin kneading your bread. Follow the above directions.


OATMEAL BREAD

The following recipe is from my friend Carol Ahlgren’s cookbook and it is my favourite bread recipe. It has so much flavour and goodness in it. After making plain white bread for years the Oatmeal Bread is my go to recipe. My entire family just loves it. The process is the same as what I explained at the beginning.


2 tbsp dry yeast

½ cup warm water

1 tsp white sugar


1 cup quick oats

½ cup whole wheat flour

¼ cup molasses

½ cup brown sugar

1 tbsp salt

2 tbsp margarine or butter

2 cups boiling water

5-6 cups flour


Dissolve yeast in warm water with sugar.


In a large bowl combine oats, whole wheat flour, molasses, sugar, salt and butter. Pour boiling water over all and mix well. When the mixture has cooled to lukewarm; stir in dissolved yeast.


Stir in approximately half of the flour. Turn onto a floured surface and knead in the remaining flour. Continue to knead for ten minutes. (You may not need all the flour. Knead in enough flour until dough is soft and slightly sticky.)


Place in a greased bowl. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise until double. Punch down. Shape into two loaves and place in greased bread pans. Let rise again until double in bulk. Bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes. This recipe can be doubled.

Ella Balkwell

elbalkwill@gmail.com


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