Bread Making Basics

100_1485Everyone should make bread.

Maybe it’s not necessary to make all of your own bread, but  every now and then you should. It’s easy, and it makes your house smell better than just about anything.

Have you ever looked at the ingredients in a loaf of store-bought bread? If not, you’d be surprised to see how many ingredients you’ll find. I recently read the ingredients of a “better” loaf of bread in my grocer’s (my favorite grocery brand) and found it to contain: whole wheat flour, water, modified wheat starch, soy fiber, inulin, sugar, yeast, wheat gluten, soybean oil, unsulphured molasses, salt, wheat bran, enzymes, calcium propionate, monoglycerides, datem, soy lecithin and nonfat milk.

Seriously? Eighteen ingredients and some that I cannot even pronounce.

I checked the local farmer’s market and could  find neither inulin nor calcium propionate. You know where I could find it? On the Whole Food Market list of Unacceptable Ingredients for Food!

When I make bread, I use four ingredients–flour, water, salt, and yeast. That’s it. That’s what bread is. Sometime I will add herbs or pepper, but that’s about all. I bet you have all that in your cupboard right now.

So let’s get baking! Right now!

(Okay, some of you need to run out for yeast. That’s fine. I’ll wait.)

Let’s start with a basic boule.

Boule.

That starts with “B” and it rhymes with “P” and it sounds like pool. (Sorry, that was irresistible. We BuzzQuackers are suckers for musical theater).

Here’s how I make it:

In a mixing bowl, add:

  • 3 1/2 cups of flour,
  • 1.5 cups of warm water
  • 1  tablespoon of yeast
  • 1  tablespoon of good salt

Put all ingredients in a mixing bowl. If you have a stand mixer use the dough hook turn it onto the low setting (1 or 2), (if you don’t have a mixer, you can use a spoon.

Mix in the stand mixer for about 5 minutes (be CAREFUL! You can burn out your motor if you leave it on for extended amounts of time). Mix until fully incorporated.

In a separate bowl, swirl some olive oil to coat the sides. Put the dough in the oiled bowl and turn to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let it sit on the counter for 2 hours to rise. (Here’s a little tip, if you spritz or spray the plastic wrap with oil or cooking spary before securing it to the bowl, it won’t stick when you remove it.)

After two hours, cut the loaf into two with a serrated knife that’s been dipped in flour (so it won’t stick). Cut the dough in half. Take one half, and dip it into flour. Pull the flowered part of the dough around the sticky part of the dough creating a little jacket around the ball.

Do this for both halves.

Put one half on a pizza peel that has been coated with corn meal (the corn meal will keep the flour from sticking to the peel).

Put a baking stone in the cold oven on a middle rack and put a drip pan under the baking stone on a lower rack.

Turn the over on 450 F and let dough balls sit on the counter to rise for about 40 minutes.

After the bread has risen a second time, take a serraded knif that has been dipped in flower, and cut a slit or two on the top. Slide (with kind of a wrist pop) the risen bread dough onto the pizza stone.

100_1484
Looks like chicken!

If you don’t use an enough corn meal, or if you don’t get the wrist pop just right, your boule may become misshapen. Here’s an example of a boule that came out of the oven resembling a baked chicken.

This is an important step. Take a cup of hot water and pour it into the drip pan and shut the door quickly.

Bake for 20 minutes and remove to cool on a wire rack.

That’s it!

Okay, on paper, it kind of does look difficult, but it isn’t. There is a lot of waiting, so just be sure to schedule accordingly.

Try it, just give it a try, and tell me now it goes. It’s fun, delicious, and your house will smell heavenly!

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3 thoughts on “Bread Making Basics”

  1. I agree. Not only does your house smell wonderful, there is nothing better than hot bread right out of the oven (well maybe cool a little) with butter and cinnamon-sugar.
    The best tip for bread making is to use an insta-read thermometer to see if they are done. I look for a reading of 190 degrees F. taken in the center of the loaf. As Dennis the menace said, “you can’t tell who deep a puddle is from the top” it is hard to tell if the bread is done by looking at it.
    Ed

  2. Oh that’s a great idea! I didn’t know the proper temperature for baked bread. Sometimes (but rarely) I do get a slightly gooey middle. A quick temp verification would put an end to that!

    I have a quick read, digital thermometer that I use for yogurt. Actually, I can stab the bread while in the oven and leave the unit outside of the oven (the poker end is on a cord). Maybe I’ll try that!

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