In light of numerous questions and requests, I decided to write this tutorial on making bread. I'll be using the ever-so-popular Grandma's Country White Bread recipe, and using all-purpose white flour (since that's what most of you have said you'll be using) but you can use whole wheat flour (my flour of choice) and it will turn out perfectly as well. This recipe makes 2 loaves.
Before we start, I need to point out that I am NOT a master technical bread-maker. I've experienced a lot of trial and error over the years with bread-making. There are many, many, many ways to make bread and have successful outcomes. My way is not the only way, and may not even be the "best" way for everyone, but it works fabulously for me with my bread recipes, and I know you can have success with this method as well.
The Printable Version can be found here.
First off, here's what you'll need:
3 cups luke-warm water
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp. yeast
1/3 cup oil
1 Tbsp. salt
6 - 7 cups unbleached coarsely-ground white flour (You can use regular all-purpose flour with success as well. It will make a softer, less-coarse bread. I'll be using all-purpose white flour in the photos below.)
How to Make Homemade Bread
1. Measure out 3 cups of lukewarm water. It should be only slightly warm to the touch.
2. Pour the water into the mixing bowl.
(Note: You don't have to have a standing mixer to make this bread. You can use a regular mixing bowl, a spoon, and your own hands.)
3. Measure out 1 1/2 tablespoons of yeast, and add it to the bowl.
4. Measure out 1/4 cup of sugar (honey works well too).
5. Add the sugar to the water and yeast.
6. With a spoon, stir the yeast and sugar together for a few seconds. You are just getting the yeast wet, and spreading out the sugar to help the yeast "grow." It's fine if clumps of yeast remain.
7. Let the mixture sit for at least 10 minutes to allow the yeast to "grow." It's okay if it sits longer than 10 minutes. I've let it sit 30 minutes with no problem.
8. After about 10 minutes, your yeast should form a big bubble on top of the water.
9. Measure out 1/3 cup of oil.
10. Add the oil to the bowl. There is no need to stir.
11. Add 6 cups of flour to the bowl.
12. Add 1 tablespoon of salt to the bowl.
13. Mix the dough on a low setting for 5-8 minutes. (I use a "2" setting on my KitchenAid.) If you are using a spoon and your hands, stir the mixture together as best you can, then knead the dough with your hands for about 10 minutes. The dough should be stiff enough to start to pull away from the side of the bowl while being kneaded/mixed.
14. Finger tap the dough to see if it has reached the desired consistency.
15. If your dough is so sticky that it easily stays attached to your finger after being lightly tapped, it needs more flour. Add 1/4 - 1/2 cup at a time and incorporate it well.
16. Test the dough with a finger tap again.
17. The photo doesn't show it very well, but the dough will attach to your finger and begin to stretch up a little, only to detach itself from your finger early on, leaving you with a tiny amount of dough on your finger tip.
18. The dough is ready to rise when it passes the finger test.
19. Turn your oven ON for about 30 seconds, then turn it back OFF.
20. Cover the bowl of dough with a dishtowel or loose saran wrap coated with non-stick spray. Fill a glass bowl with warm/hot water.
21. Place the bowl of dough inside the warm oven on the upper rack. Place the bowl of water on the lower rack. Ignore the messy state of my oven with blackened apple pie drippings on the bottom.
22. Close the oven door and let the bread dough rise. I usually let mine rise about an hour.
23. One hour later... time to check the dough.
24. Looks good to me! Time to take the dough out of the oven.
25. The dough pre-punch down.
27. Knead the dough for another minute. 10-15 turns should do it. It will be smooth, and elastic.
28. The dough is ready to be shaped into loaves, but FIRST...
29. Grease 2 bread pans. (I use non-stick spray... you can use butter or shortening if desired.)
30. I'm sorry! I tried desperately to take pictures while shaping the loaves, but doughy hands and cameras do not mix, and I couldn't pull it off by myself. You didn't miss much. I'm NOT as technical as others are when it comes to shaping the loaves. I prefer to eliminate the step of rolling the dough out on the counter and having one more surface to clean. Instead, I eyeball the dough and pull roughly half of it out of the bowl with both hands, and start shaping it into a loaf-like form. Then, I plop it into the pan, and do a little more shaping (because it inevitably looks junkier after I let go of it) while it's in the pan. I push it around with my fingers. Then, I tilt the pan up on it's side, and let the dough slide to one side of the pan. Then I tilt the pan to the other sides as well, letting the dough form itself into a loaf. This only takes a minute.
31. See? Not perfect, but definitely passable, and it'll turn out just fine.
32. Cover the loaves with a dishtowel or loosely cover in saran wrap that has been coated with non-stick spray. (By the way, the dough never sticks to my dishtowel.)
33. Let the dough rise. When the top of the dough is 1-2 inches higher than the lip of the bread pan, it's ready to bake. It started rising at 12:56...
34. ... and finished rising at 1:40. On the counter, it takes my dough about 45 minutes to raise. Check it out:
35. Looks like it's about ready. When the loaves are almost done rising, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
36. They are ready to be baked. Notice that one is slightly bigger than the other. That's what I get for eyeballing it. Lucky for me, they're both going to end up looking beautiful, and tasting delicious. Put the loaves in the oven and bake them for 25 minutes.
37. Bake for 25 minutes, and then... Ta Da! Fresh, beautiful bread!
38. Immediately remove the bread from their pans onto a cooling rack.
39. Slice it up. Break out the butter and honey. Take a bite... and don't worry... Involuntary closing of the eyes, sighing in delight, and savoring of the moment is completely normal.
40. Slice it up again... and again... and again.
41. While it cools, the crust of the bread may shrivel a bit. This is normal. Allow the bread to cool completely to room temperature before placing it in a bread bag. We put one loaf in the freezer, and take it out to thaw at least a couple hours before we'll need it.
*If you have any questions feel free to comment or email me. I'm more than happy to help!