Sustainable Eating: Basic Bread Recipe
This post has been updated to include things I have recently learned! 1/23/2015
Bread is the most basic of staple foods. Bread is more of a science than it is a recipe and you get your best results with trial and error. I make lots of bread. (All of the bread in my house.) I have slightly different recipes depending on what I am making, but it comes down to the same basic recipe. Please note this recipe is just as much about technique as it is any ingredients.
Basic bread loaf and a round loaf with a flour coating
My Basic Bread Recipe:
- 5 to 7 c of flour
- 3 Tablespoons of sugar
- a large pinch of salt
- 1 egg beaten at room temp
- 3 to 6 Tablespoons of oil or butter
- Almost 2 cups of warm water (or warm Milk)
- 2 Tablespoons of yeast (I prefer Saf Instant Yeast)
I buy my yeast in bulk, so I don’t really know how much is in a pouch or how many pouches you need. I am pretty sure it says on the pouches how much is in it, but you should make sure you have enough before starting.
Bread likes natural things. It works best when made in glass, metal, or wood. I use glass bowls, and wooden spoons. (I really want some wooden bowls!!)
My mom gave me a copy of The Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book. Since I have started reading this, I have already started to produce much better bread. I have updated this post to reflect what we have tried and learned so far. There is a chance I will update this again, because this book rocks.
- I start by beating a room temp egg in a measuring cup. Add warm, but not hot water (or Milk) to the measuring cup until it equals 2 cups total. Mix the egg and water, and then add the yeast. Let the yeast sit for a few minutes.
- While the yeast sits, sift out 4 cups of flour. Add the sugar and salt and mix with a wooden spoon.
- Stir the yeast into the water and egg. The warmth of the water should activate it. Add the oil to the measuring cup.
- At this point I oil up a second bowl and the bread pans.
- Add the liquid mix to the dry mix and stir well. Keep sifting flour into it until it is hard to stir. Add another half a cup of flour, and get flour all over your hands too.
- Mix with your hands until it is firm enough to knead. Knead the dough until it has an elastic texture. If it gets sticky add more flour. Be sure to check the bottom of the bowl for a flour pocket too.
I prefer to knead in the bowl, it makes less mess. You can also pull it out of the bowl and knead on a wood surface.
- Once you have a nice ball of dough put it in the oiled bowl, then flip it. You want to have a nice oil sheen on both sides. Now you let the dough rises.
- Depending on your weather and climate how long you need to let it rise. I live in Texas which is a warm, wet climate, so for me it is about the length of time to wash a load of laundry. I check on it after I hang up the load.
- Most recipes say to let the dough double in size, but some times you are limiting your dough when you do this. A better way to know if dough is done rising is to poke it. If the dough is firm and the hole fills in some, it is not ready yet. If it is airy and spongy, it is done.
If you live in a dryer climate be sure to cover your dough with a towel, or even a damp towel. If you live in a colder climate place the bowl on the stove top with the oven on. Sometimes even cracking the oven door is needed. The type of yeast you use can adjust the rise time.
- Most places will tell you to punch the dough, and we used to do that. It was fun, but re learned that we are doing more harm than good. Carefully push the dough down with your hands, letting all of the excess gas out of the dough. Don’t push it too hard, and use a baking spatula to carefully remove the dough from the sides of the bowl. Form the dough into a ball, and let it rise a second time. This time it should take about half the time to rise.
- After the second rise carefully push the gas out again. Carefully knead and work the dough completely out.
- Divide the dough in half and shape it. (Make the rolls, the buns or place the dough in your pans)
- If you are making loaves, roll the dough out with a rolling pin or something, and the roll the dough to you and shape into a loaf. pinch the sides closed and put in your pan. This gives a better sponge and helps prevent crumbling.
- Using a knife, or other sharp item, cut a slash across the top of the dough. Once it is baked, this will make it easier to cut. It will take the pressure off the top of the bread as you cut, making smoother slices.
For a flaky crust and shine, use a pastry brush to “paint” egg whites on the top. This is called an egg wash. For more texture brush flour on the top.
- Let the bread rise again. You may need to warm, or cover the dough again. It should take about half the time of your second rise.
- Bake the bread until it is golden brown. If you use an egg wash it will brown faster, so keep that in mind.
- Let the bread cool in the pan for a little while (10 to 15 mins.) After that, cool on a wire rack.
Wait until it is completely cool before freezing. It also is easier to cut once it has at least mostly cooled. I also suggest in getting at least a decent bread knife. I have gotten good at slicing bread but I REALLY REALLY want a bread slicer.
At first making all of your own bread seems overwhelming, but soon it will become routine. I think the whole thing was a bigger adjustment for the kids than it was me. I am thankful I now have two other people in the house to help with breads.
For more reasons why you should make your own bread, read Sustainable Eating: Why You Should Make Your Own Bread It also includes more tips, of things I have learned making my own bread.
The links to Amazon are affiliate links. I receive compensation from them, but I am honest about all of my statements. All products linked are things I use.