Homemade bread makes a house smell like home–and it tastes soooo good. I love baking homemade bread. When I talk to people about baking bread, I find that sometimes people are afraid to make bread. They think it’s too hard, or that it takes too long. Bread is actually very easy to make and the time involved is mostly in the rising process. The actual preparation takes very little time–and the reward, fresh bread coming out of your oven, is huge. If you’ve never tried baking bread at home, learn how with a nine-year-old. If she can do it, so can you. Here are the simple techniques, with pictures:
Grandmother Bread is a good recipe to start with if you’ve never baked bread before. It’s easy, and quick. Read the history behind Grandmother Bread here. I taught my daughter to make this bread when she was nine.
How to Make Bread:
Start with the warm water, yeast, salt, and any other ingredients called for in your recipe before adding the flour. Let the water-yeast mixture sit for five minutes while the yeast activates. Start adding flour, one cup at a time at first, then in smaller and smaller amounts. Usually a recipe will need a range of flour and the exact amount will vary slightly, so don’t add it all at once.
Continue stirring in flour until the dough becomes too stiff to stir.
My daughter (age nine, left) wasn’t too enthusiastic at first. That stirring thing is hard!
She liked kneading better. Lots of fun punching action and getting her hands gooey.
When the dough is too stiff to stir, start kneading. Making bread is a messy job. Don’t plan on answering the phone. Kneading is no mystery–just get your hands in there and start turning and punching the dough, adding more flour as needed to keep the dough from sticking to your hands and the bowl.
Keep kneading until the dough is ready. When is the dough ready? When the dough feels smooth and elastic in your hands. When it doesn’t stick to the bowl and your hands anymore. When you are tired of kneading. When you just feel it in your bones. Usually, kneading takes a few minutes. No more than five. Don’t put in too much flour! That will make your bread heavy. Over-kneading isn’t good for the bread, either. Just knead till it doesn’t stick anymore. (Or, at least, it doesn’t stick much.)
Learning to know just when your dough is ready is something that takes practice. If your first batch of bread doesn’t come out perfect, try again. Every time you make bread, it will get better. It’s just a little flour, yeast, water, and a few other simple, cheap ingredients. Nobody’s gonna die if your first attempt at bread doesn’t work out. Try again.
Place prepared dough in a greased bowl. Turn once. Cover. I like to use plastic wrap sprayed with oil to cover. Let rise till doubled, usually an hour, depending on the temperature inside your house.
When dough has risen, remove cover, sprinkle with a little flour, and punch dough down. Continue as per the instructions in your recipe.
*If using rapid-rise yeast, in some recipes like this one you won’t need a second rise. In most cases, such as with Grandmother Bread, even if using rapid-rise yeast, a second rise is required. If the directions in your recipe don’t tell you specifically that a second rise isn’t needed with rapid-rise yeast, go ahead and give the bread a second rise. It won’t hurt anything.
Go bake some bread. And let me know how it comes out!
Check out the main Grandmother Bread page for many, many delicious ideas using this one simple recipe!
Also see: How to Make Homemade Dough Enhancer for lighter, fresher bread!