Baking Bread 101…The Basics
Whole Wheat bread, bread 101
When I was 10 years old when I taught myself how to bake bread. I’d already been cooking by that time for the family on a daily basis.
Baking bread isn’t all that difficult at all! There are some basic steps and techniques to follow. Once you understand those basics, the rest is fun and so rewarding with the way the aroma drifts through the house.
After the bread cools down to room temperature who could resist cutting into the loaf and slathering it with a favorite spread, butter or even an herbed butter or, maybe even some olive oil with infused herbs?
This is one of my very favorite recipes that I’ve made for many years and the one my kids loved growing up. A nice basic whole wheat bread that works well for sandwiches and for toasting too. This will make 3 smaller loaves or 2 good sized loaves.
The bread once fully cooled and after about 6 hours can be frozen very well wrapped and air tight in plastic bags such as these. Use this trick….stick a straw into the bag and suck out the excess air to help preserve the fresh baked flavor. To defrost just leave on the counter overnight or several hours. You’ll always have fresh bread without running to the store by keeping at least one loaf in the freezer.
|Bread bags from King Arthur flour|
I prefer King Arthur flour for my baking since it’s a high quality product which I’ve used for years. Grandmother always said used unbleached flour and I do follow that advice!
The Basics of Bread
- All ingredients unless noted should be at room temperature
- Make things easier and more organized by doing mise en place (mess in place – measure and assemble all ingredients and utensils before beginning)
- Lightly oil the loaf pans during mise en place and set aside.
- Yeast grows with a bit of sugar and salt will slow the leavening action of the yeast. The ideal temperature for proofing the yeast is 100 – 115° too cool will take a lot longer to rise and too hot can harm the yeast growing.
- There are usually 2 risings the first in a covered bowl and the second once formed into loaves
- Bread will rise slightly more after it’s in the oven baking.
- A slit on top of the loaf with help that and keep a free form loaf from expanding the “wrong” way which is sideways. Use a serrated bread knife which is the easiest to make this slit. The slit doesn’t have to be deep but just enough to break the surface.
- Want a crisper crust? Put a shallow pan of water in the oven with the bread when baking.
- Don’t forget to have a cooling rack to fully cool down the loaves or any baked goods to cool.
- I have used a food processor or my stand mixer to do this but you can also do this by hand so I will list both electrified and old fashioned steps.
- It’s just that simple…so don’t let nerves get in the way!
Whole Wheat Everyday Bread
- 2 packages of active dry yeast (about 4-1/2 teaspoons or 1-1/3 ounces of a yeast cake)
- 3 Tablespoons of white or brown sugar
- 2 cups warm water (100 – 115°)
- 1-3/4 cups of room temperature milk or 1 can of evaporated (not sweetened condensed) milk
- 1/3 cup melted butter or flavorless oil
- 2 Tablespoons kosher salt (or other salt)
- 3 cups whole wheat flour
- 5-6 cups bread flour or all purpose flour
Large board or very clean counter top
3 pans – 9 x 5 x 3″ loaf pans OR 2 10 x 5 x 3″ loaf pans
Oven preheated to 425° (I actually do the preheat when the dough is in the pans and ready for 2nd rise)
To mix by hand (electric mixer method down below)
Step 1: Dissolve the yeast and sugar in the warm water in a very large bowl and let stand for at least 5 minutes to activate the yeast action.
Step 2: Combine the warmed mile (100-115°) with the melted butter and salt. Add to the proofed yeast and stir well to combine.
Step 3: Add the 3 cups of whole wheat flour to large bowl and mix well with wooden spoon. Once combined add 3 cups (1 cup at a time) of the bread or all purpose flour and mix well by wooden spoon or with your hands. The dough will be sticky and get harder to mix. Add enough of the remaining flour to make a smooth firm dough.
Step 4: Turn the dough out onto the board which has been lightly floured and knead well (yes- get your aggressions out on the dough!) Keep turning and kneading for 5 – 7 minutes (think upper body workout) until it is smooth and elastic.
Step 5: Shape into a ball. Place in a lightly oiled or buttered bowl, turn so that the dough that was on the buttered bottom is now on top. This will keep the dough from drying out during the first rise. Cover bowl with plastic wrap or an absolutely clean towel. Place in a draft free place to rise. Check in about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Set a timer but if it takes longer to rise give it time. Dough should double in size. It is done with the first rise when you poke the dough with 2 fingers and the finger marks don’t bounce back.
Step 6: Punch, yes take your fist and punch the dough down to deflate it.
Step 7: Divide the dough into 2 or 3 pieces of equal size. (Depending on the pans you’re going to use) Shape into a roll and place in buttered or oiled loaf pans. Cover once again and let rise in a warm place again until doubled in size. If you haven’t, now is the perfect time to preheat the oven to 425° to heat fully while dough is rising in the pans.
Step 8: Make a lengthwise slit in the very top of breads, place in the preheated 425° oven for 10 minutes. (Set the timer please) Then drop the temperature to 350° for 30 – 35 minutes. Carefully turn a bread out of pan and rap the bottom, if it sounds hollow it’s done. (Doesn’t want to pop out easily? Just run a table knife around the edges and that should do it)
Step 9: Let loaves cool fully to room temperature on a cooling rack. You’re going to want to slice that now but please and try it but resist until it’s fully cooled down. (Will slice better too)
Step 10: Enjoy!!! If you’re freezing do so within 6 or so hours after baking for best results. (see freezing tip at the beginning)
So….for those of you using modern electrified conveniences here’s the easier way to do this!
Mixer Method for bread
Step 1: Dissolve the yeast and sugar in the warm water in a bowl and let stand for at least 5 minutes to activate the yeast action. Combine the warmed milk (100-115°) with the melted butter add to proofed yeast.
Step 2: In the mixer bowl add the whole wheat flour, salt and 3 cups of the bread or all purpose flour. Combine thoroughly so the salt is well dispersed in the flours. Use the dough hook as in the picture above that comes with many stand mixers. If you have a collar for the bowl that came with mixer it’s a good idea to use that and start the mixer on the lowest speed to not be dusted with flour yourself, unless you like the dough boy look?
Step 3: With the mixer on lowest speed *slowly* add the liquids to the flour and mix about 5 minutes until very well blended.
Add 1 cup at a time additional of the white flour to mixer until the dough comes together and is firm smooth and elastic.
Step 4: Shape into a ball. Place in a lightly oiled or buttered bowl, turn so that the dough in the bowl to cover the dough ball with butter. This will keep the dough from drying out during the first rise. Cover bowl with plastic wrap or an absolutely clean towel. Place in a draft free place to rise. Check in about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Set a timer, but if it takes longer to rise give it time. Dough should double in size. It is done with the first rise when you poke the dough with 2 fingers and the finger marks don’t bounce back.
To finish follow “hand method” at Step 6 through Step 10.