There is nothing more pleasing to your soul than whipping up a batch of fluffy, warm, delicious baked bread. It's so self empowering to know that, with a little time and care, you can produce for your family something so basic and nourishing. Also, I'm not sure if you're aware, but check out the ingredients list on your store bought bread- what an eye opener that was for me. So many unnecessary items that take bread from wheat, water, sugar, salt, and yeast to... high fructose corn syrup, ethoxylated mono and diglycerides, and azodicarbonamide...
When you bake bread, you're in control of your own ingredients, you know how fresh it is, you can modify it to your own preferences- you're the boss! There's also just something very rustic and relaxing about standing in the quiet warmth of your kitchen, kneading bread just like our forefathers (foremothers?) used to. Definitely give it a try...
When I first started baking bread however, I was doing it with a bread machine (which there's nothing wrong with that! If you haven't got the time- this is a great option, no judging here!). But I swear I never could figure out what I was doing wrong, it would rise beautifully and then the top would sink just a few minutes before the bake cycle was over. I tried everything, modifying the liquid, yeast, salt, etc. No dice. So I decided to just do it myself! Take THAT bread machine!
Even though the bread machine bread was ugly, it was so, so delicious and I wanted to use the same recipe so I modified it from bread machine directions into hand made and it turns out perfectly. Hopefully you have good results as well! Happy Baking.
Homemade White Bread
Makes around 2 1-lb loaves
1 c + 6 Tbsp water (between 80-100 degrees)
2 Tbsp sugar
2 and 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
2 Tbsp butter (softened)
1 3/4 tsp salt
4 c bread flour
2 Tbsp dry milk
Combine the water, sugar, and yeast and let it set for 5-10 minutes until it's foamy - like this:
Pour yeast mixture into a large mixing bowl and add the remaining ingredients. I have to be honest, I just get in there with my hands to make sure that everything is really incorporated and then I transfer it to the counter to start kneading. This girl ain't afraid to get messy! Please excuse my lack of photos of kneading as my hands were covered in dough and I didn't want to mess with it.
Knead for 8-10 minutes to activate the gluten and make sure the yeast is distributed. Enjoy this, let it be therapy, vent your frustrations on the bread! It's a good arm workout too!
Set dough in mixing bowl and coat in a thin layer of olive oil to prevent sticking. Cover with a warm, damp cloth and put it somewhere warm to rest for about 1- 1 1/2 hours until it doubles in size.
This is the fun part: punch down the dough! Knead it a few times (4-6 is plenty) and then divide into two balls. Form them into loaves and put them into two greased bread loaf pans.
Again, cover them with a warm damp towel and let them rise for about an hour.
Bake at 350 degrees for around 30-40 minutes, take out when golden brown on top and has a nice hollow sound when you tap on them. My oven runs hot so 30 works perfectly for me!
Feel free to add a little butter to the tops to make them prettier and what not. I didn't want to mess with it for these guys though. If you don't think you'll go through two loaves of bread in a week, toss one in a baggie and put it in the freezer for the next week! Then you'll only have to bake twice a month- can't beat that!
Aren't they beautiful? A slice of this with some butter and homemade jam and mmm mmm you're good to go! Good luck keeping your husband and kids (if you got 'em!) out of the bread while it cools.