Remote living skills: baking bread

I love fresh bread. About a year and a half ago, I started learning how to bake it myself. I was tired of soft, spongy, store-bought bread, which is not only bland, but also full of all kinds of completely unnecessary additives. Now that we live here, far from bakeries and grocery stores, I’m glad that I learned how to make my own. Here’s the secret to making your own bread at home: don’t be scared. It is easy and anyone can do it. And it doesn’t take much time either.

You don’t even need a recipe to bake bread, really. There are only 4 necessary ingredients, and as long as you have the amounts kind of close, you can bake a lovely homemade bread. I thought today I’d share generally how to make bread, and then over time, give some recipes that I like. (If you want to get fancy then you can follow recipes.) The four ingredients you need are: flour, water, yeast and salt. That is all.

Start by running water from the tap until it feels warm. Put one cup of the warm water into a bowl and sprinkle about a tablespoon of yeast in and stir until it is dissolved. (Just to emphasize that you don’t really need a recipe, any amount of yeast from one teaspoon to over a tablespoon would work). Add about a cup and a half of flour and about a teaspoon (or two) of salt. Stir this until you get a smooth, runny dough. Then add more flour. Probably about another cup and a half. Keep stirring and when it starts to come away from the sides of the bowl and the flour is all incorporated, it is about right. The dough should be kind of sticky (stick to your spoon), but not runny. If it is runny, or looks wet, add more flour. Make sure at least some of your flour is white flour – yeast really like it and the bread will rise better. If learning, I’d start by making a few all-white loaves before experimenting with different types of flours.

Now let it rise. You don’t have to knead it (gasp!). You really don’t. I’ve read so many recipes where people get all tied up in knots worrying about how long to knead dough (just long enough, but not overworked) that I think we should just forget about it all and not knead. So, to rise the bread, cover the bowl with plastic wrap tightly (if the wrap doesn’t make a seal, just put the whole bowl in a plastic grocery bag and tie it off with a twist tie. Leave the bowl in a warm place for an hour or two, until the dough has about doubled in size.

If you want, you can now get ready to bake the bread. If you’re busy and want to do something else for another hour, just squish the dough down, turn it over a few times until it is smaller, and let it rise again.

To bake the bread, first take the dough out of the bowl by pouring it onto a floured surface. Make it into the shape of loaf you want, and put it on a greased cookie sheet (I grease with either butter or olive oil). And let it rise again for a while. Preheat the oven to 450º and put the bread in. Immediately lower the temperature to about 375-400º. In about 30-35 minutes your bread will be done.  Easy. (You can get all more fancy than this, and be careful at a few steps to improve your bread, but not worrying too much and just trying it will pretty much always make a wonderful bread that is much better than anything from the store.)

Once it is out of the oven, let it cool on a wire rack (if you have one) for about 15 minutes. Enjoy with a lovely runny brie type cheese. Or with whatever you like.

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5 Comments

Filed under Posts by Hana, Recipes

5 responses to “Remote living skills: baking bread

  1. hana007

    I can’t wait to taste your bread again! There is no way back to the store-bought, really. I am dreaming about your bread over a very average baquette from the Misnomer Store. At least it is nutty whole grain…

  2. Tes

    We always have excuses of buying breads form the bakery. But baking ourselves is so much better. Thanks for sharing.

  3. I’ve not made bread for a couple of years, but want to try my own sour dough this summer. Just need to get going on the starter.
    I’ve heard that putting a dish of water into the oven while you are pre-heating it & leaving it under the baking bread is supposed to help. Thoughts?
    Have you tried alternatives to wheat – I’m trying my green thumb with quinoa & amaranth this summer (the grains have yet to make it into the ground…) & thought I’d try a bit of that.
    All these plans for something as simple as bread…

    • Hana

      I have tried the water in the oven trick before, hoping it would produce a lighter crust. I didn’t really notice that much of a difference. I’ve found the way to get a lighter crust is to turn the temperature down a bit. My bread recipe book always recommends 400º, but 375º works better for me.

      I haven’t tried any other grains, but I think it would be fun! Let me know how yours go.

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