Thursday, April 5, 2012

Baking Bread: Step-By-Step

Last week, my friend Kirsten graciously had me guest post on her blog. You can see the post there, but I'm re-posting it today in case anyone missed it.
I cook every day. I like to bake, too. Here are some links to my favorite recipes, including muffins, grilled pizza (it's amazing!!!), the best ever steak marinate, and a fantastic lemonade cake

When I was younger, my Grandma taught me to make bread. I didn't make it myself for many years, considering it too time-consuming. 

However, I've since determined that baking your own is a wonderful way to avoid preservatives and other icky manufactured ingredients in your food. I didn’t price it out per loaf, but I’m pretty sure it is more frugal than buying it at the grocery store. Also, it is tasty.

Intimidated? Three encouraging things to remember:
Baking bread does take time but it does not have to take all day. (My grandmother used to say it did take all day. But my dad says she'd make enough for a week at a time. So maybe that's why it took all day.)
You do not have to have a lot of experience baking from scratch to make good bread.
Fresh bread can be frozen to be enjoyed at a later date and you will love it.
Why not try baking some bread for your family?
You will need:
5 1/2 cups of flour (I used a combo of all-purpose and white whole wheat)
1 teaspoon of sugar
1 package regular or quick active dry yeast (or 2 1/4 teaspoons if you buy it in a jar like I did)
2 cups very warm water (I just turn on my hot water, let it run for a minute and use that, never bother checking the temperature)
2 Tablespoons olive oil or oil of your choice
2 teaspoons salt

1. Mix 2 cups of flour, sugar and yeast in a large bowl. Beat in the warm water until it is thoroughly mixed.
Cover it tightly with plastic wrap and let it stand until you see little tiny bubbles on top, usually about 40-45 minutes.

This is what the bubbles look like:
2. Stir in the olive oil and salt. I used some special olive oil that I received as a gift, but I have used plain old Canola oil and gotten great results.
3. Start adding one cup of flour, stirring well with a wooden spoon, and then adding another cup…then little by little add the rest. Keep in mind that you might not need to add all 5 1/2 cups of flour. You don’t want the dough to be sticky (add more flour if this is the case). You’ll just know when it feels right.

4. Now the kneading begins. Take off your rings, wash your hands, then dry them well. Flour your hands so the dough doesn’t stick. I knead the bread in the bowl because it makes less of a mess on my countertop! The goal of kneading is to work air into the dough. I think. I’m no expert. But I usually work with the dough about 4-5 minutes, until it seems well-mixed. Add extra flour if it seems sticky.

5. At this point, I pulled my dough apart to make two balls. (I made two loaves so I could freeze one.) Spray the loaf with cooking spray or a light coat of olive oil. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let the dough rise until it is doubled in size. It was warm, so it only took about 40 minutes. Use your judgement.IMG_4896
This is what mine looked like after about 40 minutes:

6. Next, carefully transfer the loaves to an ungreased cookie sheet. Try not to punch down the dough—meaning don’t let the air out of it. (Some will come out, it’ll be ok!) Cover with plastic wrap and let it rise a third time, about 25 minutes.

7. The secret to a nice, crusty loaf of bread is steaming the loaf as it cooks. Place a pan of water on the bottom rack of the oven (fill it about halfway) and preheat the oven to 425 degrees.IMG_4905

8. Uncover the risen loaves and dust some extra flour on top. Then take a serrated knife and put three cuts into the top of the loaves. (Just for looks.)

9. Bake the bread loaves about 35 minutes. And you have a lovely loaf of bread to enjoy now and one to freeze (after it cools completely!)
Hints on cutting your bread:
Wait til it cools.
Use a serrated knife.
Baking bread takes some time and effort. But since it isn’t all hands-on time, you can use each step’s rising time to do other things around the house or in your kitchen.
And it’s great to make a bunch at a time and then get it out of the freezer as you need it.
It takes only a few hours for it to thaw on your counter.
I hope you enjoy making your own bread!


  1. Thanks for sharing this. I am going to try this with my family. They may eat both loaves when they smell fresh bread baking. This is a great skill to learn.

  2. I have been thinking recently about baking our own bread, but it seems so intimidating! Armed with this tutorial I believe I'm ready to give it a try.

    1. So glad it is helpful to you! It isn't so hard. I should add an addendum to the tutorial, but I now recommend sifting the flour. Seems to make better bread.


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