Bread can make or break a meal. It adds texture, flavor, color, and contrast. It can be used as a vehicle, to cool down a dish, as a filler, a dessert or an entree. It has been around for hundreds of years, and the techniques may have changed, but the concepts have not.
With that being said, if you have never tried to make bread at home, you can’t truly respect this formidable foe to the home cook. Bread can be extremely difficult, but it doesn’t have to be. A loaf of simple white sandwich bread can be knocked out with ingredients probably already in your your kitchen, and take just about 3 hours. Then again, I have seen recipes that require multiple days and tons of special equipment. It all depends on your recipe, and your technique. However, once you find a recipe that works for you, simple changes can turn your bread into the loaf of your dreams.
Until today I have avoided bread, and really, any baking for that matter. I, like a lot of cooks, hit up a local bakery for my bread. When I met Tracy, she knew a little about baking bread, and often made rolls and loafs of wonderful fruit and nut bread. She avoided seriously any mention of making homemade sandwich bread, and I had to beg to get her to even consider a loaf.
I recently read Guy Fieri’s book “Food: Cookin’ It, Livin’ It, Lovin’ It”. His section on Sandwiches will literally starve you to death as you read. And after reading all about this great sandwiches and seeing the mouth watering pictures, I asked Tracy if she would help me bake a loaf of fresh bread for sandwiches. Of course my loving wife giggled and said sure.
Well today, I baked my first loaf of bread (left). Tomorrow, and every day after, I will be baking my own bread. Yes I was up to my elbows in flour, and their were stacks of dishes everywhere, but it is so worth it. The first piece, smothered in melted butter, is one of the most enjoyable things I have ever created. The flavor and texture profile are unmatched by any bread you can buy, and it was better than most bread I have purchased in bakeries.
We also made a loaf of beer bread (right), which is an entirely different type of bread and process. I will be doing a write up on beer bread in the future, so be sure to check back for that update.
We don’t have a bread recipe of our own, but here is the recipe that we used, which was given to us by a friend. Give it a try, I am sure you will be very happy with your results. If the first loaf doesn’t come out right, clean up your board and try again. Once your comfortable with sandwich bread, explore other kinds. Who knows, maybe I’ll be posting lots of bread related articles in the future!
Prep Time: 3 hours
Cook Time: 45 minutes
- 3/4 cup warm water
- 1 package active dry yeast
- 1 tsp salt
- 1-1/2 tbsp sugar
- 1 tbsp vegetable shortening
- 1/2 cup milk
- 3 cups all-purpose flour, approximately
- In large bowl, add the warm water. Slowly stir in dry yeast. Continue to stir until yeast is dissolved.
- Add salt, sugar, shortening, and milk to bowl. Stir.
- Mix in the first 2 cups of flour.
- If needed, begin adding more flour, one tablespoon at a time, until the dough chases the spoon around the bowl.
- You do not need to use up all the flour called for in this recipe, or you may need more flour than called for. The amounts vary depending on many factors, including weather, which is why most bread recipes only give an approximate amount of flour needed.
- Turn dough out onto floured board and knead, adding small spoonfuls of flour as needed, until the dough is soft and smooth, not sticky to the touch.
- Put dough in buttered bowl, turn dough over so that the top of dough is greased. Cover and let rise in warm spot for 1 hour.
- Punch down dough. Turn out onto floured board and knead.
- Preheat oven at 375 degrees F.
- Form dough into loaf place in buttered bread pan. Cover and let rise for 30 minutes.
- Bake for about 45 minutes or until golden brown.