I started making bread at age 21 because I had married and moved to Guatemala and it was next to impossible to find sandwich bread worth eating. Even without an oven I made bread, using an electric fry pan with a small cake cooling rack set inside. I baked one loaf at a time, so baking was a 2 hour process with a recipe that makes 4 loaves.
I watched my Mom make bread since I was small. She only made bread for special occasions or holidays, and her recipe came from her mother. The bread is a rich butter and egg dough and makes wonderful, warm colored and slightly sweet bread. It is heaven with a leftover ham or turkey sandwich. The memories of that bread had me longing for the recipe and know-how to make it. Mom gave me her recipe, and I started out killing the first packet of yeast, due to over hot water. I have never done that again, so the lesson served me well.
Learning how to knead bread was the next thing to learn, but that was easy. Bread needs to be manipulated so the gluten can build, giving elasticity. Learning to knead dough is only a matter of practice; the dough does not mind if your kneading skill is nonexistent. As long as it is being moved around for about 10 minutes, it will be just fine. Forming the dough into loaves is another skill that comes with time. If your first loaves are a little lopsided, they will still taste good. If you add a little too much flour the bread will still be delicious. It may be even more delicious, once you learn the right consistency and feel of the dough. That will not take away how good your first loaves will taste and smell, with the wonderful yeasty aroma wafting through the house while they bake.
I recommend your first bread making be completely by hand, because you will learn the look and feel of the dough. This gives a better understanding later on, if you decide to use a heavy duty stand mixer. Bread making machines are nice, but even while I owned one, I still took the dough out and formed it into loaves to bake it in the oven. I used the poor machine to its untimely demise in one year. I made bread so often it just could not keep up. Once I got my trusty Kitchen Aid mixer, I was set. It did the same work the bread machine did, but better. Regardless, all the time of making bread by hand has allowed me to make it easily in unfamiliar surroundings. When visiting my sisters I have made bread without the benefit of a special mixer or machine. Long ago I learned the basics and they serve me still.
Learn the differences in yeast. When Mom gave me her recipe over 40 years ago, she was still using cake yeast. That kind is rarely seen these days. I have used regular dry yeast for most of my baking career. The recipe called for mixing the dough and allowing 2 or more hours to rise, then punching it down and allowing a second rise before forming the loaves. These days, with Instant Yeast, or Instant Rise, Rapid Rise or whatever name it goes by, the whole process goes much faster. With Instant Yeast, the second rise is not necessary, and the first rise is usually less than two hours. The other up side of using instant yeast is not worrying about killing the yeast in too hot water. It can be added to the flour at the beginning and that whole step is avoided.
There are many recipes for bread, and many books are available. Any general cookbook will have a recipe that will work well. The idea is to get started. Count on at least 4 to 5 hours from beginning to end, but keep in mind that most of this time is not spend actually doing anything more than waiting for it to rise. If you have family and spend time on a Saturday morning making bread, there is plenty of time to spare to be with the children. I had 4 children and made all our bread since they were born.
About The Author
My name is Chris Rawstern and I have been on a cooking and baking journey for 42 years. Many people have asked what A Harmony of Flavors means. Have you ever had a meal where the visual presentation was stunning, the smells were incredible, the taste was so remarkable that you ate slowly savoring every bite, wishing the experience would never end? Then you have experienced what a truly harmonious meal can be like.
My passion is to teach people how to create a Harmony of Flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own.
Visit my Web site http://www.aharmonyofflavors.com my Blog at http://www.aharmonyofflavors.blogspot.com
my Marketplace at http://www.a-harmony-of-flavors-marketplace.com or Facebook page A Harmony of Flavors. I share a recipe or tip each day to the fans that have liked my site. I hope to see you there soon.