By now I am sure you have read a lot about the theory of making good bread from scratch. Start with a recipe that I have been using for the last 40 years and enjoy your results. I had to learn to make bread at age 21, in a foreign country, without an oven. With all the modern conveniences today, bread making is a snap. It is my recommendation that it be made completely by hand at first so the look and feel of the dough becomes known. Later on, using a machine or mixer, you will understand better what you are seeing, and instinctively know how to correct, if things go awry.
My Moms Bread Recipe
3 cups milk, scalded (just when tiny bubbles start forming at the edge of the pan)
1 stick unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
4 cups bread flour
2 - 3 teaspoons salt
2 packets Instant Rise or Rapid Rise yeast
4 cups more flour, or more, as needed
In a saucepan, scald the milk. Once the tiny bubbles begin, remove from the heat and put in the stick of butter and the sugar. Allow the milk to cool and the butter to melt or soften until a pinkie finger inserted into the milk will not feel hot. In a very large bowl, place the flour, salt and yeast and stir to combine. Add in the lukewarm milk mixture and stir with a wooden spoon. Add in the eggs, beating well after each addition. Begin adding in more flour, a cup at a time. Once it is too difficult to stir with the spoon, use hands and continue mixing. Once 7 1/2 cups of flour are incorporated, begin counting the 10 to 12 minutes of kneading time.
The bread may be turned out to be kneaded on a floured surface. This allows for two hands to be used, making it easier, but also affords the possibility of adding too much more flour. The bread should be smooth and elastic after the kneading period. Adding too much flour will toughen the dough unnecessarily. Kneading is nothing more than manipulating the dough, by pushing it with the heels of the hands, flipping, rotating and pushing some more. If the dough is left in the bowl, there is no need for too much more flour to be added, but requires one hand to do all the kneading. Lift the dough, pulling and twisting, press back down, pull and twist and continue until the 10 to 12 minutes have elapsed. Set the bowl aside is a warm place to rise until about doubled in size.
Grease 4 medium loaf pans, about 4 x 8 inches. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead gently to remove the large air pockets. Divide the dough in 4 sections. Press one section flat; beginning at one end, roll the dough into a log, tucking ends and edges as necessary. Place into one of the prepared pans; repeat with the other three sections of dough. Set the pans aside to rise in a nice warm area of the kitchen. It will take 30 to 45 minutes. Just as the dough is above the edge of the pan height, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. When the oven is hot, put the pans in and time for 30 minutes.
The finished loaves should have a hollow sound when tapped on the bottom, once turned out of the pan. All ovens vary. If you have convection, I recommend using it, setting the oven at 325. Convection, which blows the heated air, bakes more quickly and efficiently. In my present oven, the bread takes 28 minutes to come out perfectly, and not too dry. Learn your oven.
It is best to wait until the bread is cool to slice, though the temptation to cut immediately is great. My Mom always cut the heel off, buttered it still steaming, and let us all have a bite. Complete nirvana. Do try this out. I guarantee the satisfaction is well worth the time. The loaves can easily be frozen until needed. Remember: this is homemade, with no preservatives. These loaves will not last a week on the counter. But then, one of these loaves rarely lasts a day or two.
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.
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