How To Bake Bread By Hand

If you are like most adult women, you likely have no idea how to bake bread. You may consider yourself a bread baker if you have a bread machine, but let’s not kid ourselves, that’s cheating. Although there is no denying that an automatic bread machine is the easy route, if you really want to know how to bake bread like your grandmother or mother did when you were a little girl, it’s not that difficult. You simply need a few ingredients, some time and a great deal of patience.

This is a skill that some of us were introduced to as young children. I remember my grandmother showing me how to bake bread but unfortunately I wasn’t paying attention enough to retain anything other than the kneading process. Luckily I had her show me again when I was in my teens, and although the basic recipe has remained the same, I’ve altered it to make it into cheese bread, raisin bread, among others. For someone still young enough to enjoy playing with modeling clay and creating sand castles, kneading bread is a treat. Once you learn how to make a loaf of homemade bread, a great idea is to spend an afternoon with your kids and give them a lesson.

The first thing you need to do is to purchase what you need. This includes the bread ingredients and the equipment. If you have a large mixer read the instructions on how to bake bread using the kneading attachment. Although this isn’t a necessity it can save your arms from a vigorous work-out.

Make a list for the grocery store and do the shopping at least the day before. It’s best to start with a straightforward recipe when you first learn how to bake bread. Since I taught myself a few years ago, I’ve found that a basic white bread is an easy way to become introduced to the process. For this you’ll need to have on hand the following things: all-purpose flour, instant yeast powder (I buy the small packages because it saves having to measure), salt, sugar, eggs, milk and some vegetable oil.

Bread takes hours to prepare. Don’t panic and run out to the local store to buy a loaf instead of attempting this though. Just because it’s a long process doesn’t mean you’ll also be in the kitchen all day. Most of the time it takes to make bread is devoting to the rising process. It’s during this time that you’ll do all the things you regularly do in the course of a day.

When you first wake up in the morning you are going to need to prepare the ingredients. This will give you enough time to let it rise before you need to bake it later in the day. The first thing you need to do is to mix the dry ingredients together. The foolproof recipe my grandmother taught me includes 2 ½ cups all purpose flour, 2 packages of the instant yeast, 1 tablespoon of salt and ¼ cup of white sugar. These are the dry ingredients and they need to be mixed together in a fairly large bowl.

It’s really important to measure correctly so level everything off in the measuring cups before putting it in the bowl.

The next step involves mixing the wet ingredients together. These need to be heated. I’ve found it easier to just use the microwave instead of heating up a saucepan. Into a microwaveable bowl put 1 cup each of water and milk (I use low-fat milk for this and it works great), and 1/3 cup of vegetable oil. Heat this mixture until its warm. You need to do this so that when you mix it with the dry ingredients you’ll trigger the growth of the yeast.

Now it’s time to mix everything together so grab 2 whole, large eggs, your dry and wet ingredients and either a large spoon or your mixer. Once you’ve poured the wet mixture and the eggs into the dry ingredients mix it together until it feels quite sticky. This takes on average about three or four minutes.

The first rising session comes next. You’ve got to use a greased bowl. Don’t forget to grease it because if you do, you’ll have a tough time getting it out of the bowl. Place the dough into the bowl and cover with a kitchen towel. You’ll need to put the bowl in a warm spot. If you’ve got room on the top of your refrigerator, put it there. You’ve now got roughly forty-five minutes to clean up the kitchen mess you made. Don’t peek ladies, you want that dough to rise.

Once the time is up, the real fun begins. You get to punch the dough now. Take it out of the bowl and put it on a floured surface. I usually disinfect a portion of the counter that is away from the area of the sink and do it there. If you have a kneading attachment on your mixer, this is when you’ll utilize that. After a few minutes of kneading, cut the dough in two. Place one back in the bowl you’ve already used for rising and place the other half in another greased bowl. Let it rise for thirty more minutes and then you’re ready for baking.

Loaf pans are really the best way to bake bread in the oven. Others might tell you how to bake bread using a sheet pan so you can shape it however you want. For beginners and even some of us old hands, loaf pans ensure an even end product. Grease the pans, set the oven to 375 degrees F and put the dough in. I lightly brush the top of my bread dough with a bit of melted butter. I find this helps to form a deep, brown crust. It’s best to set the timer for 45 minutes and then check the bread. Unlike a cake, you don’t want to put a toothpick in the middle to check for doneness. Instead pull the pans out and knock on the bottom. If it sounds hollow, the bread is ready.

The hardest part is next. You have to wait for the bread to cool, at least slightly, before you eat it. Turning the loaves onto a steel rack will help them cool without causing them to sink in. Once the bread is ready for eating, be prepared to cut the entire loaf. Almost everyone loves freshly baked bread with butter, peanut butter or jelly on top. Storing any leftovers can be done in a tightly closed plastic bag.

Although baking bread is not likely something you’ll have time for everyday it is still a great rainy day activity you can do with the kids. Remember that once you know how to bake bread you can experiment with the recipe to add whatever flavors your family enjoys. You may also want to get more adventurous and attempt a sourdough loaf or even rye at some point. As long as you’ve got the basics down, you’ll be a bread baker for life. It’s one of those priceless abilities most of us would love to have, even if we don’t always admit it.

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