Created on: January 17, 2013
For a new baker or a baker who has never attempted it, making homemade bread can be intimidating. In this day and age when you can buy an electric bread maker that will take most of the worry out of baking homemade bread, it is a shame to deny yourself the treat of not only eating a slice of bread warm from the oven (or bread maker), but of enjoying the aroma of bread baking in your home.
The trickiest part about making homemade bread is preparing the yeast. There are some very simple forms of yeast these days, and there is no real mystery to using it. The yeast packets you purchase at your local grocer include directions for activating the yeast, and it usually involves warm water. It is really very simple, and some of the yeast that is made especially for the bread machines does not even need to be dissolved in water. You then add this mixture to the dry ingredients and mix.
Kneading is another intimidating process. How to do it and how much to do it is the most confusing. Frankly if you use a bread maker you will lose out on this very therapeutic task. There is nothing that helps you work out frustration better than kneading bread. After a few times, you will feel the difference in the elasticity of the dough and know when it has been kneaded enough. If you're a beginner, follow the directions to the letter in the recipe. Write yourself a note in the cookbook about how it worked for you so you will know if you need to make any adjustments in the future.
Bread machines do all the kneading for you. You basically put all the ingredients into the machine and turn it on. While this produces a nice warm load of bread, it is not quite a fulfilling as bread that you mix and knead yourself.
After kneading the bread, place it back in the bowl and cover and allow it to double in size. Try to find a warm place away from drafts, the inside of your oven is not a bad place. When it is raised, punch it down and allow it to rise again. When it rises again it is time to place it into a baking pan and pop it into the oven. Watch the loaf closely the first time to be sure your oven temperature is correct and it doesn’t over cook. When it has a golden brown crust and makes a hollow sound when you thump it, it is done. A thump is a tap or flick with your finger, do it quickly because you don’t want to get burned.
Allow baked bread to cool before slicing. It really is that simple. This writer’s favorite is a recipe in the Betty Crocker Cookbook for a simple white bread, but here are so many others you can try after you have mastered the basic technique. You will notice that the Betty Crocker recipe does not call for the second rising of the dough, though many others do and you can choose to do it or not.
Learn more about this author, Isabelle Esteves.
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