The days are getting cooler, and I think it’s just about time to start making bread again. I love fresh bread, but haven’t been baking as much lately because it’s just been too hot! Thought I would pull out my trusty recipe and brush up on it before I get started. There is nothing like kneading bread dough for releasing all of your tension. Baking bread is simple, though most people tend to fear using yeast. Don’t be afraid… there’s really nothing to it. It’s also very easy to work into your day because of the various rise and rest times. I use a very simple recipe.
2 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast(if you bought the jar and not the packages, there will be a conversion table on the label, but usually 2 1/4 tsp = 1 envelope)
Flour a flat surface. I use my favorite butcher block cutting board. Since my dear husband brought home a smaller cutting board made out of Lexan, this one hasn’t seen much use. Now it can come out of retirement as my bread board!
Turn the dough onto your floured surface. It will be a bit of a sticky mess. Make sure you flour your hands and then begin to gather the dough to you. Kneading is a “fold and press” type of movement. Make sure you use firm movements. You can not over-knead. If you think you’ve been at it long enough, knead another minute or 2.
The purpose is to help build gluten in the dough. It’s also to make sure that all the ingredients are thoroughly mixed. Knead the dough for around 8 – 12 minutes, adding in extra flour as needed. Depending on your humidity, you may not be able to work in all of the flour called for. Do not worry. On dry days, you will use less. On more humid, wet days, you will use more flour. The dough should begin to firm up, be cool to the touch and begin to feel more elastic.
Gather the kneaded dough into a ball.
Place the dough into a well oiled bowl (I used the top of my Tupperware cake saver, since my largest bowl is not quite large enough). Roll the ball around until the entire surface is coated. Now is a great time to clean off the kneading surface, because you will need it again soon.
Allow dough to rise and double. This can take at least an hour and a half. Do not be alarmed if it takes more time. If you are in a high altitude, your dough will rise faster and will probably not take a full hour.
Once the dough has doubled, dump it back onto the floured surface. Punch it down. Punching dough down is not nearly as rough as it sounds. Now is NOT the time to beat the crap out of the dough. Mainly you want to press it down firmly to let the built up carbon dioxide escape. You will want to knead the dough again for about 5 – 10 minutes. Then let the dough rest for about 20 more minutes.
While the dough is resting, get your loaf pans ready. You will want to make sure that you have 3 well-greased pans before you start with the dough again. Divide dough into 3 loaves. Then roll each into a cylinder shape as close to the size of your loaf pans as you can get. Only be concerned about the length of the pan as you will let the dough rise again before baking. Put the dough into the pans, rolling each end under the loaf to get it to fit. Cover with dry flour sack towel and let rise to about 1 inch higher than the pan. When they are close, pre-heat your oven to 375. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes or until the bread is a golden brown and beginning to pull away from the sides of the pan. Let it rest in the pans on a wire rack for about 10 minutes, then tip out onto the wire racks. They should sound hollow when you tap the bottom of the loaf. Let them cool completely before cutting.
This will make a delicious sandwich bread for your upcoming week! And is also fantastic for french toast or cinnamon toast!!!