Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Making Bread

As children, making bread was often one of our assigned "jobs." The process involved grinding the wheat in an electric wheat grinder, kneading the bread (although I remember my mom teaching us how to do it by hand, we often used a mixer), letting it rise and baking it. I remember making about 8 loaves at a time, my oldest sister says she had to make 13 at a time. I don't make bread every week, but I love baking a homemade loaf. It's amazing to me what just a few ingredients combined a certain way can make. Unlike my mom, I don't grind my own wheat (but would love to someday!) and I only let it rise once (in the pan). I love taking a loaf out of the oven, brushing butter on the top, cutting off the heel, slathering it with butter and sprinkling it with brown sugar. It's my most favorite treat ever. The kids see me making bread, but I wanted to get them more involved, so we had a little bread making lesson. I taught them about yeast and how to proof it. We let the mixer do all the kneading, but did knead it by hand just a little so they could try it.

They loved shaping their portion of dough into first a rectangle and then rolling it into a cylinder and putting it in a mini-loaf pan. We let it rise in a slightly warm over for about 1 1/2 hours and then baked it for 30 minutes.

Lucky for us, my sister had just brought back home-grown, homemade blackberry jam from my mother's house. We ate nearly all the bread (and jam!) in one afternoon. Jonah asked me if Grandma had some secret ingredient because her jam was SO GOOD!

This recipe is my favorite white bread. It comes from Baking with Julia and is so good hot out of the oven. It's our absolute favorite for taste and texture. It's not one that holds up very well over the week, so I usually only make it if I know we are going to eat it in the next few days, or if I'm giving one of the loaves away.

Classic White Bread

2 1/2 cups water, warm (105-115F)
1 package (about 1 T.) active dry yeast
1 tbsp sugar
6-7 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp salt
4 tbsp butter, very soft

Combine 1/2 cup of the water with the yeast and sugar in a large bowl and let stand until foamy - about 10 minutes.

Add the remaining water, 5 cups of flour and the salt to the yeast mixture. Mix with a wooden spoon (or in a mixer), adding the remaining flour a few tablespoons at a time, until dough pulls cleanly away from the sides of the bowl. Add soft butter 1 T. at a time. The dough will start to come apart, but keep mixing and it will come back together. Knead until smooth and elastic.

Shape dough into a ball and place in a large, lightly oiled bowl to rise until doubled, about 1- 1 1/2 hours. (If you mix in a mixer, you can skip this step of rising. I put the dough directly into two loaf pans and place in a slightly warm oven. Let it rise for 1-2 hours or until it looks right and then bake.)

Butter two 8x4 inch loaf pans and set aside. Place dough on a lightly floured surface and divide in two equal portions. Working with one piece at a time, roll the dough out into a 9 inch wide x 12 inch tall rectangle, with the short side towards you. Fold one third of the dough down, then fold it down again. Pinch the bottom seam to seal. Your rectangle should be approximately 9x4 now. Turn the seam side up. Fold each end over about 1/2 inch, tuck in any loose ends and pinch to seal. Place the loaf seam side down into a greased 8x4 inch loaf pan.

Cover loaf pans lightly with oiled plastic wrap and allow to rise until doubled in size, about 45-60 minutes. Dough will rise above the top of the pan.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375F.

Place loaves in oven and bake for 36-40 minutes. The loaves will be golden and will sound hollow when tapped on the bottom when they are done.

Remove loaves from pans immediately and brushed with butter for a shiny top.
Makes 2 loaves


chyayn said...

OK! For SURE you win mother of the year! 9 months pregnant and teaching your children to make bread! You are amazing! I really admire you and your many talents:)
(I still need to get that good dip recipe...:)

marta said...

wow. this is spectacular. my husband's every wish is for me to make bread. i've been to scared! i appreciate this recipe and will surely hold on to it when i decide to bake some. looks so delicious, it's tempting!

PetreaMom said...

Did I ever own 13 bread pans? What a wonderful family activity! I remember learning to bake bread with my mother too. Kneading is a great stress reducing activity. Tell Jonah the secret ingredient is the blackberries (plus lots of sugar) and love!

Susan said...

I love seeing your mom become a legend in her own time...which she most certainly deserves. You are becoming your own legend.
As of 7:47 am, Carrie is not longer 9 months and 1 week pregnant. I'll send a picture.

Juliane said...


I've got a great wheat grinder and lots of wheat in the basement that you're welcome to use.

I, too, LOVE fresh-out-of-the-oven bread with lots of butter!

Angela said...

I love reading about all the great things you make. This sounds so delicious, and even better with homemade jam! I especially love how you include the kids in the process. I'd love to try this with Madison and Jackson. Thanks for the inspiration!

Erica said...

Looks like so much fun. I bet your kids love doing that!

Lauren said...

Just found your recipe and immediately had to try it but I think I may have botched it! after kneeding it in the mixer, do you then fold it as directed before putting it in the pans? I just plopped it in there (way too easy to turn out well, lol)and while it was rising in the oven it ended up falling and never recovered. any suggestions! I'm a bread newbie :)