Sunday, November 18, 2012

Ode to Bread, for Heather

So Heather asked me to share my secrets in bread making.  Here is the basic recipe:
3 C warm water
3/4 TBL Salt
1 1/2 TBL Yeast
1/2 C Sugar
1/3 C Oil
5 C Wheat berries (makes about 8-9 Cups flour)
2 Vitamin C Tablets (1000 mg)
(Maybe 2 C white flour)

 Tricks of the trade:
  • Water temperature is super important.  If the water is too hot, it will kill the yeast.  If the water is too cold, it will not activate the yeast, so it has to be almost perfect.  Don't let this intimidate you.  Once you know the temperature, you'll do it right every time.  It should be so warm that you almost don't want to touch it, but not so hot that it is steaming.  Right in there is the correct temperature.  The good thing is that if it isn't right and hasn't activated the yeast, you can try it again and not have to throw out the whole batch (see later in the post).
  • After the water, always add the salt first.  I guess salt kills the yeast and it sinks, so if you put it in first, it sinks to the bottom and stays out of the way of the yeast because the yeast floats.  
  • Sprinkle the yeast across the top of the water.
  • DO NOT forget the sugar or decrease the amount.  It is the sugar that feeds the yeast and makes it grow.  You need it for the bread to rise.  You may use honey, or brown sugar.  I have never tried agave nectar or sugar substitutes.  I do not know how well they would work.  Sprinkle the sugar over the top of the yeast.  Some of it will sink, that is OK.
  • Add the oil.
  • If you wait a few minutes, the yeast and the sugar will begin to interact and you will know if your bread will rise.  If the yeast becomes frothy, you did it right and it is working.  If it isn't, it isn't working.  Most likely, the water temperature wasn't right.  So either dump it out and try again, or add the flour and wait until the end to add more yeast and water (see later in the post).
  • Grind your wheat and just send the vitamin C tablets through the wheat grinder with the wheat.  Vitamin C is a natural dough enhancer.  There are some significant considerations with wheat.  Old wheat does not rise (20-30 years).  If your wheat is that old, consider purchasing new wheat and mixing it 2 to 1 with the old.  You can still use it and it will work if it has new wheat mixed in with it.  I LOVE using white wheat.  I prefer the texture, the look, the taste, etc....Linzy swears by read wheat.  I have only ever had old red wheat so I have not had much success in that department.  But Linzy is the red wheat master.  She will know!  Also, if your wheat bread is not rising well, consider adding 1/2 C gluten to the recipe.  That may help and Linzy uses it in her recipe.
  • As you add the flour, only add four cups and begin mixing.  Mixing is another key of bread making.  Mix for several minutes with a hand mixer if you do not have a larger mixer.  Continue adding flour and mixing, with the machine, until the dough forms a nice ball and the bowl is clean.  If you need to add some white flour until the dough forms a ball.  Leave the dough in the mixer to rise for about an hour.  If you do not have a larger mixer, continue adding flour until it is too dense to use the hand mixer.  Then mix with a large spoon until that will no longer work.  Then turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead in the rest of the flour by hand.  Continue to push flour into the dough until the dough is no longer sticky.  Spray a large bowl with cooking spray or roll oil around in it.  Place the dough in the bowl, flip it over and leave it to rise for about an hour. 
  • If the dough does not rise, put 1/2 C warm water with 1 1/2 TBL yeast and 1/2 C sugar.  Mix with a spoon and let rest until yeast becomes frothy.  Stir into your ball of dough with the large mixer.  I don't know if you can do this by hand.  I have never tried.  Probably the yeast just didn't activate, so you are adding more in the hopes that you don't have to throw out the entire batch, unless you want unleavened bread :-)
  • After your dough rises, punch it down and shape it into the desired form, let rise 30 minutes, and bake it at 350 degrees.  Loaves bake (3) for 30 minutes, rolls (about 24)--20 minutes, cinnamon rolls (about 24)--15-20 minutes.  When the bread comes out of the oven, run a cold stick of butter over the you have butter topped bread!
  • Variations:  Make white bread by just adding 8-11 cups of white flour; CINNAMON ROLLS, use  less flour so the dough is stickier and the bread will be lighter and fluffier.  Split dough in half.  Roll half of the dough into a rectangle.  Spread 1/2 stick melted butter, sprinkle with cinnamon and brown sugar.  Beginning at the long end, roll the dough.  Use dental floss to cut 1 - 2 inch thick rolls.  Place in a greased pan.  Rise and bake;  PIZZA DOUGH--add 1 1/2 teaspoons of cardamom to recipe before the flour.  Will make four large pizza crusts.  Roll out dough into desired shape.  Prick dough with a fork, add sauce and toppings.  Bake @ 425 degrees for 8-10 minutes or desired crispness.  I use a pizza stone.  Sometimes the kids make personal pizzas.  Or we will have a build-it-yourself pizza party.  This is always a HUGE hit with guests, from the littlest ones to the teenagers---especially fun date night activity!  Beware the mess.  Our teenagers had flour everywhere because they got into a flour fight.
  • We also make pretzels and bagels using this recipe.  Bagels are a little more intense, so let me know if you want to know how to do that and we'll have a separate post.
  • Sometimes the kids use the bread dough like play-dough and make their own shapes and then we bake those too and eat them.  Just for fun!
  • NOTHING tastes better than hot bread and melted butter! MMMMMMMmmmmmmMMMMMM!
Happy Baking!


  1. I love this bread! There is something nurturing, almost sacred, about making it daily for your family.I'm so grateful that you taught me how to make this, back when we were neighbors in the same community!

    I'll have to try the cardamom for pizza dough. Currently, I just use olive oil instead of canola, it works. I've used garlic salt and thrown in Italian seasoning too. That makes wonderful bread sticks!

    1. Oh Yes!!! Bread sticks, we put butter and parmesan cheese on ours, but that won't work at your house....mmmm....I forgot we also make hamburger buns. I'll have to try the olive oil and Italian seasoning! Thanks Diana :-)

  2. This is awesome. I want to make bread today! I think that maybe my problem is that my wheat is old. I inherited my dad's food storage wheat and have been using that. I am going to go buy some new white wheat and see if that helps. There are so many good tips here. ANd YES I want to hear about how you do bagels! And hamburger buns :) I wish I lived next door ;)

  3. i wonder what wheat gluten would do to your bread ;)


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