The Foundation: Breadmaking

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In the previous post I shared my love for yeast.  Oh yes, those lively little pellets that, when done right, make bread rise to the occasion--pun fully intended.  I have one of these bad boys in my refrigerator at all times, for that frequent occasion in which I need to smell bread.  Or taste it.  Or devour it, really.



I figured it's only fitting that my first shared recipe should be the most sacred of foundations:

Basic bread baking.  Oh listen to that sweet, sweet alliteration.

The recipe I'm about to divulge isn't a secret, nor is it in any way unique, it's simply that, basic. I received the recipe from a lady in Africa, who has used it for 30 plus years, and if I can learn it--so can you. This particular recipe isn't limited to "bread" per se. You could make dinner rolls, cinnamon rolls, hamburger buns, bagels, etc, etc. The dough is quite versatile. However, each variation calls for slight tweaking in form and shape--but the recipe stays the same. Also, going with the healthy aspect of this site, I am using a basic whole wheat dough--if you'd rather have white, just use white flour in place of the wheat. No biggie. I highly recommend the wheat though, better for you and more satisfying.  If you really want to be a health guru, you could throw some milled flaxseed in, as I sometimes do.  But only when I want to be a guru.  Not that I often aspire to that sort of thing.

Anyway. Let's get started.


I'm including the above photo because I have to share a little anecdote with you.  The cookbook above was my recipe Bible while in Africa for 10 months.  It was well-loved and traveled with me to the shores of Lake Victoria in Tanzania, to the lush hills of Didinga in Southern Sudan, to the arid bush of East Kenya.  This precious little item is a Godsend to people in remote areas because it gives loads of info on how to cook/bake using solar methods (I learned to bake bread over a kerosene stove, people, it's that amazing!), as well as substitutions for various things when you are lacking. 

It's fabulous.  It's remarkable.  It's one of the loves of my life, aside from my KitchenAid, and my ramekins, and my Amana bread knife, and, oh yeah, my husband.  Anyway...

I'm choosing to give you the recipe right at the start, because, well--I get tired of sites that wait to give it until the end. I' rather know what I need right away, so here she is:

Basic Whole Wheat Dough
2 1/4 tsp yeast (just go ahead and buy the jar of yeast, those little packets don't amount to much and it's worth it to buy the big guy. Keep it refrigerated after opening, though, that stuff is live after all)
2 1/2 C lukewarm water, divided- lukewarm is KEY!
1/2 C honey (if you don't have honey, feel free to use regular sugar, or even half mild molasses, half sugar-whatever floats your boat)
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup molasses (I like it because it adds depth of flavor and a darker hue to the bread- making it more "wheaty" in appearance but you can just leave it out if you don't have it- totally doesn't matter!)
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 C oil, plus more for oiling the bowl later (I use canola)
3 1/2 C whole wheat flour (I like King Arthur brand)
4 C all-purpose white flour (I buy unbleached, but you don't need to)


Instructional Overview:

1. Dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup of the warm water (lukewarm to the touch) with a Tbsp of the honey, let sit about 10 minutes until yeast is foamy. Add the rest of the honey, egg, molasses salt, water, and oil,mix to combine then slowly add all the wheat flour in half cup increments.  You can do this entire process in the bowl of your KitchenAid mixer- less dishes!  Just make sure it's fitted with the paddle attachment first, you'll need the dough hook later so make sure it's handy.

2. Mix well, on low to medium speed, until all ingredients are incorporated and a soft dough is formed. Remember: the longer you beat the less you have to knead later (if hand-kneading, that is, but if you have a stand-mixer your job just got ten times easier, keep reading below for a how-to on breadmaking with a KitchenAid). Once soft dough is formed, begin kneading. Knead about 10 minutes until dough is pliable and soft [for a short, instructional video on how to knead, CLICK HERE].

3. Place in a large, greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap coated with cooking spray, and let rise in a warm place until double (if you struggle with having a "warm" place, just turn your oven on, let it get slightly warm--NOT TOO WARM--then turn it off and stick the bowl in the oven). It takes about 2-2.5 hours for the dough to rise so be patient! 

4. Once doubled, punch down.  Shape into chosen product (e.g. bread/rolls). If baking bread, divide the dough into two greased bread pans covered with plastic wrap coated with cooking spray, let rise until double again (about 30-45min). Bake at 400F for 30 minutes. If making rolls, shape as such and place in 2-3 (as many as you need) greased 9" round cake pans, let rise until double then bake at 400 for 15-20min.

So, I've given you the basic recipe, but let's be real. You need to know how to get the job done and a few simple words ain't gonna cut it, especially when half the process of yeast-baking is the process itself, and knowing how to do it. Here are some photos to help you along:

Since we're making whole wheat bread, make sure you have some of it on hand, as well as yeast.  I use Gold Medal & Red Star brands, but feel free to use whatever you like.  Also, since I happened to be a bit short on time when making this batch, I chose to use my stand-mixer (of which I adore, please invest in one!); the following instructions will be given assuming you have one of these bad boys.  If not, just follow the above recipe and view the How-To video on kneading. 


If using a stand-mixer, fit it with the paddle attachment (see photo below)  If I had Photoshop, I would add in cute text and a little arrow pointing to the paddle, but since I don't what you see is what you get, sorry folks!  And on that note, a photographer I am not, so please restrain yourselves from critiquing my lighting issues.  I just get the product out, someday I learn how to use my camera! 


The first step is to mix the yeast, 1/2 cup of the warm water, and salt; let the concoction hang out a bit, allowing the yeast to get foamy.  This is the point where the yeast is getting revved up to do it's job.  If the water is too warm, the yeast will die (this is the evil of all evils; it's bad, very bad, your dough wont rise); too cold and the yeast will take a while to get its engines ready.  Make sure it's lukewarm- but not too warm!  Add a Tbsp of the honey and let the yeast fester (ew, I know) for about 10 minutes.  Once the yeast is nice and foamy, set the mixer on low and begin stirring.  Add the rest of the honey, salt, water, and oil, then slowly begin to add the wheat flour by half-cup increments.  Once all the whole wheat flour is incorporated, start adding the white (also, in half-cup increments). 


It's at this point your mixer might start to rumble a bit, make sure the top is locked down! It might begin swaying back and forth. No worries, it's just using it's muscles. Once you've put in two of the three cups of white flour, turn off the mixer, unlock it, and lift the top.  Peel the dough off the paddle, remove it, and replace with the dough hook attachment.




Once fixed with the dough hook, put the top back down, lock it, and turn on low.  This is the "kneading" time for the stand mixer.  It will need to knead about 10 minutes max.  At this point you can go chill elsewhere, get some other chores done, kiss your kiddos, whatever.  HOWEVER, make sure you are monitoring the "stickiness" factor by adding the remaining cup of flour, by spoonfuls, as-needed.  In other words, if the dough feels sticky, it needs a touch more flour.  Continue to add it a few tablespoons at a time until the dough feels soft and pliable but not tough.  Once it reaches this point (around 10 min), turn off the mixer, and turn the dough out on a floured surface.


Shape the dough into a ball, and clean out your mixer bowl.  Once clean, pour in a decent amount of olive oil, about 4 tablespoons.  Rub the sides of the bowl liberally with the oil.


Once the bowl is well-oiled, place the ball of dough inside and turn the dough round-and-round to coat with accumulated oil on the bottom of the bowl.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap coated in cooking spray and let rise in a warm place for 2-2.5 hours until double in size.


Once doubled, it should look like this:


Punch down the dough.  This is my favorite part...sometimes it get's violent depending on my mood that day.  It's a great stress reliever.  Just sayin'.


Once dough is deflated, cut in half. 


It is at this point that you can decide what your product will be. One batch of dough will make two loaves of bread, or one 9x13 pan of dinner rolls, or any other such bread-like concotion you might desire. Since I want to be a show off, I'm going to make three things with this batch: hamburger buns, cinnamon rolls, and dinner rolls.  This is about how many of each I can make with one batch of dough:




However, the main reason I decided to make this batch was because I needed some hamburger buns so I'm going to stick with that for now.  To make the buns, cut the punched-down dough in half, then cut each half into sixths (one batch makes 16 very large buns).  Roll each small portion into a ball and flatten with a rolling pin, similar to a small pizza crust.


Cover with plastic wrap coated in cooking spray and let rise until double, about 20-30 min.  As you may have noticed, baking bread isn't a quick job.  It's a lot of waiting and patience.  But OH so satisfying and yummy.  It's far beyond worth it, I assure you. 

At this point, preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Once doubled, the buns should look like this:


Pop them in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until the bottoms and tops are slightly brown.  Top with sesame seeds, if you like that sort of a thing.  I'm not big into seeds on my buns so I'm going to steer clear of 'em.  Here are the finished beauties:


This particular batch of buns were inspired in part, to satisfy my weekly need for pork, pulled pork, that is.  I have to admit, I could be a full-fledged vegetarian, without looking back, except for one small eensy-weensy problem. 

I love me some pork.  Intensely. 

I'm an Iowan, it's in my blood. 

Fact:  Did you know there are more pigs than people in Iowa?  I'm just working to even out the population, that's all.







Here's to love and happy yeasting, and always, always, always, let me know if you have any questions/comments.  I'm not one of those cooks who leaves key ingredients out just to spite you, nor do I keep recipes secret.  I know some of those types.  Be wary of them.

Now, my friends, I am off to go pack for my lovely excursion to the East Coast.  Keep reading for some fun posts of New York fare! 

Mmmm, I'm salivating already.

15 comments:

J. said...

have fun on your trip! I can't wait to make those buns...

Kirsten's Cooking said...

So, do you just let your dough rise anywhere? Do you turn your oven on so the cooktop is a little warm? Maybe I've just not been giving mine enough time...we do keep our house a little chilly during the day, though...suggestions? I was kinda toying with the idea of popping bread dough in a warm crockpot...??? (I would just heat up the crockpot until warm, turn it off and then pop the dough in) We are a family of carbivores, so it would be monumental if I mastered bread-making!!!

Abbie said...

Kirsten,

The crockpot would be a great way to do it! I never even considered that but I bet it would work great. Just make sure it doesn't get too warm. Yes, yeast can rise anywhere, it just goes a little faster in a warmer environment. Actually, if I want to delay the rise a bit (say, if I need to go somewhere and wont be home when it's "doubled") then I stick the bowl in the fridge and take it out when I get home, allowing it to rise. Though the colder the dough, the longer it will take to rise so keep that in mind if you put it in the fridge. Try the crockpot idea and let me know how it goes!

-A

Indubitably Mel said...

Would you be kind enough to share the pulled pork recipe with the world? I, too, love me some pork and eagerly snatched up a 5lb pork loin at Fareway when I was back in the state for Christmas!!!

My Chinese friends sure look at me funny when I tell them there were more pigs in my backyard growing up in Iowa than people who lived in the town I went to high school in. :)

Indubitably Mel said...

My good friend Emily here in Kansas has a sweet food blog you should check out!

http://crustsandcrumbs.blogspot.com/

Abbie said...

Mel,

I would love to share it with you all! However I'll have to write it up when I get home next week (I'm in New York right now). I often throw in a little of this and a little of that so I'll have to figure out proportions and get back to you. Keep reading and I'll have it up as soon as I get home!

-A

julia said...

So I have to share this with you: I came home from work yesterday and Scott, was making homemade whole wheat pizza crust from scratch...he even had my kitchen aid mixer out. He asked me a few questions, but did it all on his own. Toppings were sausage, mushrooms and onions....Yummy!

Julia

Kirsten's Cooking said...

okay, Abbie, today is the day - I finally remembered to grab some yeast!
I'll try out the crockpot method and get back to you! Thank you so much for sharing your recipe with the world - and I'm so glad you're still posting on your trip.

Kirsten's Cooking said...

how much water do I need to dissolve the yeast in?

Abbie said...

Julia--

That's AMAZING! Curt probably wouldn't know where to find the mixing bowls, haha. To his defense, though, I rarely let him in the kitchen--I love cooking too much :) I'll have to try Scott's crust sometime soon!

-A

Carrie said...

I'm going to make this tonight... :) yay for whole wheat french toast!

kyle and jennifer said...

hey abbie!

how much water to you use to proof the yeast? maybe i missed that part?!? my bread is now baking - can't wait to see how it turns out - first time for homemade bread :D

Abbie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
CraftyFoody said...

Hi Abbie, I'm a newbie to your blog, loved reading about your recent trip, your conversion to healthy eating and especially your bread escapades. I can't wait to start baking. You have an avid follower here. Thanks for sharing your journey.

Wendy

Abbie said...

Thanks for reading, Wendy!

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