Something about the smell of bread baking always makes me hungry. Many avoid making their own bread by hand because they believe it is too hard, but it really is easy if you follow the directions. Believe me, I do like a bread machine and plum wore my last one out. However, baking it the old way in the oven I think produces a different texture and the kneading itself can be very relaxing. There are lots of variations to making a simple loaf of bread, and once you have the basics down changing recipes is not that hard. This recipe has very simple ingredients and produces 2 loaves of bread.
2 pkg yeast
2 c Warm Water (105-115 degrees)
2 Tb Sugar
1 Tb Salt
2 c Bread Flour
4 to 5 c All Purpose Flour
time: kneading 10 + rising 1hr 45 min + baking 35 min
If you do not have bread flour all-purpose may be used. Bread flour provides a little extra gluten and will provide a slightly different texture in your loaves. I find using a combination of the 2 flours provides the best results.
Dissolve the yeast and 1 tsp of the sugar in the cup of warm water. Allow it to rest for a couple of minutes to ensure it blooms. You should have a foam on top of the water. If there is no bloom either your yeast is old or the water was too hot and killed it. The sugar feeds the yeast and speeds up the process of blooming.
In a bowl combine the bread flour and 1 cup of the all- purpose flour, salt and the remaining sugar. Pour in the water and oil and beat until smooth. Slowly add up to 3 cups of the all-purpose flour until a soft ball forms that is easy to handle. You most likely will not have added 6 cups of flour to get tot his point, that is okay. You can add more as you work the dough on the counter.
Sprinkle the counter with some of the remaining flour and scoop the dough onto the counter. As you begin to knead you will know if more flour needs to be added. When there is high humidity you will need more than on the days it is try. If the bread is sticking to your hand or the counter keep sprinkling on more until it has a nice smooth texture that kneads easily. If you have never kneaded before, check out how to do it hereThis will take about 10 minutes.
Using the bowl you mixed in, pour about 1 tsp of oil. Place the ball of dough in the oil and roll it around, leaving it with the seam side down. Cover the bowl with cellophane or a towel and place in a warm place to rise.
The dough needs to double in size. Allowing it to rise too much can mean the bread won’t rise properly when it is baked so keep an eye on it. A good test is that you can push your finger in and it leaves a small dent. This will take about 45 minutes.
Sprinkle your counter with flour and punch down the dough. Literally, you get to make a fist and punch the dough! Talk about getting out some aggression. Divide the dough in half. Set one to the side and begin rolling the first half out. Form a rectangle (18×9 inches) that is slightly less wide than the pan is long.
Beginning at one end, roll the dough as if you are making a jelly roll. When you are finished, pinch the end shut and use your hands to seal the sides.
Place the log into a greased and floured pan. Dark pans work better than glass for baking bread. Once both pans are done, cover again and place in a warm place to rise. This time it will take about an hour. The dough will be about 2 inches over the edges of your loaf pans. To show you how important it is to follow the process, I only rolled out 1 of the loaves in this batch. The second loaf I simply shaped and plopped into the loaf pan. Can you take a wild guess which one I did that on?
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and bake 35 minutes. The racks should be low so that the tops of the pans are in the middle of the oven. Be sure that the pans are not touching each other. Check a few minutes early by tapping. Just like a watermelon, if it sounds hollow, it is ready. Place the pans on a cooling rack for 5 minutes before trying to remove the bread. Allow to finish cooling on the rack before slicing.
You can see the end result of not rolling the dough out is a flat loaf.
Here is the way you want it to look, ready for dinner and sandwiches the next day.