Fresh Bread – Step by Step

img_0070I’ve been so blessed to be able to make my family delicious loaves of bread like this the past year.

Here are some step by step photos if you want to try too.

First you need a cute helper like this. She makes the job much more fun and is a hard little worker. She would make her great-great grandma Maggie proud. She stirs with determination until all the flour is added.

To get to this point however, you need a big bowl, wooden spoon, 2 tsp of Active Dry Yeast, 1 tbls of sweetener like sugar or honey to give the yeast a boost, and 1 cup of warm water. Not hot or you’ll kill the yeast. Body temp is best. Stir to moisten the yeast (that’s what she is doing) and then set the spoon aside and let it sit for about 5 minutes until it is bubbly and foamy. This is called proofing your yeast. This is how you know that it is active and alive.

The photo below shows what the yeast will look like once it has been proofed. Nice and foamy with some bubbles.

Now you start adding your flour. You can use whole wheat, white whole wheat, all purpose, or any combination of those. I like to use spelt with a little all purpose mixed in.

Sprinkle 1/2 cup of the flour of your choice on top of your proofed yeast and water mix, but do not stir. Then sprinkle 1-2 tsp of salt on top of the sprinkled flour. Then add 1 tbls of oil. I like olive oil. Now stir all that up. Add more flour 1/2 cup at a time until the mixture is no longer gooey and the dough starts to hold together, pull away and clean the sides of the bowl. It will be messy and sticky at first, but will soon start to form a smooth ball.

Turn the dough out on to a floured surface. Knead gently adding as little flour as possible to keep the dough from sticking to your kneading surface and your fingers.

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Knead, keeping the outer skin of the dough as smooth as possible, until you feel less resistance in the dough and it starts to feel silky when you push it away. Once you reach this point, stop and pull off a strawberry sized hunk of dough. Flour it and gently begin to stretch it in all directions to see if you can stretch it thin enough to see light through the fibers of the dough without it tearing. If it tears easily, then you need to knead some more. This is called the “Window Pane Test.” If it stretches thin enough and doesn’t tear, and you can see light through then you know you have kneaded enough.

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Now, oil your mixing bowl and return your dough to the bowl, cover with a damp dish towel, and let it rise. You know it has finished rising when you can poke two fingers into the dough about 1/2″ and the indentations stay. Once it has risen to this point, you are ready to throw and shape your loaves.

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This is also a good time to liberally butter your loaf pan.

Remove your dough from the bowl and gently roll and shape it into a rough log shape. On a sturdy surface, throw your dough down on the table to remove any air bubbles. Really slam it down hard. You should hear a good hard slapping sound when it hits the table top. Do this 5-7 times. Then reshape your dough into a log shape just slightly shorter than your loaf pan.

These are my loaves after shaping.

Cover the loaf with a damp dish towel and let it rise until it reaches the tops of your loaf pan. The loaves below are finished rising and ready to go in the oven.

Put the loaves into a pre-heated oven at 400 degrees. Cook for 25-30 minutes until browned well on top. They should also be browned well on the inside of the pan. Another test to be sure that they are finished cooking is to remove them from the pan and thump the center of the bottom of the loaf. It should sound hollow. These loaves are cooked nicely.

Remove from the pans to cool immediately after removing from the oven.

Let the loaves cool completely before slicing with a serrated knife.

Enjoy with butter and your favorite jam.

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