Posts Tagged ‘baking’

Making Italian Bread

It’s been a while since I posted any cooking ventures, so I thought that I would share a recipe for homemade Italian bread.  Bread making is easy as long as you follow the directions.   In most of my bread-making, I use All-Purpose flour and/or wheat flour.  For this recipe, I use bread flour.  Bread flour has a higher protein content than other flours, which is useful in bread-making because it creates longer and strong chains of gluten.  High gluten content helps to make bread that is airy and light.  Bread flour is bad for baking because it can make baked goods that are chewy and dense.  

Italian Bread

1 cup of hot water (between 100-110 degrees)
1 tablespoon of yeast (or 1 package of yeast)
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
3 cups bread flour
1 tbsp butter, melted

Add the yeast to the hot water and let it sit for 5 minutes until foamy. Most hot water heaters are set to 120 degrees, so just letting your faucet heat up is sufficient for getting the correct temperature of water. Water that is too hot will kill the yeast. Too cool water will not trigger any yeast growth. Mix together remaining ingredients (except butter) and add yeast mixture when it is ready.

Once mixed turn on to a floured surface and begin kneading. Knead dough for about 10 minutes. The kneading process is what builds the gluten strands. If you cheat and knead for less time, your bread will be dense.

Once you’re finished kneading, you should have a ball of smooth dough. Put into an oiled bowl and cover with a damp cloth. Let the dough rise in a warm place for about 45 minutes or until doubled in size.

After it has doubled, punch down the dough and turn it on to a floured surface. Cover the dough ball with the bowl and let it rest of 15 minutes. Then shape the dough ball into a 12″ baguette shape. Cover with a damp cloth and let it rise in a warm place for 45 minutes.

After it has doubled in size again, melt 1 tbsp of butter and brush it on top of the loaf. Bake it for 20-25 minutes at 375 degrees until bread seems hollow when tapped.

My bread could have used a little more flour to hold its shape. When it rose the last time, it seemed to spread out rather than get higher.  Regardless, it was still light and flavorful and enjoyed by everyone in my family.  Bread making is interesting because the same recipe can turn out differently from one attempt to the next.  The most important thing to remember is to knead, knead, and knead your dough.  The first couple of times of kneading for 10 minutes can seem like forever, but it is crucial to make light and airy breads. Enjoy!

Breaking Bread – A Pictorial

Last night, I made a loaf a bread and decided to photograph the process.  Check out the recipe here.

Here is the dough ball after the kneading process.

That dough ball has been rising for 1 1/2 hours.  It definitely doubled in size.

All that dough has been shaped into a loaf.

That loaf has risen for45 minutes.

Check out that bread after it has baked for 1/2 hour.

Ready to eat!

Breaking Bread

Several months ago, Steve made homemade soft pretzels. They are so delicious. Everyone who has tried one agrees with me. He made the dough, let it rise, shaped it into pretzels and baked them. That got me thinking. If he can make homemade pretzels, why can’t we make homemade bread? The next day, I made my first attempt.

I followed a recipe to make wheat bread. The recipe claims that it makes 2 loaves of bread, so I followed the instructions and divided the risen dough and made 2 loaves. It did make 2 loaves, but they were very short loaves, not at all usable for sandwich bread. Over the last couple of months, I have tried different recipes and different permutations of the same recipe. Recently, I didn’t have time to make any bread, so we just picked up a loaf from the grocery store. Steve asked why my bread doesn’t come out as soft as the store-bought kind.

He was right. My bread is chewier, so I did a little research and had an aha! moment. My recipe calls for all-purpose flour and wheat flour. I’ve been substituting bread flour for the all-purpose flour for a long time, assuming that by using bread flour, I will actually produce bread that is more “bread-like”. Google has taught me that bread flour has a higher gluten level than all-purpose flour and the end result is a chewier texture. That’s why bread flour isn’t used to make cakes and other baked goods. This weekend, I used all-purpose flour and the result was soft wheat bread. I did use a good quality all-purpose flour (King Arthur), which I would recommend for all baking.

Below is the recipe. Don’t be intimidated. It is actually very easy and the resulting product is fresh bread without preservatives. Homemade bread also has a much longer shelf-life than store-bought bread. Translation – it takes a good 3 weeks before the mold starts.

Wheat Bread

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp yeast
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup shortening or butter
1 ¼ tsp salt
1 ¾ cup warm (120 degree) water
2 cups wheat flour

1. Using a mixer, stir together 2 cups of the all-purpose flour and yeast.
2. Combine brown sugar, shortening, and salt in the warm water. Add to flour and yeast mixture and mix on high-speed for 30 seconds constantly scraping down sides of bowl. Mix on medium speed for 3 minutes.
3. Add 2 cups wheat flour and stir into mixture.
4. Add additional just under 1 cup of all-purpose flour. Your mixer may not be able to integrate this last cup of flour into the mixture. You can incorporate it into the dough during the kneading process.
5. Knead dough until smooth and elastic (approximately 8 minutes). I knead by hand. My mixer just can’t handle kneading dough. If yours can, you may need to shorten the kneading time.
6. Make into a dough ball and put into a greased bowl, cover, and let rise in a warm place (top of the fridge works for me) for an 1 ½ hours.
7. Punch dough down. Take ¾ of the dough. Roll out into a rectangle. Roll up like a log and pinch ends and seam closed. Put into a greased loaf pan and cover. Do the same for the smaller dough portion.
8. Let loaves rise for 45 minutes, then bake at 375 degrees uncovered for ~25 minutes (or until golden brown and hollow-sounding when you tap the top).
9. Remove from pans and cool on a wire rack, then store in an air tight container.
(To give credit where credit is due, this recipe originates from the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook.)

You may be asking, “What do I do with the smaller loaf?” I use it to make croutons. We eat salads most nights, and homemade croutons are a great addition. Cube the smaller loaf. Toss with oil and any seasoning combination that sounds appealing (I use garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and parmesan cheese). Spread cubes on a cookie sheet and bake at 400 degrees for about 10-15 minutes. You can also cube it and feed it to the ducks. 🙂