I’m not a fan of New Years resolutions…probably because I’ve never actually made one! I don’t like committing to something when I’m probably not going to stick with it. I know it’s a pretty lazy philosophy to not even try…but, I have this problem where I really don’t like to fail. So, if I don’t say I will do it, then I can’t fail at it – …haha – see how my logic works? :)
But, around the beginning of last year, I made a New Year’s resolution. (Well, I didn’t technically call it that in case I didn’t stick with it). I was starting to realize all the unhealthy things that are in processed foods. I remember looking at a loaf of ‘healthy’ bread in the grocery store (Natures Made) and I couldn’t believe all the strange ingredients that were in it. Bread was something that my family ate a lot of, and the more I researched it, I found that I could make it a good deal cheaper and healthier than I could buy it.
So, I decided to start making my own bread. (And, surprise! I’ve actually been doing all year long!). I just wanted to share with you what I do because it isn’t hard. Believe me, if it took a lot of time, there’s no way I would have kept up with it! And, it is sooooo yummy! It tastes so much better than the store bought stuff!
Now, to start, I have to say that I do enjoy baking, so that probably helps. And, I have two ‘secrets’. One is using a bread machine (but not actually cooking it in the machine). I just let it do all the hard work for me. The other is that I premix the ingredients for the bread ahead of time. Saves a lot of time!
You are probably wondering about the time commitment. Making a loaf of bread probably takes me about 10 min of actually doing something. But, the whole process of starting the bread, to pulling it out of the oven, takes about 2 1/2 hours. So, the downside is that you have to actually be home during that whole time.
Here’s a quick photo glance at what I do to make bread (this isn’t a complete step-by-step guide – more of an overview!).
FIRST, I premake a bunch of bread mixes. I use gallon zip lock bags and add all the dry ingredients in my recipe to each bag. (Tip: I don’t recommend trying to count out cups of flour while you have kids running around like I did. It is practically impossible to keep track of how much flour you’ve added!).
I set up my ingredients so I’m ready for an ‘assembly line’.
Then I add each ingredient to each bag.
Next, I write the wet ingredients that will be added later when I actually make the bread, on each bag with a sharpie. And, I reuse these so I really only have to do this one time.
Then I store the bags in this super adorable box (aka ripped shoebox that I found in my closet). Sidenote: I wish I had time to cutesie up stuff like this, but then I wouldn’t actually get bread made…
When I want to make a loaf of bread, I pull out a bag and dump the contents into my bread machine pan. Then I add the wet ingredients that were written on the bag. I stick it in the bread machine, select my dough setting, and wait for it to finish. (Note – all bread machines are different. Previously I used one that took 2.5 hours for the dough cycle to finish, and I’m using one now that takes 1.5 hours). (There are a couple small thing I do at this step, like checking to see if the dough consistency is right…so, let me know if you want any tips on that).
And, here’s the dough pulled straight from the bread machine.
Next, I roll it out and put it in my loaf pan to rise. Here are a few pictures. I roll it into a rectangle shape, then fold one side in (crease seam), then fold the other side over top (and crease seam). Then I put it in a greased loaf pan, seam side down.
Then, I cover it with towel, set it in a warm place, and let it rise. Rising depends on the temperature of the room. It generally takes about 20-30 min.
After the bread has risen about 1-2 inches above the side of the pan, it’s ready to bake. Use a sharp knife and cut a couple slits in the bread (a couple inches deep).
Then bake according to your recipe. Mine cooks at 350 for 30 min. When the timer dings, stick a thermometer in the bread to check it. When it reads 180 degrees, it is done! Immediately take it out of the loaf pan and put it on a cooling rack (that is important).
And now your house will smell wonderful and if your house is like mine – your husband will be looking over your shoulder asking you if he can have some. But, this is perhaps the hard part of baking bread. You need to let it cool first! Warm bread is delish, but it is very difficult to cut a warm loaf (and you squish up the bread). But, if you do decide to dig in, just make sure it is totally cool before you store it. If you store warm bread in an air tight container, it will mold quickly!
A loaf of bread is freshest in the first day or two it is made. It doesn’t have the (yucky!) preservatives in it that store bought bread has, so it doesn’t last as long. I have a large family, so we never have a problem finishing a loaf. But, I’d say you would probably want to use it after 3-4 days.
So, there you have it! I know it sound like a lot – but if you actually count up the time I am actually doing something in all these steps, it really isn’t very much time at all.
Oh, I’ll give you my staple bread recipe. There are tons out there – and dough is so versatile you can use it to make things like whole wheat bread, raisin bread, pizza dough, cinnamon rolls etc.
Ingraham Family Oatmeal Bread
Bake @ 350 for 3o min or until 180 degrees
1 1/2 c. water
1/4 c. honey
2 T butter, softened
4 c. bread flour (occident flour)
2/3 c. quick oats
1 1/4 t. salt
2 t yeast
Add ingredients to your bread machine and select the dough cycle.