How to Make Gmo-Free, Hearty, Amish Artisan Bread, Step-by-Step
Is Amish Bread Better For You?
Imagine vast stretches of farm land with mature wheat growing in neat rows covering gently rolling hills. "Amber waves of grain." Imagine how it must have felt to have the warm sunshine on your face and the wind at your back as you planted, then lovingly tended these fields. That's how fresh Amish bread made from golden wheat feels, smells, and tastes.
In the hustle and bustle of our busy lives, we hardly give a second thought to the fact that our food had to be grown somewhere, with the exception of a growing awareness that our food supply is infested with GMO laden foods.
I have found an abundant supply of non-GMO foodstuffs at my local Amish grocery store, and you probably can too. Not sure whether there is one near you? You can ask around or even check the internet to find out. Some Amish do list their stores on the internet. Even if you had to drive an hour to get to one, it would be well worth it.
In this tutorial, you'll learn to make Amish artisan bread, and at the end of the article, you'll find the recipe. Making this bread takes time so set aside a half day for it. Plan to slow down and really appreciate your food and get in touch with a simpler lifestyle.
The feel of the dough, the smell of the wheat, and the heavenly scent that will fill your house as the bread bakes is enough to melt your cares away. Not to mention the fact that you will have an abundance of delicious bread and you'll KNOW where it came from and what is in it!
I will walk you through every step of the process, and have even made a few videos to help out. Set aside at least a half a day, roll up your sleeves, put on some good jazz and get ready to live!
- 2 cups Water, (tepid)
- 3 Tablespoons Yeast, (fast-acting)
- 1/2 cup Honey, (wildflower)
- 1/2 cup Molasses, Black Strap
- 1 Tablespoon Sea Salt
- 1/2 cup Olive Oil, (extra light)
- 1 cup Organic Milk, (slightly warm)
- 4 Tablespoons organic butter, (melted)
- 4 cups Golden Wheat Flour, GMO-free
- 5 Cups Unbleached Flour, GMO free
- 2 egg yolks, (no white)
How to Tell if Water is Warm Enough for Making Bread
When Is Water Warm Enough for Yeast?
Since this is a yeast bread, the first thing you need to understand is that yeast is a living organism. When you buy it, it should have been kept in a cool place. Too much heat kills yeast. If you kill your yeast, your bread won't rise and you might as well just make really thick tortillas.
Some recipes I have used in the past called for boiling water or milk and measuring the temperature with a thermometer. I don't think that is necessary. As you will see in the photo above, I am running the water on my hand. But not just on my hand, on my pinkey finger. You could also use the inside of your elbow, but that is a little awkward.
You want your water to be tepid, or just warm enough to tell that it is warm. If you like, you could think of it as just warm enough for a baby's bath. Your body temperature, normally, is around 98 degrees, so you barely want it warmer than that.
In this recipe, you are going to pour one cup of tepid water into a large plastic mixing bowl, then sprinkle 3 Tablespoons of yeast over it and mix with a wooden spoon. A few other ingredients will be added next.
Is Homemade Bread Less Expensive?
There are two kinds of yeast, slow and fast. The instant kind is what we will use, and I buy mine in bulk at my Amish grocery store. It is relatively inexpensive, considering you will only use 3 tablespoons of it to make 4 loaves of bread. Think about that for a minute. You pay around $4 to $6 for a good loaf of bread at the deli, and here you are making your own bread for a fraction of the cost. If you do the math, in the end, you can make your own bread for less than $2 a loaf!
How to Tell if the Yeast is Working
Honey is a Good Sweetener for Homemade Bread
How to Make Homemade Bread Taste Better
When you are making your homemade Amish bread, you will want to sweeten it just a little. Adding wholesome ingredients makes your bread even better. I use GMO-Free, fresh, local products. My honey comes from a roadside stand and is raw. The molasses came from the Amish grocery store and Sea Salt, which is a much healthier alternative, can be easily obtained.
I like my bread to be slightly salty and slightly sweet. Who wants boring bread? In this recipe, I use 1/2 cup of honey, 1/2 cup of black strap molasses, and 1 Tablespoon of sea salt.
Add these ingredients to the water and yeast in the large bowl, mix it up and let it sit for a few minutes. It will smell wonderful!
Your yeast is still alive and well, and your bread will rise nicely. See the photos below for an example of what it should look like.
Why Add Oil to Homemade Amish Bread?
An important next step is to add oil. Adding oil to your bread will help make it moist. You do not want dry, crumbly bread. I use 1/2 cup of oil in this recipe.
I use extra light-tasting, GMO-free olive oil. You could use almost any cooking oil, I just think olive oil is better for you.
In the next step, you are also going to add milk and melted butter. This will also help make the bread moist, and the butter will add a little richness to the flavor.
Melted Butter in Homemade Bread
Adding Oil Makes Homemade Bread Moist
Add Butter and Milk to Homemade Amish Bread
I add milk and melted butter because it makes the bread moist and adds flavor. I use organic milk and Amish roll butter. Heat the milk and butter over a medium heat until the butter is melted. Heating milk adds flavor to it.
Use 2 Tablespoons of butter.
Once the butter is melted, 2 cups of tepid water. This cools the milk and butter down, so the heat won't kill the yeast when we add it to the yeast mixture in our mixing bowl. Be sure to test it with your pinky finger.
Not pictured, I add 2 egg yolks for moist bread. You will want to use fresh eggs, from a local farm if you can get them. If not, you can get the cage free eggs that are certified humane. Separate the egg yolks and discard the whites. Mix the egg yolks in to the batter.
Golden Wheat Flour, Freshly Ground
Add Golden Wheat Flour to Homemade Bread
Get Freshly Ground Flour for Homemade Bread
Amish Golden Wheat flour is a beautiful thing. I get it at my local Amish grocery store, Dutch Country Foods in Landrum, SC. I select a bag of golden wheat berries and the clerk on hand grinds it into flour before my very eyes. It doesn't get much fresher than that!
This kind of flour is more coarse than the flour you are used to, but that is fine. As it is being ground, the smell of it is amazing, and when you get the bag, it is warm. This is not necessarily a good thing, because this kind of flour can get rancid. So you want to take it home and refrigerate it as soon as possible. I keep my bags of fresh flour in the refrigerator at all times, unless I am using them.
I do take the bag of flour out of the fridge and let it sit on the counter for an hour or two before making the bread. This helps the yeast out, because yeast needs warmth to grow.
As you will see from the photo, the flour only cost a little over $3 for three and a half pounds. Half the bag makes four loaves. Here we are talking about money again, but think about that for a minute. How much have we really spent so far for our ingredients? Not much, I'd say, especially considering what you are getting for your money.
Adding Flour to Make Homemade Bread
When you have all the liquids, sweeteners, and salt mixed with the yeast, you are ready to start adding the flour. I add the golden wheat flour first, one cup at a time. The dough will begin to get thicker and thicker, until it resembles oatmeal, as you will see in the photo below.
In this recipe, I use 4 cups of the Golden Wheat flour. if you wanted, you could make the whole recipe with it, but I add some regular, GMO free, unbleached flour because it makes the bread lighter.
Amish Bread Dough Will Resemble Oatmeal at First
How to Knead Homemade Amish Bread - Making Bread is Fun!
Now comes the fun part! It is time to add the unbleached, GMO-free flour and get started with kneading. I will not lie to you, it is work. But it is well worth it!
You will definitely have to put yourself into this, but the smell is unbelievably good and just think about the good it will do your arms and hands. Once you get into a rhythm with it, it is fun!
I add the flour one cup at a time, mixing with my hands and ending with kneading. To knead bread, you pull a hunk up from the bottom, on the outside, fold it over and push down into the middle. As you will see, there will be flour in the middle that is not mixed in. This is what you are working on. You want the dough to be completely mixed, inside and out. As you are adding the flour, the dough will get to a consistency where it is still soft enough to knead easily but is just a little sticky. Remember, you are adding the flour one cup at a time. You can stop when the dough gets to the right consistency. Sometimes it varies. You may need all 5, or you may only need 3 cups of the unbleached flour.
In the videos below, you will see how I did it, and get some ideas. There is no "right" way, what matters is that the flour gets completely worked in, and the dough is the right consistency. You don't want to end up with a pocket of flour in the middle of your bread! You also don't want it to be too heavy, hard and dry. I find that by doing it gradually, I enjoy it and get good results.
As you will see in the video, in the first step, the dough is pretty sticky. It will be that way in the beginning. Just keep pushing it from the outside down and up through the middle. We had a little fun with this. In the second video, you will see a little more kneading.
How to Knead Homemade Bread Part 2
In the video below, I finish adding all the flour. As I was kneading away, pockets of flour were still coming up from the middle. This is why it is so important to keep kneading for at least five minutes.
My husband, you will notice, really loves this homemade bread and is very excited about the whole process!
How to Knead GMO-free, Amish Artisan Bread Part 2
Getting Your Hands Messy Making Homemade Bread
How to Knead Bread Dough Part 3
Finally, in the third video, you will see how I finished out the kneading process. To knead, you take the outside, fold it up and into the middle, then press down with the heel of your hand. Keep trying and you will have it! Watch and see how it is done.
How to Knead, part 3
How to Knead Homemade Bread part 1
Coat Homemade Bread Dough With Oil Before Rising
This part of the process is just as important as the rest. Coating the dough with oil will keep it good and soft all over. Be generous with the oil. If you don't give it a good coating of oil, a skin may form on the outside of the dough. When you knead after punching down the dough, chunks of that skin will make lumps in the bread. You don't want that. Below is a video showing how to coat the dough thoroughly. Roll it all around and cover all sides.
Greasing the Dough Before Rising
How Long Does Homemade Bread Have to Rise?
Once you have kneaded the dough for at least five minutes, you will have built up your arm muscles. Aside from that, it will, be time to coat it with oil in a bigger bowl and let it rise. When it is rising, the bowl needs to be covered loosely with plastic wrap.
In this step, I form the dough into a ball. It is soft and mostly smooth, holds together well and is slightly sticky. I take a much larger bowl and pour in olive oil, then turn the ball until it is all coated very well. The plastic wrap needs to completely cover the bowl, so I use two pieces. It is put on very loosely, because the dough will grow to two or three times its current size. You have to cover the dough with something that will keep the moisture in, which will also help to prevent a skin from forming on the outside of the dough.
Then comes the relaxation period. As you will see from the photos, I waited a full three hours. I took a picture each hour so you could see what the dough looked like.This part of the process is very important. The yeast will do its job while you listen to music, go out for coffee, clean up the kitchen or, as I did, work on editing photos for a hub. Whatever floats your boat!
In the third hour, as you will see in the photos, it doesn't look like it did much, but the action of the yeast is ongoing, and that is what gives the bread a nice, soft consistency later on.
Bread Dough Rising
Homemade Bread is Fun! Punch down the Dough
If you thought kneading was fun, you will really love this step. Once the dough has risen, and is really soft and fluffy, it is time to "punch" it down. Don't jar the bowl, because you'll spoil all the fun. Simply ball up your fist and push it down into the middle. The whole mass will slowly deflate. So much fun!
Once you have punched it down, you want to knead for just a minute or two, to get all the bubbles out. You will notice that the dough goes from being super-soft to being almost rubbery, like gum you have blown bubbles with for too long.
Simply form the dough back into a ball, set it in the bowl, cover it closely with the plastic wrap and let it rest for 5-10 minutes. While it is resting, you can prepare your pans because after this, you will form the loaves.
How to Form Homemade Bread Loaves
After the dough has rested and you have prepared your pans by coating them generously with olive oil, it is time to form your loaves. This recipe makes four loaves. Or, you can get creative, as I did and make 2 loaves, an "Italian" loaf and some rolls.
First, cut the dough into four even pieces. After that, you are simply making the shapes you need, like you did as a child with playdough. The important thing is not to leave pockets for air. You don't want big air bubbles in your loaf.
When you are forming your loaves, squish the dough really good first and you will hear the bubbles popping. Use your fingers to smooth and pinch the dough together where needed.
For the "Italian" loaf, I simply made the dough longer and placed it on a cookie pan. My hope with the rolls was to make something that would be good for a sandwich, but it didn't exactly turn out that way. I would have been better off to make flat circles and place them on a cookie pan. But the rolls were good anyhow.
I included a video, below, to help you get and idea of how it is done. One quick note, though, I forgot to score the loaves, so I went back afterwards and made another video to show you how to do that. Scoring the loaves not only makes them look nice, it lets out excess air so you don't wind up with a big hole under the crust.
Homemade Bread - How to Form the Loaves
How to make Homemade Bread - Final Rise
Homemade Bread - Let Loaves Rise Before Baking
You thought that was it, didn't you? Patience is a virtue, my friend. Let the dough rise one more time while the loaves are in the pan. This time, only for 30 minutes. The dough needs this final rise to get nice and soft and so that you will get a large loaf. Cover the scored loaves loosely with plastic wrap and set a timer. You don't want to let the loaves rise too much, so keep it to the 30 minutes.
You can also preheat your oven while you are waiting. The oven will need to be set at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Once the bread has risen for thirty minutes, you can place it in the oven. Handle it gently, so as not to deflate the loaves.
The baking itself will only take 40-45 minutes, so you haven't got far to go. Be sure to have some fresh butter and homemade jam handy!
Freshly Baked Homemade Bread
How to Bake Homemade Bread
Make sure your oven is set at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. You want your bread to bake all the way through. It will get nice and brown in about 40-45 minutes. You will want to check it at 35 minutes, just in case your oven heats unevenly.
It is done when you can tap on it and it sounds sort of hollow. The rolls don't take as long, so take them out after 20 minutes.
In this baking, my crescent rolls stuck to the side of my "Italian" loaf. I didn't want to deflate the loaf, so I just let them go. They were still good.
After the bread is baked, you definitely want to eat some while it is warm. What a scrumptious reward for all your hard work!
Don't get hasty about slicing the bread, though. Let it cool by placing the loaves on their sides on the table, or placing the loaves on a wire rack, so the bottoms don't get soggy. After about 15 minutes, place them in the refrigerator for about two hours.
If you try to slice it when it is warm, you can easily smash the bread and you don't want that. You can slice off an end, and eat that while it is warm, but then put the rest into the fridge.
Slice the bread after it is cold. Take it out of the fridge and use a serrated knife. Don't mash down on the loaf, let the serrated edge of the knife do its work, and use and a sawing motion to gently slice your bread. You can make your slices as thin or as thick as you like. You may want to get a bread slicing guide to get more even slices.
Once the bread is cold, put the loaves, sliced or not, into ziploc bags. Do not store on a warm counter top, because the bread will get moldy quickly. You can refrigerate or freeze them and take them out as needed.
Crusty Outside, Soft Inside - Homemade Bread
Best Homemade Bread Slicing Guide
This guide is the best out there, beating the bamboo models hands down. It is easy to use because the foldable sides are spring loaded, so you just pop them up and click them into place. You can cut three different sizes and won't get splinters like you do with the bamboo models, plus the sides won't jiggle all over. The end guide is a little flimsy but it isn't meant to be pushed on too hard, it is just a guide. This product will hold a loaf up to 6 inches wide, so it is great for the loaves in this recipe. Smaller loaves are a little harder to cut with this. Also, it is a little over 7 inches wide when assembled, so you really need a very long knife, with about a 10 or 11 inch blade. It is not perfect, but it is the best out there for this type of product and will last a long time.
Instructions In a Nutshell
- In a large plastic bowl, mix 1 cup of the tepid water with the yeast, then add 1/2 cup of the unbleached flour. Stir well. Let this sit a few minutes until it gets foamy.
- Melt the butter in the pan with the milk. Cool the milk and butter with the remaining water, then add it to the mixing bowl. IMPORTANT: before adding the warm milk mixture, make sure it is not too hot by swirling your pinky finger in it. You should not feel like your finger is burning. At this step, also add your molasses, honey, sea salt, and egg yolks.
- Add the unbleached flour one cup at a time, mixing after each addition. Then add the golden wheat flour, one cup at a time. Use your discretion when adding the last few cups of flour. Your dough should hold together nicely and be relatively smooth, but not dry. In fact you want it just a tiny bit sticky. Start out mixing with a wooden spoon and end up by kneading the dough for 5 minutes.
- Use oil to coat the dough in a larger bowl, then cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise for a full 3 hours.
- Punch down the dough, knead 3 minutes, and form your loaves, rolls etc. Put them in greased pans, cover with plastic wrap and let rise for about 30 minutes.
- Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 25 - 30 minutes. Cool by laying the loaf on its side or sitting it on a cooling rack.
- After 15 minutes, place the loaves in the refrigerator and let them get cold. About 2 hours is good. Then it will be easier to slice them. Place loaves, sliced or not, into plastic bags and store in the refrigerator or freezer.