How to Make Home Made Bread From Scratch
Prairie Gold Hard White Wheat Berries
Prairie Gold Hard White Wheat Berries
Let Us Bake Bread!
The advantages to making your own bread from scratch are many and varied. For starters, bread made at home has no preservatives, unlike store bought bread. It is fresh, soft, delicious, and fills the house while it's cooking with that wonderful "baking bread" aroma. The cook has control over the ingredients, fiber content, salt, etc. Home baked bread slices and stores well, and can be frozen. This recipe uses freshly ground wheat berries, which provides the beneficial wheat bran and germ, but without the time lapse in processing that leads to rancidity. The flavor is incomparable. These particular wheat berries are hard white wheat berries, which are slightly larger than their red sisters. They create a light and fluffy flour that produces baked goods of exceptional texture.
If you don't have access to wheat berries or a grain mill, fear not, this is a most forgiving recipe and you may simply substitute all purpose white or bread flour and you will still achieve good results.
This is my own recipe, refined over twenty-odd years of bread baking. You are welcome to share it with others as you see fit!
- 3 Tablespoons dry bulk yeast
- 1 cup warm water (105-115 degrees Fahrenheit)
- 1 Tablespoon (or so) honey or brown sugar
- 8 cups freshly ground wheat berries (I sometimes mix half freshly ground flour with half all purpose or bread flour for a slightly lighter bread)
- 3/4 cup honey or brown sugar
- 1 heaping teaspoon salt
- 3 cups warm milk (or water ... if using milk from the refrigerator, I warm it first in the microwave until it is warm to the touch)
- 3-6 Tablespoons of light olive or coconut oil ( it doesn't really seem to matter how much, I just pour some in)
- 3 eggs, room temperature (warm in hot tap water for a few minutes before using if cold from the refrigerator)
- 3/4 cup wheat germ (optional)
- 2-3 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar (this is an Amish technique which adds lightness to the bread's texture. The vinegar cannot be tasted in the finished product.)
You will also need:
- Several cups of additional flour
- Stick of butter
Proof the Yeast
To begin, put the yeast, cup of warm water and tablespoon of honey or brown sugar into a mixer or large bowl. Mix vigorously for about thirty seconds. Allow to sit until it is foamy, bubbly and doubled in size – around ten minutes.
Buy Yeast in Bulk
If you bake often using yeast, consider buying it in bulk. Many years ago I calculated that the cost of purchasing small packets at the grocery store adds up to over $17.00 a pound! At my local warehouse store (Sam's Club), I can purchase two pounds of yeast for just over four dollars. That is a huge savings! Yeast stored in the freezer lasts virtually forever.
The bread dough rises more readily when all of the ingredients are brought to room temperature prior to mixing. The temperature of the water is important. If it is too cold, it will rise slowly or not at all, and if too hot, it will kill the yeast. If you're new to bread baking, it's a good idea to use a thermometer the first time or two, but you'll soon be able to tell with your fingers. The goal is water that is warm but not hot. If your bowl and measuring cups are colder than the water, make allowances for the fact that they will lower the water temperature by a degree or two.
Sweetener is Optional
Although it is probably a good idea to use a little honey or sugar to quicken the proofing process, sweetener in this recipe is optional for those who would prefer not to use it. I usually use honey if I have it, but if I don't, will use brown sugar, and often no sugar at all. It's entirely a personal preference and does not affect the texture of the bread.
Add the Rest of the Ingredients
I love how easy this recipe is. There are no special instructions. Once the yeast mixture is foamy, add everything else, and mix. The dough should be rather loose, not quite even a dough. Once it is well combined, begin adding the flour a cup at the time, incorporating it as you go. The goal is a soft dough, not a dry one, but not sticky, either. You should be able to pat it with your finger tips and find it tacky but not sticky. If using a mixer, it's generally just right when the dough will stick to itself and "clean" the bowl. The best bread, in terms of lightness and tenderness, is that made from the softest dough.
Freshly Ground Wheat Berry Flour
Unbleached Bread Flour
Apple Cider Vinegar
The Amazing Bosch Universal Mixer
Many people have written to ask me about my mixer. Featured here is the updated model of my mixer. I use a Bosch Universal Mixer. Mine is now almost 25 years old! A dozen years ago I purchased a Kitchen Aid type mixer to replace it if ever it gave up the ghost, but I eventually got tired of storing it, and gave it to my daughter. The Bosh Universal is an extraordinary workhorse, and has proven to be one of the best expenditures of housekeeping money that I've ever made.
Knead the Dough
Once the ingredients have been incorporated, knead by hand or with dough hooks for approximately four minutes. It's rather hard to over-knead dough by hand (you get tired first!) but it is important to not over-knead it when using a mixer and dough hooks. Over-kneaded dough makes a heavy and unattractive loaf. Properly kneaded dough is stretchy and elastic. It does not take as long to knead the dough in an electric mixer as it does when kneading by hand.
Once the dough is kneaded, use oiled hands to place it in a greased bowl, turning once so that the top of the dough is protected by a layer of oil. Cover with a warm, damp towel and allow to rise until doubled.
Cover Dough With a Damp Towel and Let Rise Until Doubled
Divide the Dough
Once the dough has doubled in size, punch down, (I beat it with my fist all around in the bowl to get as much air out as I can) and turn out onto a clean, oiled counter top. Knead by hand two or three times and shape into a round ball. Using a serrated knife, divide the dough into four equal portions. Pick them up and feel their weight. Take a little from a heavier section and add it to a lighter one if necessary to make them of approximately equal size and weight.
Shape the Dough Into Loaves
Grease four loaf pans with white vegetable shortening (works better than oil) and set aside.
Take each section of dough and knead a time or two and shape into loaves, placing into greased pans. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and allow the loaves to rise until almost doubled. They will rise a tiny bit more when in the oven, so do not allow them to over rise in the pans. Should this happen, it is better to take the dough out, knead and reshape it and let it rise again than to bake a loaf that rose too much.
Bake for 25-27 minutes. Know your oven, as each has its individual characteristics. My oven is a convection oven, and my pans are longer and narrower than many of the "fat" loaf pans. Your loaves may need to bake longer than mine.
Bread done when the loaf has a "hollow" sound when tapped on the top. If bread browns too rapidly in the oven, protect the tops with a sheet of tin foil.
Brush Loaves With Butter
Cool, Brush with Butter, and Enjoy!
When your loaves are ready, remove them from the oven and from their pans (use oven mitts, they will be very hot!) and place on wire racks on the counter to cool. Brush each loaf with melted butter, which will keep them soft and prevent them from drying out. Cover with a dry dish towel. When thoroughly cooled, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, foil, or place in bags. Do not wrap up bread that hasn't completely cooled, for it will "sweat."
Congratulations! You have just made four of the most wonderful loaves of bread ever to grace a kitchen ... from scratch. You may never buy store bought bread again!