How to make real bread
Why I started making bread at home
Scent of fresh bread in the kitchen is so gratifying!
We moved to Finland a few years ago and soon learnt that it is difficult to find decent bread here.
Quite quickly we became bored with plastic wrapped pre-sliced loafs that took a very, very long time to get mold on them.
It is almost unbelievable how many preservatives and aroma enhancers can be fitted into a loaf of bread!
As we had already started paying attention to the quality of the vegetables and the meat we were eating, I decided it was time to start making our own bread.
Trial and error
my loafs did not look quite like that at the beginning
Let's just say that it can happen even to the best of us - I had not been baking anything since I was a young girl.
In my defense I could say that I spent most of the non-baking years in cities where it was easy to nip out to a bakery for wonderful artisanal bread at low cost and there was no need to spend time at home making bread.
But, there I was, in my first own kitchen. Deciding that I was able to bake again.
To cut the long story short, it took me too many disappointing recipes and errors that I don't even care to remember, to come to the point where I would like to share a simple recipe for a simple home made bread with you.
A few words about dough
be patient, give it time
I have learnt that if I let the dough to rise twice, the bread does not end up looking like a sad, dry pancake.
Also I have discovered, that different types of flour require different quantities of liquid in the dough. And that these differences can be quite small, but significant to the end result.
It is important for me to use natural baker's yeast as an ingredient, as one of the reasons for making our own bread is to get rid of any additives and preservatives. With the natural yeast I have learnt not to rush the process either. It does take some time for the chemistry of the few natural ingredients that go in to produce a nice loaf of bread to react.
I can't stress enough that if you haven't baked bread before, it also takes time to learn to feel the dough. And that less indeed is more, even in making bread. If you are not absolutely certain that you do need more flour in the dough mixture, don't add it. You can't take it away later, but you can always add more, even after the first rise.
So, be patient, give it time and it will work out!
First rise of the dough
my recipe for simple home made bread
2 1/2 dl of water
12 grams of fresh baker's yeast
1/4 tsp of organic brow sugar
approx 4 dl of flour
1/2 tsp of oil (I use olive oil)
small pinch of salt
For a family of three I find it sufficient to make one small loaf at the time.
Even in a good breadbox home made bread does not keep fresh more than a few days.
If you wish to make two loafs on one go, just double the measurements above.
Second rise in a bread basket
my simple bread recipe step by step
for fresh home made bread
In a large bowl I start with 1 dl of water, approx. 42Â°C / 110Â°F to wake 12 grams of baker's yeast (what is baker's yeast? see below)
I then add 1/4 tsp of organic brown sugar, to give the yeast a small feed, mix these all well together.
- I have learnt that adding a little sweetness at this point is the most beneficial for the whole process, as it activates the yeast to make it work quicker.
- If I am not sure that my fresh baker's yeast is still alive (coming to the end of shelf-life or looking dry), I wait for approx 15 minutes, until there is some froth on top of the liquid, to indicate that the yeast is ready to go. If no froth appears there is no use to proceed and I need to get new yeast.
When I am quite certain that the yeast is good I proceed in pouring 1 1/2 dl of warm water, 1/2 tsp of olive oil and a small pinch of salt to the mixture and stir in well.
Then I sift in 2dl of flour and mix it all well together. Now the mixture looks and feels like watery porridge.
- Depending on how much time I have to get the bread ready, I leave the mixture to rest and to expand at this point, for about half an hour. I also do this when I am using a type/brand of flour that I have not used previously, as flour does behave differently, depending on the origin, grinding, type .. and giving the flour enough time at this point to react with the liquid and to expand, this gives me a good indication of how much more flour I need to add, in order to make the bread light and airy - if too much flour is added the bread becomes heavy and hard. If I am in a hurry, I just take the chance and
Sift approx 2dl more flour in directly. Then it is the time for kneading! With a small dough like this, I usually kneed for five minutes, return the dough into the mixing bowl, sprinkle a little flour on top and cover the bowl with a tea towel.
Now it is time for the 1st rise. I usually let the dough to rise at this stage for one hour, but if I'm in a hurry, half an hour is ok.
- During the Winter I usually rise the dough in the oven at low temperature: 30Â°C / 85Â°F. By doing this I also make sure that there are no cold drafts spoiling the rising process. (We live in an old wooden house ..)
After an hour the dough should have at least doubled in size. I gently punch the dough down and remove it from the bowl.
- If the dough is very sticky and all the flour I sprinkled on the top earlier has soaked in, I sprinkle the dough with a pinch of flour and work it in before removing from the bowl.
Now it is time for the second rise. I usually make a loaf and rise it in a bread basket, lined with a tea towel sprinkled with flour. Sometimes I divide the dough in 12 parts and make bread rolls.
I carry out the second rise similarly to the 1st rise, although it can sometimes take a bit shorter. For the second rise I do not cover the dough with a tea towel, just sprinkle it with a little flour.
When risen, I gently remove the loaf from the basket onto a baking tray sprinkled with flour.
Heat the oven to 225Â°C / 435Â°F and bake for 8-10 minutes.
- If I am making a white loaf I usually check the colour of the crust after eight minutes. If the crust is getting brown, I the gently lift the hot loaf and carefully tap on the bottom. If it sounds hollow, the bread is ready. If not I return it to the oven for a few minutes more. If I am making whole bran bread or if I have used rye flour as part of the dough I check the baking after ten minutes.
The scent of fresh bread is one of the most gratifying smells in the kitchen! Enjoy!
Fresh home made loaf of bread
Bread and Honey
Try the fresh bread with some butter and honey.
This works miracles anytime - for breakfast or lunch or as a late snack!
If the bread has already been made a couple of days ago and you don't have a breadbox, try placing it in warm oven with butter and honey on top for a couple of minutes. It's almost as good as when it was fresh.
But with a good breadbox you can keep this bread fresh for a couple of days more!