Saturday, April 2, 2011

How to Make Bread Dough

I love baking bread. I was never really taught by anyone but myself since my mother tends to kill things with yeast in them (sorry Mom!). I just learned by doing it, reading bread baking books, and searching on the internet. Once you've gotten the hang of making bread, it's the easiest thing to do. I hate eating store bought "Wonder-bread" anymore. That's not real bread. Try this and I promise you won't be disappointed.

The most basic bread is just flour, water, salt, and yeast. This recipe adds dry milk, butter, and an egg (though I was out so I ommitted it). When you make bread, don't feel like you have to adhere to any strict recipe. Add some whole wheat flour, use less salt, add some sugar, it does not matter. Bake it in a loaf pan, free form, heck even a cast iron pan- I promise, your bread will live. Just know the technique and soon you can have homemade bread on your table.

First, gather your ingredients.

Flour, salt, powdered milk, butter, sugar, yeast, egg (not pictured), water (not pictured)

Mix together the flour salt, powdered milk, sugar, and yeast in a large sized bowl. Melt the butter and let it cool slightly. Beat the egg and add it, along with the water and butter to the flour.

Stir with a wooden spoon until mostly combined.

It's around this point where I dump everything out onto the counter and knead it to combine the rest of the way. I've seen online people asking how to knead bread. It's quite simple. As long as you're kind of pushing and pulling the dough around, it'll work. This is how I do it:

Knead the dough. It'll be quite tacky and almost sticky but try not to add a lot of flour. This will make the dough dry. Instead just keep on kneading it and the formation of gluten from kneading will make it less sticky.
You can tell when the dough has been kneaded enough when it becomes smooth and doesn't stick.

See how the top is smooth and not craggy looking?

Then, I usually take the bowl that I mixed the dough in, wash it quick, and use it to rise the dough in. Spray it with a bit of non-stick spray and plop the dough ball in and cover it with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise at room temperature or if your house is cold and drafty, warm up the oven for a few minutes, turn it off, and put the bowl on the rack. Let it rise about an hour or until it doubles. Either that or you can gently press it with a finger, it the indent stays or fills in very slowly, then it is ready.

Once the dough has risen, dump it out onto a lightly floured counter. Press it gently with your hands to deflate.

Here is where you have many options. You can shape the dough and freeze it for later. Oil a plastic baggie and plop it in there.
To make a loaf shape, pat and lightly stretch the dough into a rectangle no wider than the width of the loaf pan. Then you roll it up into a cylinder, pinching the seam. Put it into an oiled loaf pan.

Roll pretty tightly

Or, if you prefer, you can make dinner rolls or hamburger buns. Pull off a piece of dough about the size of a walnut (larger for buns) and roll into a ball. Repeat.

Once your dough is shaped, let it rise again then bake it at 350 degrees. It'll take about 30-35 minutes for a loaf, less for buns and rolls. Make sure they are nicely browned. Cool on a wire rack.

Here are the complete measurements:

4 3/4 cups white flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup powdered milk
3 1/4 Tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 egg, beaten
3 1/4 Tablespoons butter, melted then cooled
1 1/2 cups water, room temperature

Stay tuned for what I did with my dough!