This little nip of fall in the air puts me in the mood for baking. One of the great things about starting school this coming week is that homemade bread is part of our daily school routine. We made some bread the other day, and subsequently realized how much we had missed it over the summer.One of the unavoidable little details about raising a family is that they all must be fed. Regularly. So although my skills in the food department are fairly moderate, I do have some years of experience with
1. feeding a lot of people
2. recipes that can be prepared in short amounts of time and with lots of distractions, and
3. making food that (hopefully) pleases the palettes of everyone from the toddlers to the teens to the man in charge.
With that as a backdrop, I am starting a new category here on the blog called “Feeding the Clan.”
When it comes to feeding the clan, bread seems like a good place to start. Homemade bread sounds intimidating, but honestly, once you are set up for it, it’s pretty easy to incorporate into your daily routine. All the pictures below might make it seem like a long process, but it is actually done very quickly and easily when using the modern technology of a bread machine. Probably a total of about 10 minutes of actual labor are involved in this process. For such a small time investment, fresh bread offers so many pluses– it’s yummy, it fills up tummies, it makes the house smell delicious, and it makes any ordinary meal seem a little bit special.
We try to make bread during most regular school days, as I mentioned. One of the older children starts the dough in the morning, and then I make sure it gets put in the pans and eventually baked.
First, here is the recipe we have used for years.
Homemade White Bread
2 1/4 cups warm water
6 3/8 cups bread flour
4 1/2 Tablespoons sugar
3 Tablespoons dry milk powder
2 1/4 teaspoons salt
3 Tablespoons butter (or vegetable oil)
3-4 teaspoons active dry yeast (when the weather is chilly, the bread will rise better with more yeast)
Put all ingredients in the bread machine, in the order given. Run the bread machine on the dough cycle. Shape dough into three loaves. Place in pans and let rise until doubled in size. Bake in the oven, at 350 degrees, for 30 minutes.
Second, I should really give a shoutout to my dear mom, for learning all about the art of bread making and then passing it down to me. It’s so great when someone already has it figured out and all you have to do is ask. I asked, over ten years ago now, and here we are today, still benefiting from her expertise.
For those who would like to try making bread, or even just learn more about it, I am sharing our process, along with lots of pictures.
We keep our recipe posted on the back of a cabinet door, because we use it so often. We usually make the same basic white bread recipe. It makes three loaves of bread. Every now and then we make a different recipe (yeast rolls) instead.
We use this Zojirushi bread machine, just to make the dough. We don’t use it to actually bake the bread. This machine has been faithfully trucking along for about 10 years now.To start with, we take the pan out of the machine, and fill it with the ingredients. First comes the water, making sure it is nice and warm/a little bit hot, but not too hot. (If it is too hot, it could kill the yeast.)
Then the other ingredients get added in order, ending with the yeast nestled in the middle. (Be sure to use bread flour, not all purpose flour. Also, active dry yeast is not the same thing as instant yeast. Be sure to use active dry yeast for this recipe.)
At this point, we snap the pan back into the machine and set the machine for the basic dough setting, which will take exactly 1 hour and 28 minutes to complete.Because this is about the max amount of flour that the machine can handle, we help the dough begin to mix by running this case knife around the edges.After a few seconds of helping the dough get started, I am free to go tend to the myriad of people and other things clambering for my attention. I don’t need to come back for at least an hour and twenty minutes. While I am gone, here is what is happening to the lovely bread dough.
At some point, I have to get three bread pans ready, by placing them on the counter and spraying them with non-stick cooking spray. As you can see, my dough had risen really high by this point!Now I remove the soft and supple dough from the machine, divide it into three parts, and form it into three loaves. I form my loaves by shaping the dough into a log, and sort of “tucking” the sides underneath, to form a smooth top for the loaf.Next, I lay the dough in the pans. Again, I am on my merry way! And again, the dough is happily doing its thing in my absence.
When the dough looks ready for the oven (about doubled in size), I set my oven for 350 degrees, and then insert the loaves into the preheated oven.
And…. 30 minutes later… voila! The bread needs to cool down somewhat before it can be sliced. Homemade bread keeps pretty well in the cabinet for about two days. After that, it makes really good toast or french toast. That is, if there is any left by that point!♥