I make most of the bread for the household, mostly because it has saved us money and because I enjoy doing it. You can use whole wheat flour or white, I usually make four white and four whole wheat loaves every week, they freeze well and can be made ahead of time. Fresh, homemade everyday bread is AWESOME. We love it warm with butter and strawberry jam, it makes amazing grilled cheese sandwiches and toast too!
If you’ve never made bread before
It can be intimidating to bake bread for the first time. The main thing you have to have when baking a good loaf of homemade bread is patience! Following the recipe carefully, letting the yeast activate fully is important, and waiting for a good rise are the most important steps in my opinion. And wrapping it after baking is super important to achieve a nice soft loaf.
Once you get the hang of a recipe, you’ll start to notice things like the consistency of the dough as your mixing it and you’ll know by the softness and appearance whether or not it’ll result in good bread. For me, once I mastered one recipe, I was able to go on to be able to make just about any kind of bread.
When I have a bread baking day, I keep in mind that it will take me about 4 hours or so from start to finish. The bulk of that time is waiting for two rises in the dough- one right after the dough is mixed and one after my loaves are shaped. It takes at least an hour for a good rise, sometimes longer if temps are cooler, sometimes shorter if temps in the house are warmer.
3 main stages of bread making
There are 3 main stages that happen before baking your loaves:
- Making the dough- this includes a short wait time for your yeast, water and sugar to activate (the mixture will become bubbly and foamy and will expand. If it doesn’t then your yeast is dead and you need fresh yeast), then mixing the rest of the ingredients and finally kneading the dough to make sure the yeast mixture is completely incorporated.
- The first rise. In an oiled, covered bowl you will let you bread dough rise till at least doubled in size. Mine usually takes about an hour at room temps, if itt’s cooler in the house, it will take longer. If it’s hotter, well, you get the picture. This is the step where most beginners get antsy and they don’t want to wait- but you must!
- Shaping and second rise. Again, after that first rise, you punch the dough down and shape your pretty loaves, put them into prepared pans and… wait. Again. Wait till those loaves rise up in the pan double their original size, usually another hour, give or take. THEN it is time to bake.
When it is time to bake
It is also important to put those loaves into a nice, hot oven so make sure your oven is preheated. I usually preheat my oven about 40 minutes into the 2nd rise to make sure it is at temperature before my loaves go in.
Time to make some bread!
While bread making is a bit scientific and seems to be complicated, once you get the hang of each step, it really is as imple, straight-forward process. Just remember– patience is the key!
The following recipe has been a standby for our family, especially during hard times. If having butter on hand is too expensive, you can even swap out the butter for vegetable oil and still have a great loaf of bread. I usually pick up butter when it goes on sale and freeze it so we always have plenty.
Homemade Everyday Bread Recipe
2 cups warm water
1 1/2 tblsp. yeast
1/3 cup sugar or honey
2 eggs at room temperature
1/2 cup butter, softened
about eight cups flour (whole wheat or white), maybe a little more
1 tblsp. salt
Directions to make your homemade, everyday bread:
1. In your electric mixer bowl (if you do not have one, you will do all the mixing and kneading by hand) place water, sugar and yeast and mix slightly.
2. Let the yeast mixture set for about ten minutes or until activated and bubbling/foaming.
3. Add 2 eggs, about 3 cups of flour, the butter & salt.
Insert dough hook, and mix on stir setting until mixed well.
4. Begin adding flour by the cup until dough begins to form a soft ball.
Increase speed and add flour by the 1/4 cup until it no longer sticks to the side. ***Note- this is where it can get tricky- you want to add enough flour where the dough is pulling away from the sides and doesn’t lose it’s form if you stop the mixture, but the dough will still be soft and have a slight ‘grab’ (but not super sticky) when you press it with your finger. You don’t want the dough to feel dry and hard.
Knead for about 5 more minutes.
5. Remove dough from bowl and form into ball and let it sit on counter for two minutes while you oil the mixing bowl, and return the dough to the bowl and cover with plastic wrap.
6. Let rise 1-3 hours till doubled in size. (Be patient for this part: a good rise=awesome bread!)
7. Take the dough out of the bowl, and divide in half or thirds (depends on the size of your loaf pans) and shape into loaves. Place the loaves into prepared bread pans. This dough also makes a great dinner roll!
8. Let rise an additional 1-2 hours (Again, BE PATIENT, it’s worth it!)
9. Preheat oven to 375 degrees, make sure to let your oven fully preheat. Bake the loaves until golden brown and hollow-sounding when tapped.
10. Remove from oven and brush tops with a little butter.
11. Remove from pans, wrap immediately in foil (This ensure a nice soft crust for easier slicing!) and transfer to cooling rack. You will be SO tempted to slice into this bread while it is HOT, it is so yummy, but much easier to slice when it has cooled to just warm. That being said, we almost ALWAYS slice into one loaf for ‘just a slice’, but if you plan on using this for sandwich bread, it is best to wait till it is cool. It will still be soft and yummy, but the inside texture firms up a bit for better slicing.
Yield- 2-3 loaves depending on pan size used.
*This recipe is also delicious as a diner roll, just shape as rolls instead of loaves and bake after they achieve a good rise.