Easy Bread Dough
Included with this recipe is my Top 10 tips for all-purpose easy bread dough.
Okay for those who feel that baking bread is difficult, I am not going to tell you it isn’t, especially if you don’t have a countertop mixer. I have been on the hunt for a ‘perfect’ recipe and I think I have found one. The only downfall is that; you should have the optimal weather for that perfect loaf. Even if the weather is not perfect, it is still a wonderful tasting bread, just may be a little off shape and color.
Today’s post talks about several days of making bread, I did not add photos of all three days, the post is already long enough :).
Ok here is what I mean. One day it can be nice and sunny, and cool outside, I make the exact same recipe, using ingredients from the exact same batches of flour, honey, olive oil etc. and have the loveliest loaf of bread that is soft, pillowlike and exactly what one expects from homemade bread.
Then days like today, when it is rainy and much too cool, and the loaf turns out like, hmmm, how exactly can I explain this? YUCK! Wait, don’t get me wrong the taste is not the problem, the shape is.
Ok so here we go – (Printable version at the bottom of this post)
For a single batch:
3 Cups of All Purpose Flour (I do make a whole-wheat version I will share later)
2TSP Yeast (I keep mine in the freezer, stays active longer)
1 TSP salt (I use kosher salt, not sure if it is a difference, but give it a shot)
1 TSP honey (I use agave nectar since many people in my life are diabetic)
1 TBSP Olive Oil
1 ½ Cup warm water (not cold, not hot, but warm, this helps feed the yeast and lets the bread rise)
Mix dry ingredients in mixer, mine is called Ruby Red and she is a beautiful 8 qt. commercial mixer from Kitchen Aid, they are difficult to come by from the conventional stores, but when my 3 qt. one died, hubby got me Ruby Red.
I use the dough hook from beginning to end and ONLY knead when placing into pans. However, you do not need a stand mixer, this can be done with your hands and some elbow power. I also use this same dough for cinnamon rolls, pizza dough, and pretty much all the dough I need.
Ok, so you have your flour, salt, and yeast mixed in the bowl. Turn the mixer off and take a spoon or whisk and make sure any yeast or salt is not in the bottom in an air pocket, then add in your olive oil and honey.
Turn the mixer on and slowly start adding in the water. I usually add a little water, then walk away to start my dishwater to clean up the few dishes it takes to make this bread, then I go back and add a little more water, wipe counters down, and check on the moisture level again. I do this numerous times throughout the mixing process for two reasons. One – the moisture varies every time I make this and two – my kitchen gets straightened up at the same time.
Do not add all the water at once, start with 25% and slowly add more each time the previous batch has been mixed in. Let me tell you why. On cloudy, rainy days, the humidity is ridiculous and I generally use only 50% to 75% of the water needed in the recipe. On hot and sunny days, it will take all if not a little more to get the dough the right consistency. Just watch how much you add at one time. However, if the dough gets too watery, it’s okay to add a little more flour.
Once the moisture is good, and the dough is in a ball pulling away from the sides. I take a little more olive oil and pour down the sides of the bowl. I usually let my dough rise in the mixing bowl (fewer dishes to do), and this way when I put the olive oil on one side of the bowl, and turn the mixer on for a few seconds, the bread dough picks up the oil and spreads it around the bowl. The reason for this is to keep the rising dough from sticking to the bowl.
Then I take a towel and dampen it, usually, I just wash my hands and dry them on the towel, its clean – right, and drape it over the mixing bowl.
It just occurred to me that the towels I use vary depending on what I have in my drawer, I wonder what would happen if I used a flour sack towel and a tea towel on two different rising doughs what kind of difference if any I would get. HMMM, sounds like another day of making bread :).
Back to the dough already made, I place it on my stove and turn the hood lights on #3, or high as some may say. I then tell Alexa (electronic personal assistant from Amazon), (yes, my hubby spoiled me) to set a one-hour timer. I finish cleaning up the dishes, and kitchen and start on something else during the hour it takes to rise.
Once the time is up, I will lightly flour my countertop and turn the bowl of dough upside down and if the oil did its job, it should ‘pop’ right out. Now you have a mass of dough on the counter and the bottom of the dough looks wet, that is the way it is supposed to look.
The shiny look is from the olive oil in the bowl, that’s okay, just turn it over on the floured counter and mix it into the dough ball. This is where I will split the dough into whatever I am making. If I have made a double batch, I spit it in half and set part of it aside for a few minutes.
Working with the dough, I have found that if I put it into a “loaf” shape and then working from the middle, my hands forming a W with the thumbs overlapping, I push the dough away from me pushing outward so that the dough will lengthen to the size of my pan.
I got these bread pans from Michael’s craft store, they are usually around $13 but I got them when they were 50% off. They are Wilton, and non-stick, however when it comes to bread, I use oil in every pan. Have you tried to clean dough off of anything after it has dried?
SO, when the loaf is the right size, I put it in the pan and place back on the stove under the hood so that it can rise again. Why twice? Not sure other than someone told me that rising twice makes it Gluten Free. (I have since found out that this is not the case). We have no issues with that in our house, but it is now a habit for me to let it rise twice.
So, if I am making pizza dough, I will cut the remaining half into somewhat even size balls, and then place on a baking sheet with a silicone sheet and let rise again with the other bread.
Now I am not sitting there waiting for my bread to rise, I go away and let Alexa worry about the time. I have too many other things to do in regards to homeschooling, blogging, housework etc… When the second timer goes off, the pizza dough gets placed in the freezer, exactly as it is on the oven, tea towel over it and this allows it to flash freeze. When it is frozen, I will transfer it to a paper bag or container for being kept in the freezer. That’s another post.
The bread in the pan is usually puffed up over the top of the sides. It is at this point that I am very careful to remove the towel so I don’t deflate the bread. I place it in a 350-degree oven and bake for 15 to 25 minutes depending on your oven and the outside weather.
When the bread is done, I then check it and it should sound hollow and a clean knife inserted into it will come out clean, just like checking a cake. If the top has browned, I will put a little butter on the top and place back in the oven with the temperature off. The remaining heat from the oven will give it a nice color.
Again, this is something I find varies. I have a gas oven and the times and results may vary.
The second day I made bread it failed again 🙁 What did I do wrong? The temperature was in the 80’s and the humidity was bad, but not the worst and the bread did not rise any better than the first time.
What many people do not realize is that the weather does affect the results of the finished product. Bakers make the donuts early in the morning usually it has an even humidity level and it helps to keep things more consistent. Well, I don’t know about you, but 3 a.m. is a little early for me unless I am experiencing insomnia.
The first one didn’t rise, the second one was a little taller, but still not sandwich size. So today I made another loaf, keeping in mind that all the ingredients are from the same batch or container, and today’s bread got taller than the bread pan during its proofing and when cooked, it was not as tall as I expected, but it is sandwich size nonetheless
This one did turn out closer to sandwich bread size, the density was spot on and the ability to slice it worked well. Now I just have to figure out how to make those slices even
Don’t be scared of baking bread, all in all, you may have $1.00 in the ingredients, and it is worth a shot if you don’t have to put all those preservative’s in your body, right?
Until next time,