Tuesday, June 9, 2009

how steph makes bread

I've had lots of people ask me about my once a week bread making ritual, so I thought it'd be fun to whip up a little tutorial. Here goes:

The starting lineup: 2 1/3 c. warm water (abt. 110 degrees)
1 1/2 Tbsp. instant yeast
1/4 c. honey
1/2 stick butter, melted
2 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. wheat bran
3 c. whole-wheat flour
3 c. unbleached all-purpose flour (if I'm out of wheat bran, I use 4 c.
wheat flour and 2 c. white flour)
non-stick cooking spray-- use it on the honey measuring cup, the
rising bowl, and the bread pan

This recipe makes 2 loaves of bread. My family eats about 8 loaves of bread a week, so I make 4 batches of dough, one after another . I can whip out 4 batches of dough in less than 45 minutes-- not bad for a week's worth of bread.

Step 1: Combine water, yeast, honey, butter, salt, and wheat bran in a 4 c. measuring cup. Pour into the bowl of standing mixer and add one cup each of whole-wheat and all-purpose flour, combine with a rubber spatula. Using the measuring cup for this step lets you get a head-start on the next batch of dough while you've got one in the mixer. You'll see what I mean in a minute...

Add the remaining 2 cups each of the whole-wheat and all-purpose flours, attach your mixer's dough hook and knead at low speed until smooth and elastic-- about 8 minutes. Take those 8 minutes to start mixing up the wet ingredients for the next batch of dough. (see?)

This is a picture of my high-tech mixer-about-to-walk-off-the-edge-of-the-counter-alarm-system. In the event that the mixer starts to run for the border, it'll push the cups off the counter first and I can come to the rescue. Genius, I know. (that clear cup is plastic, by the way)

After 8 minutes of mixing, the dough will have pulled away from the sides of the bowl, but will still be sticking to the bottom. If for some reason, it's still really sticking to the sides of the bowl, you'll want to add a little more flour. But go easy on it! Too much flour makes for tough bread.

Plop your dough out onto a lightly floured counter and knead by hand a few times to shape into a smooth ball. Dough will be slightly sticky. Cut dough into two equal pieces, set aside. Pour the second batch of wet ingredients into the now empty mixer bowl (I don't bother to wash it until I'm all done), add your flours and get that second batch mixing. And so on and so forth, with the remaining batches.

Now take those dough pieces you've just made and stick 'em in gallon size freezer bags and toss them in the freezer. Or set them in gently, if you prefer. The gallon size bags are important-- the dough needs room to expand a bit before it freezes. If you try to wrap it tightly, you'll end up with exploded dough packets in your freezer. Trust me, I know.

(oh, and I wash and reuse my freezer bags)

At this point, you can wash your dishes, clean up, and be done for the day.

Each night before you go to bed, pull out a ball of frozen dough and put it in a lightly oiled, covered bowl and set it out on the counter.

When you wake up in the morning, punch the risen, defrosted dough down and then shape it into a cylinder. Put that dough cylinder into a lightly-oiled 9 by 5-inch bread pan and push it down gently so that it touches all four sides of the pan. Let it rise, covered, until the dough just comes over the top of the pan, as pictured above. In the meantime, preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

Bake your bread for 35-45 minutes, or until the bread is a lovely golden color. Immediately remove your bread from the pans and cool on wire racks (or you'll have a soggy crust). Reward yourself with the first piece of hot bread slathered with butter and homemade strawberry jam.


Julie said...

I love this. For those of us who don't have a Kitchenaid, how long would you expect this to take and would YOU still do it if you didn't have a fancy mixer?

Steph said...


If you've got yourself a really big bowl, you could do it all in one batch (or two) by hand and it would probably take even less time. Plus, you'd be getting an awesome workout.

It's tempting to add more flour when you mix by hand, but if you stick with the amounts in the recipe you should be fine.

Angie said...

Question: How long does it take to rise just above the sides of the bread pan in the morning?

Todd is going to love this, by the way. He had a bread maker in college and he used to set it up to finish baking a loaf just as he was waking up. He loved it. Unfortunately, he got a little TOO creative with the recipes, and one night the bread machine knocked itself off the counter while kneading. He could have used one of your fancy alarm systems!

Steph said...

Angie, I meant to mention rising time. Sorry about that! It usually takes 30-45 minutes to rise once it's in the bread pan. If you're impatient, you can fudge on the side of too soon and the bread will still come out tasty.

Anyways, you'll basically get fresh hot bread 1 to 1 1/2 hours after you wake up-- but with very minimal effort!

Emery said...

steph, you're magnificent. i think i'm going to nominate you for homemaker of the year!

Jessica said...

I did it today. I only made 4 loaves. I am so excited. How many quarts is your mixer. Mine is dying so I am looking for a new one, any suggestions?

Steph said...

We've got a Cuisinart 5.5 qt. stand mixer and I love it with every ounce of my baking soul. It effortlessly mixes bread dough (even tough bagel dough!), whips cream into beautiful fluffy clouds, has a timer, and has a great-fitting and not-at-all akward splash guard. And I like the looks of it too. Oh, and it's sturdy. It took a nasty spill off my counter (my fault-- placed it waaay too close to the edge) and it still works perfectly.

I've never been a big fan of the Kitchenaid mixers-- no offense to you folks that love 'em! I take that back. I do like the professional, heavy duty Kitchenaids, but at $600 or so, those are out of my price range. Cooks Illustrated recommends the Cuisinart for it's great function and value and I agree!

Erin said...

you are awesome. i can't believe that you make your own bread. i make bread occasionally but i never have on a consistent basis. i am seriously impressed.
also, i think i always add too much flour. my dough always seems sticky.

Jen said...

If you don't want to add more flour but the dough is still a little too sticky for handling, you can use a bit of olive oil to solve the stickness without putting the bread's moisture on the line.

Anonymous said...

THank you!!! It works great!
I have been struggling with my own bread because it is only wonderful for a couple days so I want everyone to hurry up and eat it and once they do, darn, I have to make more. You have simplified my life.
I made 9 loaves of bread on Sunday. Used 3 for a luncheon yesterday. Have one on my counter and 5 waiting in my freezer. Thanks for making my life easier!

Anonymous said...

I followed your way the first time and the second time I did it I made one slight change. I got out 5 bowls and poured ingredients into each one before I started anything. You have to pay attention that way...several times I said "Oh, which one did I just put honey into?" but it's one big thought for 9 loaves and then no more thinking for the next hour. I made 9 loaves in 90 minutes.