I was going to be away for a few days and my teenager and his friends wanted to bake bread while I was gone. “Can’t you just write down the directions?” they asked. Now my boys had watched the bread making process so many times, I couldn’t hardly believe they needed anything more than the measurements but if he wanted directions, what was I to do?
“You bet”, I replied.
Son, I have complete confidence in you. Enjoy your bread. Love – Mom
Wash your hands!
Before you start mixing ingredients, grease a BIG bowl. And as long as you have the shortening out and all over your hands, grease two or three bread pans. If you want big loaves that grow over the edge of the pan and have that classical “slice of bread” shape, two is enough. I usually use 3 so the loaves slide easily into bread bags.
- 2 cups of Hot Water – not boiling
- 1 Tablespoon Salt
- 1 1/2 Tablespoons Sugar
- 2 Tablespoons Oil or Margarine
- In a large bowl, mix all ingredients well and set aside.
- 1 Cup Warm* Water
- 1/2 Tablespoon Sugar
- 2 Tablespoons Yeast
- In a small bowl, mix these ingredients well and allow the yeast to ‘grow’.
- *NOTE: The water should be 110 to 115 degrees. Please use a thermometer to be sure the temperature is in this range. Cooler temperature will slow growth while warmer temperature will kill the yeast.
Once the yeast has ‘bubbled’ into a nice froth, mix it with the ingredients in the large bowl. You will now add 4 to 6 Cups of flour, about a quarter cup at a time to the mixture, mixing in completely each time. You may use a whisk until the dough begins to thicken to the point you need a spoon. At a point, you will want to use your hands to work the flour in until it’s not gooey. Once you have it to a consistency that you can pick up the lump with your hands, spread flour on the counter or large cutting board and dump your dough on it. Sprinkle flour on it, fold it in half, sprinkle some flour on it, smash it down, stretch it out, sprinkle flour on it as needed to keep it from sticking to your hands until it doesn’t stick any more. You don’t want to get it quite to the point of “Playdough” or you will likely have a dry, crumbly bread when you cut it.
Fold, smash, stretch, fold, smash, stretch AKA Knead your dough energetically for about 10 minutes.
Roll your dough into a nice big ball, put it in the BIG greased bowl, roll it around so it’s covered in grease. Cover the bowl with a clean dish towel and let it sit in a warm place until it has doubled in size.
Once the dough has doubled is size, smash it down and divide it in two or three depending on how many pans you are using. Take each ‘loaf’ one at a time and stretch it out, fold it in half top to bottom then in half side to side then smash it and stretch it out again. Repeat this stretch, fold, smash routine 3 times. The fourth time, after folding it, roll it and form it into a loaf and put it in a pan.
Put your pans on the stove and cover them with the clean dish towel. Turn the oven on to 425 degrees to preheat. By having the pans on the stove while the oven preheats, the loaves will rise quicker. If you are using the cook stove, stoke the fire so the oven will be HOT and put the covered pans on a rack in the warming oven. Once your loaves have doubled in size put them in the oven. They will bake for 15 to 30 minutes depending on the oven. Because all ovens are a little different, you will need to watch the bread and determine when it’s done by color. When they have turned a nice golden brown, turn one out to see the color of the bottom. Use Hot Mitts! Once the bottom of the loaf is that nice golden brown, you will notice that when you tap or thump it, it sounds hollow.
Turn the loaves out on to a wire rack to cool. They also need to dry some so don’t just dump them on the counter or one side will end up soggy. Fresh hot bread smells sooooo good and is especially delicious when the butter melts into it. But remember that it will still be soft and once you cut it, it won’t slice as nicely later. Cooling the bread completely makes slicing it thin for sandwiches much easier.
Please clean the kitchen.