It's that constant debate; do I buy the store-made bread for a couple of dollars and have bread that is, well, good-ish but lacking a special 'something', or do I splurge and buy the 5 dollar loaf of bread and actually get texture and taste OR do I wander down to the local bakery (which in my locale is about a 45 minute trip away) for a great tasting loaf of bread? I must admit that I usually saved a few dollars and bought the store-made bread, and always regretted the decision. So when we received a KitchenAid mixer for a wedding present with a bread hook included, I began making my own bread and never looked back.
While this instructable has instructions for using a mixer, please feel free to use only your hands and a great big bowl (I admire those that can kneed a big batch of dough).
I have come across a few different loaf recipes and have tinkered and combined a few of them to come up with my favourite recipe for white bread. This particular recipe came out of me standing in front of my pantry wondering what I could do to the white bread recipe to kick things up a bit. (If you omit the apples, cinnamon and oats you have a great white bread base recipe, which is my go-to.)
Step 1: Hardware and Recipe
- Stand mixer with dough hook (or a big sturdy bowl)
- Two 9"x5"x2.75" loaf pans (23.5cm x 13.3cm x 7cm)
- Measuring cups and spoons
- Rubber spatula
- Scale (not nececssary, but handy)
- Cooling rack
2 cups warm water (not too hot, but not freezing cold)
1.5 Tablespoons of yeast
1/2 cup of white sugar
1.5 teaspoons of salt
1/4 cup of oil (I use good old canola)
5 - 6 cups of AP flour (using simple All Purpose flour is all that's needed)
3/4 cup of diced dried apple slices
3/4 cup of dried oats
3 teaspoons of cinnamon (adjust to taste)
Set Aside: combine 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and 2 teaspoons of white sugar / 2 Tablespoons of oats
Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.
Step 2: Combine First Ingredients
*hint* If your house if particularily drafty or cold, warm your mixing bowl with warm tap water before you begin (empty the bowl before you begin!)
Using a stand mixer combine the water, yeast and sugar, and stir to dissolve.
I don't let this sit and 'foam'. I have experimented with both ways (just dissolving and letting the yeast 'foam', and both produce the same results), so for time's sake I dissolve the yeast and sugar, then continue on.
Once the sugar has dissolved, add the salt and the oil.
Step 3: Dry Ingredients and Kneeding
*Disclaimer* Yes, those are raisins in with the diced apples. I ran out of dried apples just as I was preparing for this instructable, so I added raisins to give the bread a little something more instead of one or two dried apple bits throughout the loaf. Normally, I only use dried apples for this recipe. However, after breakfast this morning with this bread, admittedly the raisins worked nicely.
Begin with the dry ingredients by adding only 4 cups of the flour, then add the oats, cinnamon, and diced apple.
Turn the mixer onto the lowest setting (usually the Stir setting) and gently bring the dough together (if you turn it on full blast, you'll have flour everywhere!)
Once you have a nice goopy mess (less than a minute of mixing), stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Turn the mixer back on, this time speed it up to 2 (or the next setting above the Stir setting).
While the mixer is going, begin adding the remaining flour. I only add about 1/4 cup at a time, then let that integrate into the dough (The flour should be worked into the dough pretty quickly, less then 30 seconds). If you add the flour too slowly, you may have to stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl again. Keep adding the flour until the dough forms into a ball and begins to clean the sides of the bowl. When I first began making bread 'clean' always seemed to confuse me. As you can see in the second picture, the dough really does clean the sides of the bowl.
The amount of flour you add after the first 4 cups depends on the weather outside. Right now it's winter and extremely dry, so I'm not going to add more then 5 cups in total...maybe not even that. However, in the middle of summer with a rainy week I'm going to need to add a lot more flour...probably the full 6 cups.
One way to test the dough is to stop the mixer and pinch the dough. The dough should be soft and warm, and intially stick to your fingers, but as you pull apart your fingers the dough should come off your fingers without leaving any dough behind.
Once your dough is the right consistency, let the mixer kneed the dough until it is soft and smooth (about 5 - 7 minutes).
Step 4: First Rising
Once you are done kneeding the dough, turn the dough out onto the counter and form the dough into a tight ball. Pinch the sides of the dough down to the bottom, then pinch the seam on the bottom together. Then gently cup your hands around the ball and gently roll the ball between your hands, using your whole hand. Roll until the ball is nice and smooth.
Grease a big bowl with a little oil (not too much) and place the dough into the bowl, turning once to grease the dough. Cover and put in a draft free place to rise.
Since it's winter and this house is basically a wind tunnel, I set my bowl on the top rack in my oven (the oven is NOT on). If it's really cold, or I just want a quick rise, I add a cake pan to the bottom of the oven and pour in boiling water, then close the oven door. The steam from the water gives a great rise to the bread.
*I'm not sure if I'd let this bread rise overnight in the fridge, which I sometimes do to my white bread. Since the dried apple bits are in this bread, I'm not sure if they would fully rehydrate and get mushy when baked. However, if you want to try it...go ahead and let me know how it turns out!*
Let the dough rise until it's doubled in size. Usually this takes about 45 minutes.
Step 5: Punch Down and Shape
While the dough is rising, grease the two loaf pans. After trying a bunch of different greasing methods I found that using Crisco works the best. Grease the sides and bottom of the pans with Crisco.
Once the dough has doubled in size, remove from the oven.
Punch down the dough and divide into two. I use a scale for dividing the dough. Usually each loaf weighs around 1 lb 11oz (765 grams).
Kneed each loaf to get rid of any big air bubbles and to evenly distribute the remaining bubbles.
Begin forming the dough into a loaf (there are lots of ways to do this, choose your favourite and stick with it). I begin pinching the dough down to the bottom again, this time in the shape of an oval. Once the loaf is nice and smooth again place it in the pan and repeat for the second loaf. With this particular batch I pushed the dough down into the pan just to see how the top would rise. Just curious.
Step 6: Second Rise and Baking
Once the loaves have been shaped, place the pans in a draft free location and cover. You can place them back in the oven (again, NOT turned on) and add boiling water into the cake pan at the bottom.
Allow the loaves to rise. I leave them to rise until they are just a bit smaller than I would like them to be. This second rise usually takes about 45 mintues.
Once they are at a desired size, remove them from the oven and begin to preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
While you are waiting for your oven to heat gently brush the top of the bread with an egg wash or milk, then sprinkle on the remaining cinnamon and sugar and the oats. (You don't have to do this, it just adds a little fun to the tops).
Bake the bread for 30 minutes.
As soon as the bread is done, remove the pans from the oven and immediately turn out of pans and place upright on a cooling rack. New bread 'sweats' and if you leave the bread in the pan to cool, you'll have a big sticky mess!
Leave the bread to cool for as long as you can (in our house...like 5 minutes!), then slice and enjoy!