Introduction: Get Back at the Man. Make Your Own Bread.
As everybody knows, Bread is one of the major food groups. Along side Oreos, Beer and Peanut Butter, so it is important to have enough of it in your diet.
Bread Giants and Supermarket chains realise this, and in turn charge you top dollar for their rather poor quality loafs. Crumb by crumb, It works out much cheaper to make your own bread than to buy it from the supermarket, as the graph at the bottom of the page will show you.
Many a simpleton would tell you that making bread takes a long time. And they'd be right. (Some educated folk will tell you it takes longer than it actually does, but thats a separate story). From start to finish, it takes around 3-4 hours to have a freshly baked ignot of loafy goodness sitting on your lap.
BUT it is the bread that does most of the hard work. You can wander off and do your laundry or read a book, or something else, for the most part, and it will only take about 30 minutes of your time.
This is my first instructable; I'm learning the ropes so please bear with me! I don't have all the images right now, but they are coming!
Step 1: Gather the Ingredients and Equipment
Let the hunter/gatherer in you take over! Head out to your local Serengeti / Supermarket / etc, and hunt / purchase / otherwise obtain the following items;
700g - Strong bread flour. I use white, but it doesn't matter which you buy.
1 Packet - "Fast Action" yeast powder. They usually come in packs of about 6
25g - Butter
1 Tablespoon - Salt
1 Teaspoon - Caster Sugar (optional)
425ml - Hand hot water
900g / 2lb Bread Tin
(hopefully, you should have weighing scales and a mixing bowl also)
Once you have all the above, clean down your work surfaces, your hands, and your mind, and stroll right onto Step 2
Everything should look something like this:
Step 2: Mix the Ingredients
Into your clean mixing bowl, add 700g of flour. Keep the bag of flour, you will need it later.
Firstly, you want to rub the butter into the flour. then, you want to add the remaining ingredients;
1 Tbsp Salt
1 packet of Yeast
1 tsp Caster sugar. (if you want a crustier crust;)
You can also add any other bits, like seeds and other things you might like in your bread.
Mix all the ingredients by hand, and make a little well in the center. A well by definition likes water*, so that is what we shall add....
*by this theory, you could add crude oil instead, but that wouldn't make for very nice bread.
Step 3: Add the Water, and Make the Dough.
Whip out your finest Measure-wares, for you need some hand-hot water. All that means is you can dip your hand in it without it burning.
I find that a 50/50 mix of boiling and cold water make for the right temperature.
Add the water slowly, while mixing with a spoon. You want to keep stirring until it has a regular consistency. Once you can put your hands in without getting too stuck, it's fine.
You are aiming for a soft dough, not too dry, not too soggy either. I don't have a picture just yet, as my hands were covered in dough at the time.
Once you have a nice soft dough, let it sit a minute in the bowl.
The next step is probably the hardest. Thankfully, it doesn't take too long.
Step 4: Kneading the Dough.
This takes about 10 - 15 minutes of your time, and is the most energy consuming part of the process.
Get your ball of dough, and sit it flat on a well floured surface, and rub some flour between your hands. This will stop the dough from sticking from both you and the surface you are working on.
Now, with the heel of one hand you need to push the bread away from you, whilst pulling the dough towards you with the other. Once the dough is suitably stretched, fold it back upon itself to form a big dough ball once more.
You then want to turn the dough a quarter turn and repeat the process. You will want to keep doing this for about 10-15 minutes, making sure you apply plenty of flour to the surface you are working on and your hands.
(again, photos would help here, so I shall endeavor to upload some soonish!)
Step 5: Wait for a While....
So now you've done the hard work, you've mixed all your ingredients and you have a nicely kneaded lump of bread.
What you want to do now is grease your bread pan. I tend to use a little bit of extra virgin olive oil, but butter or spray-on stuff will do just fine.
Shape your dough to the right size to match your bread pan. You can add pleats to it if you wish, but it's much easier to just bung it straight into the pan. I like to score some grooves into the top of the dough, as it makes it look pretty when it comes out of the oven, but again, it's all optional.
Now you leave your dough to double in size. Cover your pan with a damp (clean!) tea towel, and leave it in a warm place. I stick mine next to the radiator in my kitchen. The tea towel will prevent the bread from drying out.
You now want to leave it for between 1 and 2 hours for the bread to double in size, but keep coming back to check on it. At this point you will want to pre-heat your oven to 230 Degrees C / 450 Degrees F / Gas Mark 8.
It is at this point in the process where the yeast gets to work, known as "Leavening" whereby the air is introduced into the bread. If you reproduced this instructable, sans yeast, you would get a very flat, very dense bread.
The Science part;
Those little granules of yeast do all the hard work. You can't see it with your naked eye, but if you had a microscope, you would be able to see the yeasts pumping up the bread with really tiny bicycle pumps. As you can imagine, it's a very tiring process, and that's why it takes so long. If you leave them working at it for too long, much like a rubber balloon, the dough will eventually pop
(ok, so that isn't true. <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fermentation_%28food%29">Fermentation</a> occurs in the loaf, where by the strains of yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae is the common one amongst bakers) produces carbon dioxide from the carbohydrates available to it).
Step 6: Do Something Productive for a While
Go read a book. Write an instructable. Do your laundry.
Or you could do nothing, it's up to you. Either way, make a note of what time you left your bread, and check on it after about an hour.
It should take somewhere between the 1 and 2 hour point for it to rise, depending on the conditions of where you stored it.
Step 7: Bake It!
Now your bread has doubled in size, it is time to put it in your pre-heated oven! (set to 230C / 450F / Gas Mark 8)
Now leave it in there for about 35-40 minutes.
After this time, come back and check if the bread has cooked. A quick way to check, is to knock on the base of the loaf. It should sound hollow.
Once it is cooked, I like to leave it in the oven (minus pan) for about 5 more minutes. This makes it a little crustier.
Step 8: Smell Your Bread! (Because You Are Almost Finished)
Possibly the most satisfying smell in the world is that of freshly baked bread. Give yourself an olfactory treat with a big nose-full of freshly-baked-bread-air....
So your bread is pretty hot right now, so you are still going to have to wait a little longer before you can eat it.
Put the bread on a wire rack, wrapped in a tea towel, and allow it to cool. You can cut into it and eat it after about 5-10 minutes if you really want, but it needs to be completely cool before you store it. I store mine in plastic freezer bags, and then treat it like any other loaf.
Possibly the best thing about baking bread is the money you will save. An average supermarket loaf will cost me about Â£1.20 ($2.40) if I go for the branded stuff. Aside from buying the bread tin, each loaf i make is much cheaper than that; No more than 40p per loaf, depending on what brand of flour I choose to buy.
So not only is it much cheaper, once you have the technique down it will be much more enjoyable than store-bought bread too!
I hope you enjoyed this instructable :)