I wrote a little haiku poem, and I’d like to share it with all of you today.
It’s about something that’s very near and dear to my heart, especially during this frosty time of year.
It’s called, “Bread.” I hope you like it. Ahem:
So doughy and soft,
Can I eat you all the time?
Oh, my love for thee.
There is nothing truer than this poem, friends. I LOVE bread. Give me a nice, chewy loaf of carbohydrates and I’m set!
We go through bread in our apartment like it’s the only thing we have to eat (but actually, sometimes it’s all we WANT to eat) because we all adore it. Usually we get a whole grain sandwich bread from the supermarket or splurge every once in a while on a sourdough boule from the farmer’s market on Saturday mornings.
But when it was Tuesday, and we were already out of bread for the week, I realized something. Why are we buying bread? We don’t need to be buying bread. I know how to yeast. I can make bread. (Yes, I just made yeast into a verb & guess what iloveit.)
And if I can make bread, so can you. Promise.
I mean, the benefits waaaay outweigh the effort. In under 3 hours you have a delicious, fresh loaf of bread perfect for all bread-y occasions and an aroma you just can’t beat. If that seems like a long time, let me just point out that 80 percent will be spent letting the yeast do the heavy lifting, and then baking the bread in the oven. It basically makes itself!
Best of all, you only need five ingredients. Yeast aside, you probably already have the rest of the ingredients in your house RIGHT NOW. Yes, you!
The loaf pictured here is made with whole spelt flour, but I tried it with whole wheat flour, and it worked just as well.
If you have any hesitations about using yeast, fear not! I’m going to walk you through the tricky parts. The important thing to remember is that yeast is just super picky and spoiled, nothing to be afraid of. It takes some practice to really get comfortable with it, and sometimes your blueberry sweet rolls might rise over the sides of the pan like mine did. But once you get into a rhythm, working with yeast will become one of the most fun and rewarding kitchen activities you do!
Step 1: Activating the yeast
My bread recipe uses active dry yeast, which is different than instant yeast. Active dry yeast, though it says in the name that it’s active, needs to be dissolved in warm water before it can be used in a recipe. Instant yeast has a smaller particle size, so it can be mixed in directly with the dry ingredients.
So I mentioned that yeast is picky, right? Well, water temperature is one of the things it’s picky about. The water has to be hot enough to dissolve the yeast, but not so hot that it kills it. (What a diva…) You want to aim for about 110° F, or about the temperature you would make a bath for a baby.
Here’s a tip: if you can’t keep your finger comfortably in the water for 10 seconds, then it’s too hot!
Once your water is the right temperature, sprinkle in the yeast and stir briefly until it has all dissolved. Just let it sit while you mix the dry ingredients together, and then add it like you would any other liquid in a recipe.
Step 2: Kneading the dough
This part seems to scare people the most, but I find it really therapeutic now that I’ve got the hang of it.
Kneading develops the gluten in dough, which gives it that nice, chewy, texture. You want the dough to be a little sticky when you start, so don’t add too much flour although I know it’s tempting.
Flour a clean surface and place the ball of dough down, flipping it so the outside is all coated in flour. Then hold the bottom edge of the dough in place with your left hand. Grab the top of the dough in your right hand and use the heal of your right hand to gently stretch the dough away from you, then fold it back on top of itself. Turn the whole dough ball a quarter to the right. Repeat this process for 5-6 minutes, and THAT’S IT! Pull, fold, turn.
Keep the surface coated in flour, adding more as needed. When the dough is not super sticky and springs back when you poke it, you’re DONE! YAY!
Here’s a tip: if you’re a more visual person, YouTube has some great videos that show you how to knead. That’s how I learned, actually. This is the video I watched. Don’t worry, you don’t actually have to watch the whole thing. The kneading part is at the beginning. Here’s another one I like.
Step 3: Letting it rise
This part is a piece of cake. The hardest part is waiting, but we’ve talked about that.
All you do for the first rise is flour the bowl you prepared the dough in, place the dough in a ball shape in the bowl, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and wait!
Here’s a tip: yeast rises best in warm environments, so what I do is preheat the oven to 200° F while I’m prepping the dough. When the dough is ready to rise, I turn the oven off and place the whole bowl in the oven for an hour. Works every time, thanks Sally’s Baking Addiction!
I find that the oven is still warm enough by the time of the second rise, so I don’t bother preheating it again. Just place the whole loaf pan in the off oven like you did with the bowl.
If you’d like to print a copy of these steps to keep in your kitchen for easy reference, you can do that by clicking print below.
I’m almost on break for Thanksgiving. One more class! I hope you have a wonderful time with your friends and family. (And if you’re looking for something impressive to bring to your Thanksgiving meal, I highly suggest fresh-baked bread. Everyone will love you.) Okay, byyye!
- 4 1/2 cups whole spelt flour, plus more for dusting*
- 2 teaspoons fine sea salt
- 1 packet active dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp.)
- 1 3/4 c. warm water, about 110 degees F/43 degrees C
- 2 tbsp. local honey
- Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F/90 degrees C.** Pour the warm water in a bowl and sprinkle in the yeast. Whisk until dissolved.
- In a separate, large bowl, combine 4 cups of the flour with the sea salt.
- Add the yeast and water mixture and the honey to the dry ingredients. Add only enough of the remaining 1/2 c. flour so that the dough begins to gently pull away from the sides of the bowl. It should still be slightly sticky.
- Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and knead until no longer sticky and dough springs back when poked. (Details in post)
- Turn the oven off. Flour the bowl you prepared the dough in. Shape the dough into a ball, and set in the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in the oven, or another warm place, until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
- Spray a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with vegetable cooking spray. Gently punch the dough down, and invert onto a lightly floured work surface. Flatten it slightly, and roll it into a log. Tuck the ends under, and place in the greased loaf pan, seam-side down. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in the oven again until doubled in bulk, about 30-40 minutes.
- Remove the dough from the oven. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F/230 degrees C. Dust the dough lightly with flour. Use a sharp knife to make a shallow, lengthwise gash down the center of the loaf. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the loaf is browned and sounds hollow when tapped.Let the bread cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then tip it out onto a rack to cool completely before enjoying.
- *You may also use whole wheat flour, or sub up to one cup all purpose flour if you don't want quite as hearty a loaf.
- **Only do this if you are using the oven trick for helping the dough rise that I mentioned in the post.