My grandma’s recipe for her almost-famous-nutroll goes something like this. Add some eggs (or just yolks) to some yeast and milk with a little sugar and salt then add flour till it’s smooth but a little bit sticky.
Really, Grandma?!? I get it now, and can make this recipe with some pretty yumazing results. But I’ve been baking for over 20 years!
When I was a beginner, a recipe like this would have caused me excessive amounts of anxiety. So much so, in fact, that I probably wouldn’t have attempted it at all. What self-respecting recipe allows a few cups leeway for the amount of flour in a loaf of bread? Baking is a science, for Pete’s sake! How was I gonna know how sticky it should be? Or how much it should pull away from the side of the bowl? What if I added too much flour? Then what?!?
Wanna know the answer?
Metrics. Weighing out the ingredients – flour, water, yeast – makes a bread recipe practically infallible. Who knew?!?
Light and fluffy homemade bread doesn’t have to be difficult!
So, don’t use your bread machine. Put your insecurity on the shelf. Get out your KitchenAid, your dough hook and a digital scale, and get baking! I promise, the smell wafting from your oven in a few short hours will be worth it! You may never buy Wonder Bread again. 😉
Light and Fluffy Homemade BreadCourse: Eggs, Cereal and Baked GoodsCuisine: American, ComfortDifficulty: Medium
Spoiler Alert: Homemade bread isn’t hard! You just need a few simple tools and an oven light and you’ll have your family convinced your real name is Betty Crocker!
785 grams warm water
43 grams unsalted butter, room temperature
17 grams active dry yeast
75 grams sugar
1.3 kilograms (1,300 grams) bread flour – yes it has to be bread flour. See note below.
15 grams salt
A few tablespoons olive oil
- Lightly coat four (8″ x 4″) loaf pans with non-stick spray. (If your pans are 9″ x 5″ you might only have 3 pans of bread.)
- In bowl of stand mixer, add water followed by unsalted butter, then yeast, then sugar. Using the dough hook, give it a stir to make sure the yeast is dissolving.
- Add flour and then add salt. (Don’t add salt directly to yeast because it can kill it.)
- Mix on low speed (#1 on a KitchenAid Stand Mixer) for 10 minutes.
- While dough is mixing, drizzle a few tablespoons of olive oil around the inside of a large bowl (preferable metal, but glass would work too). It just needs to be large enough for dough to expand to twice it’s size. Once dough has kneaded for 10 minutes, remove from mixer and place in oiled bowl. Using your hands, grab the dough, smear it around the oil and then flip it over so the whole ball is lightly coated. Cover bowl plastic wrap – my bowl has a large opening so I need two sheets – and proof.
- I have a ‘proof’ setting on my oven (which is ahhh-mazing!!!) but before I had that, I would place a large container of really hot/boiling water in the oven and turn the oven light on. This creates the perfect environment to proof bread – warm and humid. Let dough rise for 45 minutes. It should be doubled in bulk. Remove plastic, punch the dough down to redistribute the yeast, and replace plastic over the top. Let rise for another 45 minutes. If your bread isn’t doubled in size: Go buy new yeast from the store and try again tomorrow. Of course, you can still continue with this batch and just have flatter, tougher bread (great for toast!) or you can turn it into some yummy flat bread pizzas for dinner!
- Turn dough out onto clean surface. If you have a marble-type counter or large cutting board, you shouldn’t need to use any additional flour at this point. The oil that we used to coat the dough should keep it from sticking. Divide dough into four equal parts (I recommend using your scale for this.)
- Working with one piece at a time, use your fingers and squish the bread out into a rectangle about 5″ X 9″. Starting on the short end, roll dough into very tight log – this, and the squishing, will (hopefully!) keep out all the large air pockets so your finished loaves are uniform. Pinch the seams and ends tightly together and place seam side down in greased pans, tucking ends under so top of loaf is smooth.
- Cover loaves lightly with plastic wrap and proof 30-45 minutes. Dough should rise about 1 to 1-1/2 inches past edge of pan when ready.
- Bake in preheated 400˚F oven for 25-35 minutes, rotating once during baking, if necessary. Bread is finished when loaves are golden brown and sound hollow when tapped lightly on the bottom. (If using the same oven to proof and bake: take the unbaked loaves out of the oven and leave them on the counter while the oven is preheating.)
- Remove loaves from pans and allow to cool on rack before wrapping/slicing/serving. But I mean, who are we kidding? You KNOW you wanna cut a slice off the end, slather it with butter and jam it into your mouth so fast you don’t feel your finger tips burning…or is that just me…?
- “Warm water” means it should feel just slightly warmer than your own hand when you dip a finger in to test it. You don’t need to use thermometer accuracy. But if you feel the need, it should be between 105-110˚F. Active Dry Yeast, although it kinda looks like sand, is a living thing. If the water is too cold, the yeast won’t want to wake up and if it’s too hot they could be killed.
- Make sure your yeast is not expired! I underestimated the power of new yeast. I was baking bread and it would take hours to proof (like FOUR!) and I couldn’t figure out why. I checked the expiration date and realized it was pretty old (and past the manufacturer recommended ‘use by’ date). So I sprung for a new batch and HOLY COW! What a difference it made!
- A note on bread flour: It’s higher in protein than regular flour, and the protein is what helps develop gluten. Gluten strands are basically like rubber bands – they develop during the mixing process (why the bread goes from shaggy to smooth) and those long strands hold pockets of air. As the air expands from the heat of the oven, those strands need to stay strong and stretch to allow your dough to expand. That’s what gives your bread great texture.
- My oven has a convection setting so I bake my bread at 375˚F.
- I keep twist tie gallon bags on hand to hold my loaves. I usually wait until they are cool enough to handle, then keep them in the bags overnight. By morning, they slice easily. I save the heels in a separate baggie in the freezer for homemade breadcrumbs and keep the sliced loaves (also frozen) for toast, sandwiches or bread with dinner. Then I can pull out as many slices as I need for homemade bread any day of the week!