Thursday, April 26, 2012

Bread Day...

I mentioned earlier that I haven't purchased bread from the grocery store in quite a while.  Do yourself a favor and read the ingredients label on the next loaf of bread that you purchase.  Google those ingredients to see what they really are because food companies have become really inventive in naming the ingredients in our food.  You'll find corn syrup is a major ingredient in wheat breads.  Corn syrup is sugar and no matter what the companies that make it tell you, it's NOT the same thing as sugar made from beets and sugar cane, also known as table sugar.

Ingredients for BEER BREAD. :)
Anyway... I'm stepping off the soapbox to show you exactly how EASY it really is to make a nice, basic loaf of beer bread.  Yep.  I said beer bread.  I used Budweiser this time around but any beer that you LIKE the taste of will actually work for this.

This will make 2 loaves of bread.  I always leave one plain for sammys and always herb the other one up for eating with my dinner.

Here's what you need:

1 package dry, active yeast
1 bottle of beer
2 teaspoons of baking powder (gives it a bit more oomph in rising)
1 1/2 teaspoons of salt
About 4ish cups of unbleached, all purpose flour (NOT self rising! Check your flour to see what type it is before you start! Give or take depending on the humidity in the air and a 1/2 cup more if you want to proof the yeast)
1/2 cup water if you want to proof the yeast
Any herbs that you may want to add.  This time I'm using sage, garlic, basil, paprika and some rolled oats.

You can proof the yeast if you want to by putting the yeast, 1/2 cup of flour and 1/2 cup of water into a bowl and letting it sit for about 30ish minutes.  You don't have to do this step but it's a good idea if your yeast has been hanging around for a while just to make sure it isn't dead.

Putting it together is really quick and easy.  If you proofed the yeast, just pour in the bottle of beer and add the salt & baking powder.  Mix it up but don't beat it to death.  Mix it gently for a minute or two until you don't see any clumps of baking powder.  Add 2 cups of the flour and give it another 20 or so stirs then add 2 more cups of flour and mix it until it's all combined.  It will get to the point where it's hard to stir with a spoon so don't feel bad about putting the spoon down and finishing the mixing with your hands.

I don't mind kneading bread but a lot of people either hate it or really don't know how to do it.  This bread only needs a minimal amount of kneading.  Since I'm not one to re-invent the wheel, if you don't know how to knead bread, watch this short video that I found on YouTube on how to do it.  If you do already know how to knead bread then skip the video and go to the next step.  :)

You'll only need to knead this bread for a couple of minutes, not the 8 to 10 that the video suggests.  It will feel soft and smooth in your hands.  If you've never felt a nice, warm, fresh bread dough before then you've definitely been missing out!

Kinda lumpy, bumpy looking but it feels
really soft when you touch it.

Once you are done kneading, form the bread into a ball and put it back into the bowl you mixed it in (I'm all about having as few dishes to wash as possible!).  

You probably notice the difference between the way this bread and the bread in the video looks.  This is a more artisan or rustic type of bread with no eggs, butter or other unnecessary ingredients so it does look denser.  It is also heavier than your typical Wonder Bread that you've been eating for years.

Anyway... cover the dough and let it rise for somewhere between 1 and 1 1/2 hours.  It needs to be in a fairly warm spot to rise so I usually heat my oven up to 150 degrees and turn it off as soon as it beeps that it's made it there.  I set the bowl on top of the stove between the burners so the heat from the oven can give it a little kick, without actually cooking the bread.  You have to watch out for that if your oven has a vent on the top.

You want the bread to rise to at least double the original size.  This is where the real fun begins!

First things first though.  You'll need to grease your loaf pans.  You can use cooking spray or butter, shortening or even lard.  Whatever you have on hand and like to use.  I usually use lard because I like that old timey taste.  Butter or shortening are my second favorites and I only use cooking spray when I know the apocalypse is right around the corner and the zombies have invaded my house.  A very thin layer is all that's really needed.  You don't want to literally fry your bread when you cook it!

After 1st rise! It's ALIVE!

What I do after the first rise is take a sharp fillet knife and cut the dough in half.  Each half will be one loaf of bread.  Put some flour on the counter because you'll need it.  This bread is a bit sticky when you work with it.  

I remove the first half and this one is my regular, plain jane sammy bread.  I form the half into a rectangle that is approximately the length of my bread pan by about 6 inches.  Roll the dough to form a loaf (similar to the way you roll cinnamon rolls) and pinch the seam closed at the bottom.   Put it in the loaf pan.  

I do the plain, sammy bread first when I form the loaves so I don't have to clean off the counter in between the two loaves to remove any unwanted herbs that may have spilled out.  It saves the flour that I spread on the counter for the first loaf to also be used on the second.  Since I make bread so often, wasting flour just doesn't make sense because it's not as cheap as it used to be.  

The second loaf is formed the same way except for this time I put the herbs in it.  Today I used garlic, paprika, basil and sage.  You'll sprinkle the herbs on the dough rectangle and roll it up just like you did the last one.  Pinch the seam closed and put it into the loaf pan seam side DOWN.

Sammy bread on the right, dinner bread
on the left that has been herbed and
rolled in oats.

I added one more thing to this loaf this time.  I rolled it in thick oats.  You'll want to do something on the outside that will distinguish it from the plain jane loaf.  You could sprinkle more of the herbs on it but be sure to do something that will make the two look different from each other.  Oh, and if the oats don't stick, spay a bit of water on the loaf and they'll stick.

Now that the two loaves are formed and in the pan, it's time to hurry up and wait... again.  Cover the tops with a towel and set them to rise once again just like you did the first time.  This time, I let them rise for about another 1 1/2 hours.  They will actually rise a bit more in the oven once the baking process starts so they don't have to make it up past the top of the pan when they rise this time.  Remember, we are making artisan or rustic bread here.  Not Wonder Bread.  :)

Once the timer goes off again, they should have risen enough that they will be ready to bake and fill your house with one of the best smells in the world.  The smell of freshly baking bread is darn near as good as the taste, I promise.

Finished rising the second time.
It's oven time!

A few minutes before the second rise is over, set your oven temp for 425 degrees.  Your loaves should have doubled in size once again from the second rise.  The "skin" will be smooth.  You can make a few artisan cuts into the top of the bread at this point if you want.  It will help it rise more in the oven and plus, it looks kinda cool too once the bread is baked.

For a great crust on this bread, put a few inches of water into an oven proof pan and put it on the bottom shelf of your oven.  The water in the pan will create steam which is fantastic for forming a nice, hearty crust on the bread that is baking in the oven.

Bake the loaves at 425 degrees for about 25ish minutes.  This next step is optional but I think it makes the crust even better.  After about 25ish minutes, I pull the loaves out of the oven and brush the tops with melted butter.  NOT margarine, NOT Country Crock.  Use real butter or just don't do it.  The butter wash will help the tops of the loaves turn a yummy golden brown.  Put it back into the oven until it's done which will take anywhere from another 25 minutes to 35 minutes.

Out of the oven and on the cooling rack.

When the bread is done, let it sit for a few minutes in the pans to let it cool off.  Then you'll remove it from the pans and put it on a cooling rack to completely cool before cutting into it.  I've found that slicing as I need it works best for me instead of slicing the whole loaf at once.  That's just my silliness though.

Tonight I'll be eating a few slices of the herbed bread with a sweet little medium rare filet minion and my recipe for a kick ass kale side dish.  (<--- The recipe link is right there if you want to check it out because it's AMAZING and really easy.)  

Nice crust!  Yes, I shared.  :)

So now that you know how to make one of the easiest, tastiest breads on Earth, the excuses are gone as to why you can't do it.  Some people say making bread takes too much time.  I say that's a lame excuse.  Yes, the total time it took from start to finish is about 4 1/2 hours but only 30 minutes of that was time needed to actually handle the bread.  Three hours of that time was rising time and another hour was for baking.  I don't sit and watch the bread rise or bake.  I do other things while it's rising and baking.  Today I wrote, vacuumed the entire house, transplanted some of my seedlings into larger containers and even left at one point to run to the gas station.

Just like with everything else we do, it's all about priorities.  Not eating crap, processed, corn syrup filled breads have become a priority to me so I make bread once a week.  If something is really important to you, you'll find the time for it so until Sweets comes home, I make bread once a week.  After that it will probably be two days a week because he's a bread fanatic.  I know I'll be making some of this for him the next time I'm in Georgia or he's in Indiana.  That thought makes me happy. 

Happy Thursday my friends!




  1. "You don't want to literally fry your bread when you cook it!"

    What's wrong with that? I like fried bread ;)

  2. I'll have two kinds of kale for us this year. Red Russian and Blue Curled - yum!

  3. LOL! Fried bread really is OK but when I add the butter to the top, it could be a bit much. :)

    SWEET! I have that recipe for the kale side dish. Made it last night to go with this. You should try it this summer because it's REALLY yummy and only takes a couple of minutes. Maybe I'll make it one time when we all get together this summer cause you know we will! You have to use a real clove of garlic in it though because garlic powder just doesn't taste the same.

  4. Such a very informative post about bread. I like the bread and I think it is sweet. Thank you for demonstrating to us on how to make bread.


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