The Basics of Bread

baked bread

The weather is stinking hot here in Australia. Yesterday we had a day of 44 degrees above Celsius; the only way I can describe it was hot hot hot. I’m enjoying the heat, but if I were in Canada right now, I’d be in the midst of a snowy or rainy (or both) winter; it would be cold, and I’d be wanting to stay cozy inside with a book and the oven on. I still want to stay inside, but that’s more for the proximity to my air conditioner than anything else!

mom's ribbon for breadBread is something my family makes on occasion, when someone has the time and is willing to put in the effort. Despite what you may think, bread is simple to make–it’s more time consuming than difficult, requiring a bit of patience and effort instead of complexity. While I was still in Canada, I spent some time in the kitchen with my parents and learned a few of their tips and tricks for certain recipes (and took some photos).

My parents’ bread recipe is a quarter recipe from when they were living in Kimberly, BC in 1979 working on their teaching practicums. They lived above a health food store, where my mum worked to help discount their rent. She made and sold this bread there, though it was a bit tricky because their oven at the time only fit four loaves for baking. Once, she took this bread to the Parson Fall Faire, a surprisingly large fair for such a small town (just south of Golden, BC, where I was born), and her bread won first prize! Check out the ribbon (right)–it’s still at the front of her cookbook.

If you’ve never made bread before but want to try, this is the recipe for you. I’ve written everything in great detail, so you know what needs to be done in which order. Enjoy!

Mum & Dad’s Bread Recipe

Makes: 2 medium loaves of bread (double the recipe for 4)
Cooking time: 40 minutes hands-on, 3 hours total (roughly)
Difficulty: Moderate

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp dry yeast (one envelope)
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/8 cup dark molasses
  • 1/8 cup honey
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 5 cups flour: can be white, whole wheat, rye, multi-grain, etc.
  • Optional: flax seed (linseed), sunflower seeds, raisins, etc.

yeast

Do this first! Mix the yeast with the warm water and sugar in a separate bowl and set aside. This will activate the yeast before you mix it into the other ingredients.

In a very large bowl, mix together the canola oil, molasses, honey, salt, and egg, until well blended. Once the yeast has activated (it should dissolve entirely, start to foam, and perhaps form clumps on the top–this means it’s healthy and active, though you may have to leave it for 10-15 minutes), stir it into the molasses and egg mixture, as seen to your right.

Into this large bowl, add your 5 cups of flour. This can be any combination of white, whole wheat, multi-grain, rye, or whatever other kind of flour you may have on hand. (Don’t use self-raising, this has baking soda added and will affect the rising of the bread.) Just remember, the more whole wheat you have in there, the more kneading you’ll have to do. I used 2 cups of white, 2 cups of whole wheat, and 1 cup dark rye flour in this recipe, as well as 2-3 tbsp flax seeds (linseed). Other seeds and grains would work fine in this recipe, too.

flour

Once you’ve mixed the wet ingredients and flour together, sprinkle about 1/8 cup of flour on your clean counter top. Knead this into the bread, gradually adding more flour until the dough is no longer sticky.

kneading

While kneading, be sure to rotate the bread often and knead away from yourself, pushing/stretching the dough across the counter, using the heels of your hands. You’ll have to knead for at least 10 minutes–the more the better! Once the dough has become elastic and springy you’ll have kneaded enough. If you’re using lots of whole wheat flours, expect to be kneading for about 15 minutes.

Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a piece of lightly oiled waxed paper or plastic wrap and a clean tea cloth. Leave it somewhere warm and protected (but not hot). Let rise until dough has doubled in size, about an hour. You can rise the bread in the fridge for 2 hours instead if preferred.

bread rising

Once the dough has doubled in size, knead it down again for a few minutes. Divide in half, and shape into loaves.

Hint! To get a nice even loaf, roll out the dough into a pancake like shape, and roll it up with the ends tucked underneath. This will give you a smooth top and that bread-like look. Place dough into well-greased 9″ bread pans, cover with tea towel and allow to rise again to about twice its size (30 minutes).

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Pre-heat your oven to 350 F, 180 C. Score the top of your dough with a sharp knife. Once oven is heated, place on the centre rack and bake for 35 minutes.

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Et voila! You have two beautiful loaves of bread. Be sure you get a piece or two before hungry housemates devour them!

baked bread 2

3 Responses to The Basics of Bread

  1. That looks delicious, Joni! I’ll have to try it! (I saw your post on FB about this blog – what a cool idea!) Take care!

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