Homemade Bread: Learning to Cook Week Three

If you’ve been following along, you know all about our Learning to Cook series. This week, I decided to let Bella choose our cooking project for the week. I was completely unsurprised when she chose bread because she’s been asking to make it for ages. The only problem was that, unlike cakes or muffins, I had never made any kind of bread at all before- not even from a box. Fortunately, one of our readers, Stephanie Walsh, sent us her tried and tested recipe for homemade bread. We also received a really good recipe from reader Jack Stewart. This week, we’re going to use Stephanie’s recipe because it seemed a little easier. In a few weeks, we’ll give Jack’s a try.

Without further ado, I present our adventure in homemade bread-making.

Ingredients

  • 6 1/4 to 6 3/4 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 ounce active dry yeast (1 packet)
  • 2 1/4 cups warm water (between 110 and 115 degrees)
  • 3 tbsp sugar (we used organic cane sugar)
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 2 tbsp canola oil

How to Make the Homemade Bread

Homemade bread ingredients

Mixing the ingredients

  1. In a large bowl, mix the yeast packet with the warm water. You will need a pretty big bowl because you will eventually add all of your ingredients to it. Dissolve the yeast in the water.
  2. Add the salt, sugar, oil, and 3 cups of the flour. Beat this until it is smooth.
  3. Keep adding flour, 1/2 a cup at a time, mixing well each time before adding more. Add flour until you have a soft dough. We ended up adding 5 1/2 cups before we thought it looked and felt right (kind of like play-doh).
  4. Place your dough on a floured surface and knead it until it’s smooth. This takes about 8-10 minutes (or 15+ if the kids are helping). Then, place the kneaded dough into a greased bowl, turning it over once to make sure it all gets greased. Cover and let it sit in a warm place until it doubles. This took us about an hour and 15 minutes, but it can take up to an hour and a half.

    Kneading homemade bread

    Kneading the bread

  5. When it’s done rising, punch the dough down. (But don’t literally “punch” it. You just kind of knead it down.) Then put it back onto a floured surface. Divide it in half, which we did by cutting it down the middle with a knife. Then, shape each half into a loaf, and put each loaf into a greased 9×5 inch loaf pan. Cover again and let rise until doubled again. This time, it should only take 30-45 minutes.
  6. It’s time to bake! Bake the loaves at 375 degrees for 30-35 minutes. The bread should be golden brown and sound hollow when tapped when it is ready. Remove the bread from the pans and place on wire racks to cool.
finished homemade bread

The finished product

Our Verdict

Since Bella was so enthusiastic about this week’s recipe, I let her do most of the work. Surprisingly, homemade bread was a lot easier to make than I thought. The ingredient list is small, and the techniques are pretty simple (even though our loaf-shaping needs some work). I had to step in to do the mixing when the dough started to get thick and to help in the kneading. Bella did the rest with supervision. So, I think this is a great recipe to try with your kids if they’re into cooking.

There was also something deeply satisfying about making this most basic food item for ourselves. Maybe it was the extra bit of elbow grease that went into the mixing and kneading that did it. Or it could have been that feeling of recapturing a skill that so many people have forgotten in this era of pre-packaged, sliced bread. I could just imagine all those housewives and bakers of the past doing the same thing we were now doing, except without our conveniences. Even Bella asked how bakers made bread in the “old days,” so she must have felt this on some level, too.

As for taste, we wowed ourselves yet again. We couldn’t resist trying a slice of our homemade bread once it got cool enough to eat. It was delicious: delightfully crusty on the outside and pillowy-soft on the inside. With a dollop of butter, it tasted like heaven, according to Bella. We used it the next day to make a sort of “Ploughman’s Lunch,” something we ate in the UK. We sliced some bread and put it on a plate with some meat, cheese, pickles, and a few other things I had lying about. I think it’s the best lunch we’ve had in a while.

homemade bread lunch

Bella trying our homemade bread for lunch

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If you have a recipe you think we should try, email us through our Facebook page. We’re always looking for suggestions.

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