There are tomes written on how to make bread. Tomes. You can read until your eyes cross about how hard it is, how finicky yeast is to work with. Breathe wrong and the bread won’t rise. Knead too long, or too short a time, or with one leg crossed under the other in an errant fashion – and the bread will fail.
Making bread is not hard. Yeast is not scary. Yeah, if you are looking to make the perfect loaf, one that never has a hole in it or one that looks like it belongs on the cover of a bread baking book or could make people ooh and ahh at the store – that might be difficult. (In my opinion, it just would take a lot of practice and attention to really small details.) But in general, making bread is pretty easy.
It takes time. Bursts of activity and then time when you are free to do something else.
There are some caveats, and most of those have to do with the yeast. Yeast is alive.
- Don’t kill it before you want to (which is in the oven).
- This means you can’t use yeast that has been in your pantry since 1985. If you are worried about whether your yeast is good or not, “proof” it – put it with a little water and a couple of drops of honey (food for the yeast!) and stir it around, then let it sit for about 5 minutes. If it’s good, it’ll get bubbly and kind of frothy looking.
- You can’t pour boiling hot water over the yeast and expect it to live to do its work. Do you need a candy thermometer to gauge the right temperature? Nope. Test the liquid on the inside of your wrist, like you would a baby bottle. If it won’t burn that skin, you’re fine.
So . . . the recipe. Follow along on the video here!
- 1.5 c 7 or 8 grain cereal (the hot kind, not muesli)
- 3 c boiling water
- 5 TBS butter, melted (or oil, to make this vegan)
- 5 TBS honey
- 1 scant TBS yeast (or one packet)
- 1.5 c ww flour
- 3 c all-purpose (or bread) flour (+ extra for kneading)
- 1 TBS salt
- In a large bowl (or bowl of a standing mixer, if you have one) mix the cereal and boiling water together. Let this stand, stirring occasionally, until cool enough to touch.
- Stir in the butter and honey
- Sprinkle yeast over the top, and stir it in
- Mix flours together and stir them into the cereal mix. You’re looking to incorporate the flours in, not kneading this to make it a comprehensive smooth ball.
- Cover the dough with plastic wrap (or something relatively air-tight) and let stand for 20 minutes.
- Stir in the salt, then knead for 10 minutes, adding additional flour a bit at a time if needed to stop the dough sticking to the counter (or the bowl sides, if you’re using a stand mixer)
- Form a nice ball, then coat with oil (I drizzle oil into the bottom of the same bowl then put the ball of dough in and turn it around and over to coat it)
- Cover (use the same plastic wrap!) and put in a warm-ish place for an hour or 2 to rise.
- Punch the dough down, turn it onto a floured board or counter
- Flatten into a rectangle; cut the rectangle in half.
- Roll each piece into a cylinder and press into a greased loaf pan
- Cover and let rise about 20-25 minutes, while preheating the oven to 375
- Uncover and bake in the oven for 35 minutes, or until nicely dark brown and crusty.
- Take out of pans and cool on a rack.
- You can freeze one of these loaves to keep it fresher, or give one away. (wrap it well in plastic wrap and then foil. I then put the whole package in a Ziploc bag.)
Play with this. Kneading less will give you a denser loaf (which some people prefer.) If you have no hot cereal, sub oatmeal. Or try the bread without any. (you’ll need less water and more flour) If it rises too long on the first rise, no big deal – the second rise (in the pans) will take less time, so keep an eye on it. The loaf might not look this good. It will still taste amazing!