Why buy bread from the store when you can bake it yourself? A lesson in making the perfect loaf

MILWAUKEE -- There's nothing quite as comforting than a fresh warm loaf of bread. Food science expert, Christina Ward, joins Real Milwaukee with the secret to making tasty bread in your own kitchen.

Sandwich Bread

Makes 2 loaves

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Adapted from Father Dominic Garramone, OSB

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups warm water
  • 2 packages active dry yeast (not instant)
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons sea or kosher salt
  • ¼ cup melted butter (that is not hot, but warm) *or lard, or vegetable oil for vegan
  • 6 to 6 ½ cups unbleached bread flour (Separate into 5 cups and 1 to ½ cups)

Tools:

  • Large stoneware bowl (Bowl should be three times volume of your dough. ie: for this recipe; bowl capacity should be at least 15 cups.)
  • Plastic wrap
  • Heavy duty bread loaf pans. Nice but not necessary, Kitchen Aid Mixer with dough hook.

Directions: 

  • Into stoneware bowl, mix water, sugar and yeast. Stir to dissolve. Let stand about ten minutes (or until foamy).  Add salt and butter; stir to mix.
  • One cup at a time, add 5 cups of the flour, mixing thoroughly each time.
  • ***Kitchenaid Method***  Move dough into Kitchen-Aid with dough hook attachment.  Turn on low setting.  Let dough hook work dough about 3 minutes.
  • ***Hand Method***  Move dough to lightly floured wood surface (using reserved flour). Knead 6 to 8 minutes until dough is smooth and elastic.
  • Place dough back into lightly greased stoneware bowl. Use whatever fat you used in the dough. Turn the dough over in bowl until it is fully coated.  Stretch plastic wrap over top of bowl.  Let rise at room temperature until dough has tripled in bulk.  (The time will vary as to how warm and humid your kitchen is.)
  • When your dough has risen, remove plastic wrap and ‘punch down’ dough.  Divide the dough into two equal pieces and form each into a loaf shape.  Place into greased (using same fat as in dough) loaf pan.  Cover with plastic wrap or flour cloth towel and let rise until doubled.
  • Place loaf pans on lower oven shelf.  On top shelf, place an old cookie sheet with about 4 ice cubes.  Bake for 35 minutes (or until top of loaf is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped).
  • Remove from pans immediately. Let cool on wire rack.  Enjoy!

Simple Artisan Boule Bread

Please note: This recipe utilizes the ancient ‘long-fermentation’ method of making bread. The entire process takes about 24 hours in 10 minute bursts of action.

This recipe also utilizes weight measures as it is far more accurate than volume measure and encourage home bakers to invest in kitchen scale.

Adapted from The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

Makes 4 loaves

Heat oven to 450 degrees for baking.

Ingredients:

  • 680 grams (3 cups)  lukewarm water
  • 10 grams (1 tablespoon) dry active yeast
  • 17 to 25 grams (1 to 1 ½) tablespoons kosher salt
  • 910 grams (6 ½ cups) all-purpose flour
  • cornmeal (for pan sprinkling)
  • Recommended Tools (with substitutions):
  • Wooden pizza peel (wooden bread board or wooden cutting board)
  • large (about 6 quarts) plastic container with lid (food grade plastic bucket, or large stoneware bowl)
  • Danish dough hook (wooden spoon,granny fork, bare hands)
  • Parchment paper
  • baking or pizza stone  (baking sheet, covered with parchment paper)

Directions: 

Step One: Mixing and storing dough

In your large plastic container, mix yeast, salt and water. (Water should be warmed to slightly higher than body temperature; no more than 100 degrees.)  Then mix in all the flour at once.  Whether using Danish hook, wooden spoon, or fork, you may need to reach down and use your hands; that’s okay.  The key is to mix but not knead the dough. Mix until there are no dry patches. Dough will be wet and stick to sides of container.  Cover the container with lid that is slightly cracked open so as not to be airtight.  (If using stoneware bowl, cover loosely with plastic wrap.)

Allow dough to rise at room temperature for about 2 hours; until dough begins to flatten or collapse on top.  Now place container into refrigerator and with lid still cracked open, allow to chill overnight.

NOTE: Don’t punch down nor knead dough! This method of long fermentation is allowing the yeast to do the hard work!  Your dough can remain in the fridge for about 14 days.

Step Two:  Shaping and Baking

Prepare your pizza peel (or wooden board) with cornmeal and/or parchment paper.  Remove dough container from refrigerator. Flour hands and lightly sprinkle flour on top of dough mix in container. Pull up and cut off 1 pound sections (about grapefruit sized) for as many loaves as you’re going to bake that day.

Hold dough in hands and add more flour as needed so it doesn’t stick to you hands. Gently stretch the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all sides, rotating ball as you go. The dusting flour will fall off; it should; it’s not meant to be incorporated into the dough, just keep it from sticking to your hands as you shape it. The bottom might look lumpy, but the top should be round and smooth. Take care to work with speed and purpose; overworking the dough will make for a dense loaf. (Ideally, shaping should take no longer than 30 seconds.)

Place shaped loaf onto pizza peel (wooden board) and allow to rest for about 40 minutes. (You can let it rest longer if you want a more open crumb. Cover with flour cloth if resting more than 40 minutes.)

Preheat a baking stone (pizza stone) near the middle of the oven set to 450 degrees.  Place an empty broiler or jelly roll pan on lowest rack of oven. (Remember to set your middle rack with enough room for bread to expand.)

When your loaves are rested, slash a ½ inch deep cross hatch pattern onto bread using a serrated knife.

Now move your loaf from the pizza peel (wooden board) to the baking stone. If your loaf is one parchment, leave the loaf on the parchment and bake on the parchment that is placed onto the stone (or cookie sheet).  Quickly but carefully, place a tray of ice cubes into the broiler pan (jelly roll pan).

Bake about 30 to 35 minutes or until crust is browned and firm to the touch.  Artisan breads bake to a darker color; so don’t worry, it’s not burnt!  Allow to cool for 2 hours on a wire cooling rack.