Knowing how to make bread at home is a very simple skill that should really be taught in schools across the country. A basic food item that can save you hundreds of dollars a year, (not to mention commercial bread is filled with preservatives) every home cook should know how to bake their own homemade sandwich bread.
This homemade sandwich bread recipe I will share with you today will provide a base from which you can launch your own bread-making skills. A basic, wonderfully soft white bread, ideal for learning the basic skills of bread baking, before going on to make things such as homemade biscuits or sourdough bread.
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Is It Cheaper To Make Your Own Bread?
In the long run ...yes. It will be cheaper to bake your own bread at home as opposed to buying it.
Here in Atlantic Canada, commercially available bread will run you anywhere from $2.99 to $5.99 per loaf (or .18 to .37 cents a slice) depending on the brand and quality of the bread. Artisanal bread can cost even more.
A homemade loaf of bread using the recipe below will roughly come in around .15 cents a slice (or $2.50 /loaf). While the upfront cost of buying ingredients may be higher…….
- $8.99 for 5 kg (11 lb) of flour
- $4.58 for 100 g active dry yeast
- $3.99 for 454 g (1 lb) of butter
- $1.50 for 2 kg (4 lbs) Sugar
…….you are able to control the quality of ingredients much better. The cheapest loaves of commercial bread are filled with preservatives and ingredients you can’t even pronounce, (ever wonder why store-bought bread lasts so long?)
By investing the time to bake a quality loaf of homemade bread you can create a nutritious product that rivals the “higher-end” breads at a fraction of the cost.
Reduce your costs of baking bread at home even further by purchasing ingredients such as flour and sugar in bulk, and only when on sale! – Chef Markus
How Long Does Homemade Bread Last?
On average, a loaf of homemade bread when stored properly will last anywhere from 3 to 5 days at room temperature. If you live in warm humid conditions this may be cut short to 2 to 3 days due to the higher chance of mold developing.
Due to homemade bread not containing any preservatives, mold spores(which are present in the air around us) are able to grow and multiply much faster then they would on commercial bread.
What’s The Best Way To Store Homemade Bread?
To extend the shelf life of the bread as long as possible I would recommend letting the freshly baked loaf of bread cool completely (overnight on the counter), before refrigerating in a plastic bag, or clean linen bag specifically for that purpose.
By refrigerating the bread, you can easily get it to last you a week. If you don’t eat it all first.
Easy Homemade Bread
If this is your first time baking bread at home, this recipe will teach you the basic steps of making homemade bread the old fashioned way, without a bread machine.
You can make this recipe in an electric mixer (I used my Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer ) if you have one, otherwise, you can mix the dough by hand in a bowl and then knead the dough on a countertop.
Before We Begin
All bread will contain some type of flour, (though it is most often a wheat flour), water and a leavening agent, such as yeast or sourdough starter.
Ingredients such as butter, eggs, sugar, nuts, grains, and fruit, can all be added to a basic bread recipe and will change the texture, flavor, and style of the bread.
The basic steps we will follow below are:
- Activating the yeast & measuring out ingredients
- Mixing & kneading the dough
- Proofing the dough
- Punching down and shaping the loaf
- Proofing the loaf
- Baking The Bread
These six steps are the basic actions most homemade bread recipes will need to follow in order to successfully bake bread.
Types of Yeast
Most modern bread recipes use some form of bakers yeast. These are most often found in dried ‘active dry yeast’ or ‘instant yeast’ versions. Fresh yeast is sometimes used as well, though not as common as it used to be.
- Active Dry Yeast needs to be ‘bloomed’ or activated before being used in a recipe for best results.
- Instant Yeast can be added right to the dry ingredients of a recipe, and does not need special activation.
- Fresh Yeast should also be activated before use, much like active dry yeast.
Sourdough breads generally do not use ‘bakers yeast’ , and instead rely on the ‘wild’ yeasts found in the sourdough starter. Did you know you can make your own sourdough starter at home? – Chef Markus Mueller
Ingredients you will need:
- 2 cups of warm water
- 2 tsp of active dry yeast – I use fleischmann’s traditional yeast
- 2 Tbsp of sugar (use your favourite kind, even molasses or honey will work!)
- 1 tsp salt
- 4-5 cups of all-purpose or bread flour
- 1/2 cup soft butter or oil
- extra flour for dusting the counter and kneading
1. Activating the yeast & measuring out ingredients
Begin by taking your active dry yeast and mixing it with your sugar in a deep bowl or another tall container. Add the warm water to the yeast and stir it once to make sure all the yeast is mixed with water and not clumped together.
Make sure that the water is WARM. A littler warmer then lukewarm is perfect but not hot, generally between 105F and 110F. If you use hot water you will kill the yeast (120F+), which is, believe it or not, a living organisim. Use water that is too cold, and the yeast will not activate. It needs the warmth and moisture to wake up, and the sugar to feed on and begin fermentation. – Chef Markus
You will see the yeast start to froth and bubble as it feeds on the sugar. The warmer the water the faster this process will go. Make sure you can easily hold your hand in the water without burning yourself. This is called blooming or activating your yeast.
2. Mixing & kneading the dough
While the yeast is happily frothing away, measure out your flour and salt.
Tip: Don’t add your salt to the water/ sugar mix at the start, as it can inhibit the growth of the yeast.
Once the yeast has doubled in size and” bloomed”, you can add the whole liquid yeast mixture to your bowl or mixer with the flour and salt. Add in the butter or other fat, and mix it together until it forms a soft dough that you can either kneaded by hand on a counter or kept kneading(mixing) in a stand mixer.
If using a stand mixer as I did with my Kitchen Aid, you will want the dough to pull away from the sides without leaving behind any flour or gloopy mess on the sides of the bowl. The dough should be soft and elastic without overly sticking to you hands.
If mixing the dough by hand in a bowl, simply get it to a point where it holds together in a ball, and then place it on a floured surface to continue kneading the dough.
Knead the bread dough for about 5 to 10 minutes until it forms a smooth stretchy ball. While kneading the dough you are developing the gluten strands that form when flour and water are mixed.
The more you knead the dough the stretchier it will become resulting in a fluffier and softer end product.
Pizza dough for example, is kneaded for a longer time(12 -15 minutes)which results in a chewier and denser crust, while kneading biscuits for a short time (1-2 minutes) allows the dough to stay flaky and not become chewy.
3. Proofing the dough
To avoid the bread becoming chewy and dense we need to proof the dough. Proofing is the process in which you allow the yeast to go back to work consuming the sugar and releasing gas into the dough causing it to rise.
Since the gluten strands have been developed in the mixing/kneading stage, they will stretch, resulting in a nice fluffy ball of dough.
Proof your dough by placing it in a greased bowl. This helps to prevent the dough from sticking to the sides. Cover it with a clean linen dish towel and then placing it in a warm area, such as on top of your stove (which we will now pre-heat to 375F). Proofing takes about 20 to 30 minutes depending on the temperature of the dough and in the surrounding room. The dough needs to at least double in size.
4. Punching down and shaping the loaf
Once fully proofed, take the dough out of the bowl and place it back on a floured counter top/ surface. Punch out all the air from the dough, flattening it completely with your hands.
You may be asking well what was the point of that, if it was just all nice and fluffy? Don’t you worry! This first proofing stage is to help relax the gluten in the flour and lets the yeast use up some of its pent up energy. Proofing the dough twice (once after the dough is mixed, and then again after it is shaped), will give you a much softer and developed texture than simply proofing it once.
Next, we shape the dough. Starting at one edge of the flattened bread dough, start rolling it up into a tube. Make sure to roll it nice and tight to avoid any unnecessary air bubbles. Once it is rolled up, pinch the trailing edge to the rest of the dough to prevent it from unrolling.
Place the shaped bread in a pre-greased bread loaf pan or on a sheet pan if you want to bake a more rustic loaf. You should now have a simple shaped sandwich bread loaf!.
5. Proofing the loaf
Again cover the loaf with your clean dishcloth and let it proof again until double in size. This can take up to an hour if the kitchen is fairly cool. Once proofed a second time the bread can go right into your pre-heated oven.
6. Baking Your Homemade Bread
This is the easy part!
Bake the homemade bread at 375F for 15 minutes and then drop the temperature down to 350F. Baking it at a higher temperature ensures the bread rises just a little extra in the oven and produces a nicer crust due to the initial heat.
After dropping the temperature the inside of the loaf continues to bake without browning the outside to severely. Bake the loaf of bread for another 30 to 40 minutes or until the bread sounds hollow when you “knock” on the top.
You can also check the temperature with a food thermometer. The temperature should read 220F.
Cooling The Bread
After your homemade bread comes out of the oven let it cool on a wire rack until you can touch it with your bare hands without burning yourself. If baking the bread in a loaf pan, let the bread cool in the pan until you can turn it out with your hands, and then cool on a wire rack.
Slice the bread and bag it up for storage. This homemade bread will keep on the counter for 2 to 3 days or 5 to 7 days in the fridge. Once completely cooled you can also wrap the whole loaf in plastic wrap and then Ziploc bag it and freeze it! When you need to thaw it out simply place it in the fridge in its wrapping until completely thawed.
Homemade Sandwich Bread
- 2 cups warm water
- 2 tsp active dry yeast
- 2 Tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- ¼ cup unsalted butter or oil
- 4 – 5 cups all purpose flour
Bloom the Yeast
- Measure out the yeast, warm water and sugar.
- In a tall measuring cup or other container, combine the sugar yeast and water, stirring once to ensure all the yeast is mixed, and doesn’t clump together. Set this mixture aside and let the yeast activate and double in size.
Mixing & Kneading the Dough
- Measure out the flour,salt, and butter. Ensure the butter is at room temperature.
With an Electric Mixer
- Add the flour, salt and butter to the mixing bowl. Once the yeast and water mixture has risen and doubled in volume, add the liquid to the dry ingredients. Mix on low until the dough forms a solid mass, and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Keep kneading for about 5 minutes.
Mixing by Hand
- In a bowl mix the flour and salt. Pour the flour mix onto the counter and make a “well” in the middle of the flour. Melt the butter and pour it into the yeast and water mixture. Pour the liquid mix into the well slowly, making sure it does not breach the flour walls.
- Using a wooden spoon or your finger slowly mix flower from the edges into the liquid until the liquid starts to become thicker. Keep mixing in the flour until you do not have to worry about the liquid “escaping” and running across the counter.
- Keep mixing the flower into the liquid mix until you form a dough. Knead the dough by hand for 10-12 minutes until it is smooth and slightly stretchy.
- Pre-heat your oven to 375F
Proof The Bread Dough
- Once the dough is mixed, set it in a greased bowl and cover with a clean linen dish towel. Set the bowl in a warm area(such as ontop of a pre-heating stove) and let the dough proof for 30 to 40 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.
Shaping The Bread Loaf
- Remove the proofed dough from the bowl and place it on a lightly floured surface. Punch down the dough until all the air has been pressed out and the dough is flat on the counter.
- Form the dough by rolling the flattened dough into a roll. Pinch the trailing edge together to prevent it from unrolling. Place the loaf in a bread loaf pan or on a sheet pan.
- Again cover the dough and let it proof in a warm spot until it has doubled in size again.
Baking Your Homemade Sandwich Bread
- Once doubled in size, you may brush the top of the dough with an eggwash if you like.
- Place the dough in the pre-heated oven. Bake at 375F for 15 minutes, then lower the temperature to 350F and bake for another 30 to 40 minutes(for a loaf of bread – if making rolls bake for 15-20 minutes). The bread should be a nice golden brown, and sound hollow when you knock on it. You can also check the internal temperature of the bread with a thermometer. It should read 220F
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