The smell of bread baking conjures up home, hearth, and happiness. And then there's the anticipation of tearing off that first warm slice, slathering on butter and maybe preserves or a fruit butter and then just letting the taste take over.
Homemade bread starts with the most basic of ingredients. No matter which bread recipe you choose, you can be sure it will include flour; yeast; sugar; salt; cooking oil, butter, or shortening; and water. The method is the same for whatever kind of yeast bread you want to make. Favorite options are whole wheat, honey white, buttermilk, sourdough, multigrain, and rye.
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Combine the Dry Ingredients
Start by combining all of your dry ingredients in a bowl: flour, yeast, salt, sugar, and any other dry ingredient that your recipe calls for. If you want to make your bread in a bread machine, just dump the ingredients right into the bread pan.
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Add the Wet Ingredients
Next, add the wet ingredients called for in the bread recipe. This should take care of the rest of your ingredients list. Do a quick scan of the recipe to make sure you haven't left anything out.
If you're using a bread machine, simply choose the appropriate setting on your machine, and it will do everything else for you: kneading, rising, and baking. If you're making your bread by hand, continue on to the next step.
A note about bread machines: Bread machines are convenient, but baking in the oven produces superior bread, and the loaves come out lighter and larger. To save time, you can use a bread machine to make the dough and then do everything else by hand. A win-win, if ever there was one.
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Knead the Dough
Mix the ingredients together until they are well combined and then continue to knead them until they form a stiff dough. You can do this by hand or, if you prefer, in an electric mixer or bread machine.
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Allow the Dough to Rise
Place the dough in a lightly oiled bread pan, cover it with a dishcloth, and allow it to rise until it has doubled in size. This will take at least 30 minutes.Continue to 5 of 6 below.
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Bake Your Bread
Once your dough has risen, bake it according to the instructions in your recipe. Many recipes call for baking at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes, but time and temperature can vary from recipe to recipe.
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Slice and Enjoy
Give your homemade bread a few minutes to cool before slicing. This will make it much easier to cut. Then enjoy it with jam, preserves, fruit butter, butter, or plain. No matter how you serve it, fresh bread can't be beaten.