Making yeast bread from scratch is a very efficient process and only takes a few minutes of hands-on time. Most of the time the yeast is doing the work!
Time Required: 3 hours
What You Need:
- Salt and sugar
- Find a recipe and collect the ingredients it calls for. Measure out the flour and place in a separate bowl. Measure the rest of the ingredients.
- Begin by testing yeast. Dissolve 2-1/4 tsp. of yeast (for 1 package) in 1/2 cup warm water and let sit for 5 minutes. If the mixture bubbles, the yeast is alive. If not, go out and buy fresh yeast.
- Combine about 1/4 of the flour and the rest of the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
- Heat the liquid ingredients in a saucepan until just warm. A food thermometer should read 110 degrees. Shortening or butter does not need to melt.
- Combine dry and liquid ingredients and add the softened yeast along with eggs, if called for. Beat well for three minutes, using a mixer or by hand.
- Gradually add the rest of the flour to the dough, stirring with the mixer or spoon as long as you can.
- When the dough becomes too stiff to stir, sprinkle a clean working surface with flour and turn the dough onto the surface.
- Begin kneading. Gather the dough into a ball and fold it in half towards you. Press down and away from you firmly but lightly with the heels of your hands. Turn dough 1/4 turn and repeat process.
- Knead as long as the recipe calls for or until the dough is smooth and feels springy and elastic.
- Grease a clean mixing bowl with shortening. Place the kneaded dough in the bowl and turn it so all surfaces are greased.
- Cover the bowl with a towel and set in a warm spot to rise according to the recipe. When the dough is doubled, press fingers into the dough and the indentation will remain when you remove your fingers.
- Punch down dough and let it sit for 10 minutes before proceeding. Divide dough into pieces as called for in recipe.
- Flatten dough pieces and roll up tightly in a jelly-roll fashion. Pinch edges to seal. Place in greased loaf pans so the short sides touch the pan. Cover and let rise again until the dough fills the pan and rises 1" over the top.
- Bake as directed in recipe. Remove from oven when golden brown and loaf sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Remove from pans and let cool.
- The temperature of the liquid is critical. Use a food thermometer until you are sure of your temperature estimating ability.
- Make sure that you let the dough rise in a place that is warm but not hot. A closed oven with the light turned on is a good place.
- It's really difficult to ruin bread if the yeast is fresh. Always test the yeast before making the recipe.
- For a chewy crust, spray loaves with cold water during baking. For a soft crush, brush crusts with butter after baking. For a shiny crust, combine 1 slightly beaten egg with 1 tbsp. water and brush over loaves before baking.