Monday, August 17, 2015

Baking Homemade Bread - Yeast Bread Recipe

Photo: Lydia Jones

Baking Homemade Bread - Not As Hard As it Sounds


In a world of instant mixes, frozen dinners, and fast food, the simple pleasure of baking bread has almost been forgotten. From early childhood, I have pleasant and cherished memories of my mother and grandmothers baking yeast breads and batter breads-hearty breads for meals, sweat breads for desserts.

Baking bread, much like sewing, crochet, and knitting, is fast becoming a lost art, but the truth is that baking batter breads doesn't take much longer than a bread mix.

Hmm, fresh yeast bread! The aroma fills the entire house, causing all within to follow the fragrance to the kitchen in hopes of getting a slice of hot, buttered, yeast bread. For as long as I can remember, the smell of bread baking has been a comforting sign of home.
There are so many things that come to my mind when I think about bread: my grandmother's old stories of times when bread and cheese, or worse, bread and water, were all that was available to eat; the five loaves Jesus blessed and fed to 5,000 men (the women and children were not counted); the unleavened bread of remembrance for the body the Christ sacrificed that the world might have peace with God; the buttered bread toasting in the oven on a cold winter morning; the first time I punched down the yeast dough, then baked the loaf and served it to my new husband. . . So many things come to mind that I can spend an entire, serene morning just thinking while enjoying the scent of rising and baking bread.

Photo: Junior Libby
Even batter breads (breads leavened with baking powder or a combination of baking soda and buttermilk rather than yeast), such as the cornbread my mom served with hot brown (pinto) beans, lend a sense of home and belonging.

Grocery stores have long sold boxes of cake mixes on their shelves (I confess that I occasionally use one of them.). For some time, now, they have also sold different types of bread mixes, biscuit mixes, cornbread mixes, and frozen yeast breads and rolls. While these are usually ok, they just don't have give your home the ambience of handmade, fresh breads. Nor do the pre-made, brown-in-the-oven varieties.
Think you don't have time to bake bread? While it is true that yeast breads take some time, after all, they need to rise, many bread recipes don't take much, if any, longer than using a mix. For instance, to use a cornbread mix, you open the package and pour it into a bowl, add egg, oil, and milk. To make cornbread from scratch, you measure cornbread, flour, salt, and baking powder into the bowl, and then add egg, oil, and milk.

Photo: Jeremy Keith
While it might, maybe, take two extra minutes to measure four items, the taste difference is incredible! Another example would be homemade biscuits. To make biscuits from scratch, measure flour, salt, and baking powder into the bowl, add oil and milk. Depending on the biscuit mix you buy, you can open the package and pour it into the bowl, or open the container and measure the appropriate amount into the bowl, then add oil and milk. Not much difference, is there?

It doesn't even take too much longer than "whampum" biscuits (store-bought refrigerator biscuits in a roll can). Even with those, you have to open them and put them in the pan. Frozen biscuits might be faster, but again, the difference in taste is definitely noticeable.
I have memorized three bread recipes: the yeast bread I use for both pizza crust and table bread, the cornbread my mother taught me to make, and the biscuits my husband loves. The yeast bread recipe I use is below. The cornbread and biscuit recipes will be in my next post. These recipes will help you recapture the aromatic art of baking bread.

Easy Homemade Yeast Bread Recipe

This can be used to make 2 loaves, or 2 dozen yeast rolls, or as the crust for two pizzas, or cheesy bread sticks.

  • 2 cups warm water
  • 2 tablespoons dry baker's yeast
  • 4 tbsp. oil
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 5 cups flour
  1. In a 2 cup measuring cup, add the yeast to the warm water and mix well. Add the sugar, salt and oil. Stir liquid and let sit for 5 minutes. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Grease two pans (loaf pans or pizza pans, depending on which you are making) with 1 tablespoon of oil for each.
  2. Pour yeast liquid into a mixing bowl. Add half the flour and stir gently with a fork until moistened, then add the rest of the flour. Stir with fork until dough forms ball around fork (about 25 stirs). Flour hands and knead dough until smooth and elastic. Divide dough into two balls.
For bread loaves, roll each ball into an 18" X 9" rectangle. Starting at the small end, roll dough into a log shape. Pinch edges together, and tuck ends under. Place into oiled pan, cover and let rise for 30 minutes. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden.

For pizza crust, press each ball into a 12" to 14" oiled pizza pan. Make sure that the dough is distributed evenly. Top each with ½ cup pizza sauce and your favorite toppings. Bake for 20 minutes until toppings are done and bottom is lightly browned. After 10 minutes, I trade places with the two pans, moving the one on top to bottom, and the one on bottom to the top. This prevents one being overdone and the other underdone. Allow to sit for 5 minutes before slicing.

For cheesy bread sticks, follow instructions for pizza crust. Instead of topping with pizza sauce, lightly brush with melted butter, sprinkle generously with garlic powder, and top each evenly 1/2 of a 1 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese and 1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese mixture. Use more cheese if desired. Bake as directed in the pizza crust instructions.


Do you have a favorite recipe for homemade bread?
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