It seems like a lot of people think making bread is really hard. It’s not, I swear! I’ve been doing it since I was teensy. I used to make loaves for my American Girl dolls. It’s hard to screw up, even when you’re six, as long as your yeast is alive. You don’t really even have to measure anything, and if the dough is too wet, add more flour, and if it’s too dry, add more liquid…it will all work out in the end, I promise!
The recipe I usually use for sandwich bread is adapted from The Tassajara Bread Book. It goes like this.
Ingredients for the sponge:
3 cups lukewarm soymilk (Put some on your wrist– it should be the same temperature. If you’ve ever tested the temperature of a baby bottle, it’s like that.)
1 1/2 tablespoons dry yeast
1/4 cup brown rice syrup, agave syrup, maple syrup, sugar, etc.
4 cups whole wheat flour
Dissolve the yeast in the water and add the sweetener. If you want to make absolutely certain that your yeast is alive, wait for a while until you see bubbles. Or just have faith and continue. Stir in the flour. Tassajara recommends 100 strokes with a wooden spoon. You could also use an electric mixer if you so chose but my mom would disapprove. Put a damp towel (or plastic wrap) over the bowl and let it sit for 45 minutes. It will rise faster in a warmish spot, but it’s October so you might not have one of those.
The ingredients for the rest:
4 teaspoons salt
1/3 cup canola oil (or other oil)
2 1/2 cups white flour (or more whole wheat, but the white flour makes the dough much easier to work with)
1/2 cup vital wheat gluten
1 more cup of white flour for kneading
Fold in the salt and the oil, and then fold in the flour and the gluten. When the dough is coming away from the side of the bowl, it’s time to knead! Get out a big cutting board or just clean off your table. Sprinkle some of that flour on your surface and dump the whole mess on top of it. Fold it over, squish it, fold it over, squish it…you need 10 minutes of this. No cutting corners. The dough should be nice and smooth by the end of it. Shape it into a nice round ball, oil a bowl, and put your dough in it. Then turn the dough around in the bowl so it gets covered with the oil. Put that damp towel back on and fool around on the internet for an hour.
When the dough has doubled in size, you get to punch it! Well, it’s more like pushing to get the air out. Then put the towel back on for around 45 minutes. It needs to double in size again. Punch it down again, shape it into loaves and put it in greased loaf pans. It should make two loaves. Then you let it rise again! I know, I know, it’s a lot of rising. This time it’s only for 25 minutes or so, and it gives you time to preheat the oven to 350. After that rising, it bakes for an hour. Then, you have bread! Yay!