How to make your own bread

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Photo: Pixabay, Homemaker, CC0

You’re going to need bread during a national emergency, but it won’t be as simple as running down the street to the local grocery store. Fortunately you can make your own bread with both a wood or conventional oven. It’s a bit complicated, but it will be crucial to your survival.

You’ll need several ingredients to make a basic loaf of bread. You may want to stock up on these items now while you still can.

  • 3 cups of flour
  • 3 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • 1 ½ cakes of yeast, dissolved in 2 tablespoons of warm water (make sure the water is warm not hot)
  • ½ cup of milk (don’t use skim milk)
  • ½ cup of water
  • 3 tablespoons of butter or margarine

NOTE: These are the minimum ingredients for any loaf of bread you’re making with yeast. As you’ll see later, other recipes call for other ingredients, such as honey, that aren’t listed here.

Method

Start out by sifting the flour into a large mixing bowl along with the sugar and salt.

Next take a second mixing bowl and combine the yeast mixture with the milk and water. Let this sit for 2-3 minutes. The mixture should start to bubble. If you’ve done it properly, you should see a foam-like substance form.

Gently and slowly stir the two bowls together. With proper care, the mixture should come to resemble smooth dough.

Next sprinkle some flour on your hands and start to knead the dough. This is the most difficult step about making the bread, so use caution. To properly knead, use the heel of your hand to push the dough away from you, elongating it. Then fold it back over itself. Rotate the dough (very slightly!) and do this again. You’re done kneading when it takes on what looks like a sheen. Another test is to press your finger into the dough. If the indentation remains, it’s ready to rise.

Once you’re done kneading, cover the dough in the bowl with a towel and let it set for 15 minutes.

Time for round two of kneading. The professionals recommend that you spend exactly 10 minutes kneading the dough. Make sure you once again put flour on your hands.

After 10 minutes, form the dough into a loaf shape and place it in a greased 5 X 10 inch bread pan. Let the dough sit for one hour.

Finally, bake the dough for 40 minutes at around 375 degrees in your oven. Once it’s done, give it ten minutes to cool.

Unleavened bread

Unfortunately, not everyone has yeast lying around the house. Fortunately, you can still make a loaf of bread. Here is a very simple recipe for unleavened bread.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2/3 cup of water

Method

Mix the flour and water together in your mixing bowl until doughy. Knead the dough for 10 minutes, using the technique described above.

Next cut the dough into 16 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball and flatten with a rolling piece. Each piece should be about 6 inches in diameter. Pierce each disk with a fork at one-inch intervals.

Place the pieces on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake them in your oven for 7 minutes at 425 degrees. Each disk should lightly colored and crisp.

Both of these recipes will give you a very simple loaf of bread. Depending on how long an emergency lasts, you might want to expand out into different varieties of bread. All breads are made differently and, as stated earlier, you may need to pick up some additional ingredients. Below are a couple essential recipes for the bread baker.

SIMPLE WHOLE WHEAT BREAD

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 2 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 5 cups bread flour
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 3 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted

Method

In a large bowl, mix warm water, yeast, and 1/3 cup honey. Add 5 cups white bread flour, and stir to combine. Let set for 30 minutes, or until big and bubbly.

Mix in 3 tablespoons melted butter, 1/3 cup honey, and salt. Stir in 2 cups whole wheat flour. Flour a flat surface and knead with whole wheat flour until not real sticky – just pulling away from the counter, but still sticky to touch. This may take an additional 2 to 4 cups of whole wheat flour. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to coat the surface of the dough. Cover with a dishtowel. Let rise in a warm place until doubled.

Punch down, and divide into 3 loaves. Place in greased 9 x 5 inch loaf pans, and allow to rise until dough has topped the pans by one inch.

Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 25 to 30 minutes; do not overbake. Lightly brush the tops of loaves with 2 tablespoons melted butter or margarine when done to prevent crust from getting hard. Cool completely.

PITA BREAD

Ingredients:Pita bread

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar or honey
  • 1 packet yeast (2-1/4 tsp)
  • 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups water, roughly at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, vegetable oil, butter, or shortening

Method

Mix the yeast in with the flour, salt, and sugar. Add the olive oil and 1 1/4 cup water and stir together with a wooden spoon. All of the ingredients should form a ball. If some of the flour will not stick to the ball, add more water.

Once all of the ingredients form a ball, place the ball on a work surface, such as a cutting board, and knead the dough for approximately 10 minutes. If you are using an electric mixer, mix it at low speed for 10 minutes.

When you are done kneading the dough, place it in a bowl that has been lightly coated with oil. Form a ball out of the dough and place it into the bowl, rolling the ball of dough around in the bowl so that it has a light coat of oil on all sides. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel and set aside to rise until it has doubled in size, approximately 90 minutes.

When it has doubled in size, punch the dough down to release some of the trapped gases and divide it into 8 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball, cover the balls with a damp kitchen towel, and let them rest for 20 minutes. This step allows the dough to relax so that it’ll be easier to shape.

While the dough is resting, preheat the oven to 450 degrees. If you have a baking stone, put it in the oven to preheat as well. If you do not have a baking stone, turn a cookie sheet upside down and place it on the middle rack of the oven while you are preheating the oven. This will be the surface on which you bake your pitas.

After the dough has relaxed for 20 minutes, spread a light coating of flour on a work surface and place one of the balls of dough there. Sprinkle a little bit of flour on top of the dough and use a rolling pin or your hands to stretch and flatten the dough. You should be able to roll it out to between 1/8 and 1/4 inch thick – 6 inches in diameter. If the dough does not stretch sufficiently you can cover it with the damp towel and let it rest 5 to 10 minutes before trying again.

Place discs on a lightly greased baking sheet and let rise, uncovered, until barely doubled in thickness, about 30-45 minutes.

Open the oven and place as many pitas as you can fit on the hot baking surface. They should be baked through and puffy after 3 minutes.

We missed the salt out of the first recipe. It’s fixed now but here are some things you need to know about salt and bread baking:

  • Salt is a natural antioxidant and not only adds taste but especially helps bring out the flavors and aromas present in the flour and other ingredients.
  • The basic ratio of salt to flour in bread is 1/2 teaspoon salt per cup of flour.
  • Next to its role in boosting the flavor of your bread, salt plays a role in tightening the gluten structure and adding strength to your dough. It helps the loaf to hold on to the carbon dioxide gas that is formed during fermentation, supporting good volume.
  • Salt slows down fermentation and enzyme activity in dough. The salt crystals draw water away form their environment (salt is ‘hygroscopic’ like cornflour.) When salt and yeast compete for water, salt wins and the yeast is slowed down.
  • Because of its moisture maintaining properties, salt can prevent bread from getting stale but it can also (this is especially true in humid environments) absorb moisture from the air and leave you with soft crusts and soggy bread.

How much salt is considered normal in bread baking?

In bread baking the percentage of salt added that is considered normal, ranges from 1.8% to 2.2% of the total amount of flour, depending on the recipe and personal preference. Low salt contents can lead to bland loaves, anything over the 2.2% norm will likely be considered too salty.

Should I be afraid of salt touching my yeast?

No. Usually you add salt and yeast to your flour and immediately start mixing. You don’t want to add salt on top of fresh yeast and leave it because then the salt will kill the yeast.

Got no yeast? Use club soda or sparkling water!

When sparkling water is added to a dough or batter, its bubbles create pockets of air that expand under heat, giving the final product a lighter texture.

According to the Chicago Tribune: The leavening benefits of the carbon dioxide in dough are, of course, fleeting. To maintain its sparkling personality, even in the short term, the water must be very cold (the smallest increase in temperature reduces the ability of a liquid to hold gas) and the bottle opened just before use to maintain the carbon dioxide level.

What this means for the cook is that time is of the essence: Once the contents are no longer under pressure, the chilled water must be bound quickly into the dough. Gentle hand-folding is prudent.

Recipe:
Sift 2 cups of flour and a pinch of salt together into a large bowl.
Rub 125 g of cold butter into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs.
Add about 80 ml of ice cold soda water or sparkling water and mix to form a firm dough. Cover (plastic wrap) and chill in the fridge for about an hour before use. Bake the pastry at 200C.