Confession: I’m a bread freak.

Something almost no one knows about me is that I make all our bread. I know, I know–the first time I heard of someone doing such a thing I thought “Wow–that seems a little…prepper. Why the heck would you make ALL your bread?” But as I ruminated on it over the next few days, I started to remember the times when my mom made homemade bread for us. I thought about the lovely, yeasty, luxurious smushiness of it, smeared in melting butter. I love the idea of giving those same memories to my children, and I decided, oh, what the hey–we eat a LOT of bread. It had to be cheaper, at least. Why not give it a try?

And so, I make our bread. All of it. Sometimes I even grind my own wheat for the flour (ducks and runs!).

You don’t need to go that far, though. I think a good loaf of bread, far from being the only symbol of real motherhood or whatevergarbage, is just good eats. So I thought I’d share some of my favorite recipes here. Ahem.

Here’s the one I use most often.

Two loaves of white, fresh from the oven!
Two loaves of white, fresh from the oven!

White or Wheat Sandwich Bread

Ingredients

4 cups (20 oz) whole-wheat flour*, or sub bread flour if you prefer all-white bread
1/2 cup sugar or honey
2 Tbsp active dry yeast
1/2 stick butter
12 oz can evaporated milk
18 oz water
1 Tbsp salt
4-5 cups bread flour

Directions

  • Measure 4 cups flour, sugar, if using, and yeast into stand mixer bowl (or regular bowl).
  • In large measuring cup or small microwave-safe bowl, combine butter, milk, water, and honey, if using. Microwave until liquids reach 100-110 degrees, about 1 minute. Butter will still be mostly solid, but probably beginning to melt around edges.
  • Add liquid mixture to flour mixture and mix (or stir with wooden spoon) on low speed until combined.
  • Add about 2 cups flour. When dough is too stiff to mix without a dough hook (too stiff to use a spoon), switch to dough hook (hands) and add remaining flour. Once flour is mixed in, add salt. Knead with mixer (hands) for 5 minutes, until dough is smooth and only slightly sticky. It should be pulling away from the sides of the bowl, but not forming a ball. Mine looks about like this:
    048
  • Spray sides of bowl and cover with a clean towel. Allow to rise 1 hour, or until doubled. If your house is cold (omgosh, it has been so cold in here this winter!), you can use this little trick I found on Pinterest, and place your bowl on a warm heating pad.
  • Remove dough from bowl and divide–into thirds, if you have 8×4 loaf pans, and in half if you have 9x5s. Form into loaf shapes and place into buttered/sprayed loaf pans. Cover with towel and allow to rise about 45 minutes, or until doubled. (You can repeat the heating pad trick again here!)
  • Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. until crust is golden and bread seems firm when tapped.
  • Remove from pans immediately and cool on baking rack. Wait at least 30 minutes to cut so it doesn’t smush. 🙂

* A note on flours: If you’re going to buy whole-wheat flour, “white whole wheat” like the stuff sold by King Arthur Flour is awesome. But whatever you can find works great. Please do yourself a favor and buy bread flour, though. A regular bag is about $5. You can use all-purpose, but it’s just not quite the same. The gluten doesn’t form as well and it’s not as crusty on the outside and even and fluffy on the inside. It just makes mediocre bread. Additionally, wheat bread needs the extra gluten in bread flour to rise, so if you use all-purpose flour there, your loaves will be flat and hard.

Copycat Outback/Cheesecake Factory Bread

Adapted lightly from Frieda Loves Bread

Ingredients

2 1/2 c. room temp. water (100°-110°F)
4 T. vegetable oil
2 T. caramel color (actually a flavoring. I had to order mine from Amazon, but you might find it locally!)
1/2 c. honey
3 1/3 c. wheat flour
2 T. cocoa
2 T. active dry yeast
2 T. vital wheat gluten (just called wheat gluten at my Fred Meyer bulk bins)
2 t. salt
3 to 4 c. bread flour

Directions

  • Combine water, oil, color, honey and mix well. Add wheat flour, cocoa, yeast, gluten and salt. Stir until well blended. Allow mixture to sit and sponge for 10 minutes.
  • When dough is too stiff to mix without a dough hook (too stiff to use a spoon), switch to dough hook (hands) and add remaining flour. Once flour is mixed in, knead with mixer (hands) for 5 minutes, until dough is smooth and only slightly sticky.
  • Spray sides of bowl and cover with a clean towel. Allow to rise 1 hour, or until doubled.
  • Remove dough from bowl and divide–into thirds, if you have 8×4 loaf pans, and in half if you have 9x5s. Form into loaf shapes and place into buttered/sprayed loaf pans. Cover with towel and allow to rise about 45 minutes, or until doubled.
  • Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for about 20-25 minutes. until crust is golden and bread seems firm when tapped.
  • Remove from pans immediately and cool on baking rack. Wait at least 30 minutes to cut.

Also, if you’re looking for a more crusty, artisan-style bread, I am absolutely nuts for this recipe. It’s a spin-off of the famous NY Times no-knead bread recipe, but I think it’s even better, and requires almost no effort. I don’t, by the way, have a $300 Le Creuset dutch oven–I got my Lodge Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven on sale for $40 at Fred Meyer, and it’s lovely. I know Target and Wal-Mart have them, too.

Speaking of pans, I just got these USA 8.5″ x 4.5″ bread pans for Christmas, and they are *amazing.* They really do make my bread rise higher and the texture is even better! But before I had them, I had these, which were recommended by Cooks Illustrated, and worked just fine.

Let me know if you have any bread-y questions! Good luck and enjoy!

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