Homemade bread at last

finally made bread!  It's been on my list of things-to-try for quite a while now after being inspired by many posts I've seen of wonderful homemade loaves.  After making pizza dough and the brioche pretzels, working with yeast became much less mysterious and intimidating.  So much so that I finally felt ready to tackle homemade bread myself...

So, please...meet my first attempt at actual bread-making - my, shall we say rather "rustic" looking, loaves of semi whole wheat bread!
Despite my love of white bread, I decided to go with a whole wheat combination because it's what my family and I generally eat these days.  I used a recipe from The Kitchn, which calls for an equal mixture of whole wheat and all-purpose flour.  I opted to use white whole wheat flour, which is what I have on hand and like to use for recipes calling for whole wheat.  I like that it's less assertive, milder, than typical whole wheat but offers all the same nutritional benefits.
This is just my third experience working with yeast and I have to say I'm in awe with the process...watching the dough come alive, expand, and ultimately transform into something nourishing. I have a ton to learn but I've been surprised that working with yeast is a whole lot less "scary" than I thought it would be.  I suppose I've always assumed it would be extremely difficult, with little room for error.  I know my first loaves certainly need work but it was a rewarding experience.
I'd go so far as to say the entire process was fairly smooth-sailing, right up until I got to the stage where I placed the dough into my loaf pans.  One mistake I made was not covering the pans with plastic wrap the whole time; that meant the tops dried so that when it came time to slash the loaves before baking, I ended up with a crinkly Frankenstein-scar on the surface.

The loaf pans themselves were another issue.  The pans I used are old - as in late 1990's old - and I think they're slightly larger than "regular" 9x5 loaf pans.  I used them since I happen to have two, which is what I needed for this recipe (for once, I did not divide the recipe in half!) and the only other loaf pan I have is an 8x4 one that I feared would be too small anyway.
I think it might be time to invest in more loaf pans.  Given the pans were a bit roomy, the loaves didn't rise or fill up as much as they should have in the pans and I ended up with rather squat loaves. That's my theory anyway.  It could very well be that I needed a warmer place to let the dough rise in the pans but whatever the case, this is what I got and I'll gladly accept it.
My homemade bread likely came out denser than they were suppose to but they sure made great little pieces of crunchy toast (and that makes me happy because I like my toast very crunchy).  We had fun spreading all kinds of toppings - butter, peanut butter, strawberry jam, Nutella - on them.  Making your own bread is a great excuse to just eat more bread!  I mean, you have to experiment and taste them in all different ways, don't you?

Now that Fall is almost here, I'm starting to crave breads and heartier foods. I might be in the minority but I'm ready for Fall in many ways.  We had a little breakfast gathering over Labor Day weekend to bid an unofficial farewell to summer.  I love a breakfast buffet at home, and cooking breakfast or brunch for a group is far easier and more relaxed than other meals.  I skipped the pancakes this time and went for savory items.  It was an excellent opportunity for me to press some of this homemade bread on my peeps. 
 

I decided not to bore you with grainy behind-the-scenes pictures of my bread-making endeavor.  I don't want to give the false impression of having any level of expertise on this subject.  I have, however, kept those pictures and jotted down my mistakes, to help me on my next attempt - and hopefully, there will be one.  
Ham & cheese sandwiches with the homemade bread for lunch
In the meantime, it feels great to accomplish something I've wanted to try for a long time.  Here's to learning something new!

* Update:  A subsequent attempt at this bread came out a lot better, I think!

Recipe:

Basic Whole Wheat Bread
From The Kitchn, with some of my notes [See original recipe as well as crucial instructions on how to shape the dough into loaves.]

- Makes two 9x5 inch loaves - 

1 cup warm water (not hot; see yeast packet instructions)
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 cup milk - whole, 2%, or skim (I used 2% at room temperature)
1/4 cup honey (I used 3 tablespoons; I don't like my bread too sweet)
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 3/4 cups (13 3/4 oz) all-purpose flour, plus extra for kneading
2 3/4 cups (13 3/4 oz) whole wheat flour (I used white whole wheat flour)
1 tablespoon salt

Pour warm water into the bowl of a stand mixer.  Stir in yeast and allow it to sit a few minutes until yeast dissolves.  Stir in the milk, honey, and oil.

Add 2 cups of the all-purpose flour and salt to the yeast mixture, stirring to combine.  Add the remaining 3/4 cup of all-purpose flour and the whole wheat flour.  Stir until a shaggy dough forms.  Let stand for 20 minutes to allow the flour to absorb the liquid.

Fix stand mixer with the dough hook attachment.  Knead the dough for 8-9 minutes.  If the dough is sticky (described as "bubble-gum" sticky), add extra all-purpose flour, one tablespoon at a time, until it is no longer sticky and just slightly tacky.  The dough is ready when it is smooth, springs back to the touch, and forms a ball without sagging.  

Remove dough, wipe the bowl clean, and lightly grease the bowl with a little oil.  Form the dough into a ball, turn it in the bowl to coat the surface with oil and cover the bowl.  Let dough rise in a warm spot until nearly doubled, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.  (I set the oven to preheat at 350 degrees for about 2 minutes and then immediately turned the oven off to create a warm spot.)  

Sprinkle some flour on the counter and turn the dough out onto it.  Divide the dough into two pieces and shape each into a loose ball.  Let dough rest for 10 minutes.

Grease 2 loaf pans with cooking spray or a little oil.  Shape each ball of dough into a loaf (tutorial on how to do this: here), making sure the surface is stretched taut so that the bread rises and won't be overly dense.  Place each into their loaf pan, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise a second time until they begin to dome over the edge of the pan, roughly 30-40 minutes.  

About halfway through the second rise, heat the oven to 425 degrees.  You want to have the oven heated and ready when the bread is ready.  Don't let the bread rise above an inch over the loaf pans or it could deflate in the oven (this is what I've read, anyway).

Using a serrated knife, make a shallow slash down the middle of the loaf tops.  Place loaves into the oven and immediately turn the oven down to 375 degrees. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until loaves are dark golden brown.  They should sound hollow when tapped at the bottom.  Remove the loaves from the pan (careful, they're hot) and let cool completely before slicing.

You can keep the bread, wrapped and at room temperature, for several days. Or freeze them by wrapping loaves in plastic and foil and placing it in a freezer bag, for up to 3 months.  I defrost it by letting the bread sit, wrapped, at room temperature.  You can refresh and warm the loaf up by placing it in a 350 degree oven for about 5 minutes (leave it in the foil but remove plastic wrap before warming).




60 comments:

  1. I think your loaf is beautiful!! Congrats on conquering your yeast fear one carbalicious recipe at a time!

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    1. haha - thank you, Joanne. I'm no longer afraid! ; )

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  2. Your loaves have turned out great, Monica.

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    1. Nothing like yours, I'm afraid...but I'm happy with what I got. Tastes amazingly like "real" bread I'd buy so I was satisfied. haha!

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  3. Oooh, just look at that perfectly golden brown, buttery slice and your big breakfast spread! Love everything about this, Monica. Wonderful job on the bread!

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    1. I feel like a proud student being praised by the teacher. Thanks for the encouragement, Georgia!

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  4. I have been meaning to make homemade bread for a while now- yours turned out great!

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    1. I know the feeling so well! When you are ready and want you, you'll know. : )

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  5. What perfectly amazing looking bread!! I want to bite into that ham and cheese sandwich you made with it!

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    1. Thank you, Ashley! It makes really great toast!

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  6. This is your first attempt at bread?! Wow!!! Looks wonderful Monica! I love the rustic look. And that spread you got going on... can I come over for breakfast? ;) Well done Monica! Thanks for inspiring me --I hope I work up the courage to use yeast soon! xo

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    1. Thanks for the sweet comment, Anne. I've learned that as long as you don't expect/need things to come out perfect, there's nothing to worry about. I didn't mean it to look quite so rustic but it sorta worked out well that way. : )

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  7. Great job! I think it came out perfect! Bread is on my to make list too-thanks for the inspiration!

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    1. Thanks so much, Dawn. I've thought about making it for probably 2 years...and it was fun to know that it's do-able.

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  8. Yay...welcome aboard on making bread at home! Ever since I started, I never go back to store bought ones. Yes, and I invested in quite a few bread pans. :P

    Your loaf sure makes some nice toasts. I usually make my loaf bread with a TangZhong method which keeps the loaf nice, soft and fluffy for a few days. So, I usually make a big loaf. :) Can't wait to see what you'll be baking up next!

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    1. Wow! I can't imagine making bread regularly enough not to buy any! I bet your bread is amazing. No idea what the TangZhong method is but I'm curious. Soft & fluffy sounds amazing. I'm sure it's way beyond my capability though.

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    2. The TangZhong method is actually quite simple. Just cook part of the flour with water to make a roux (more like a paste), let it sit in the fridge overnight and mix with the main dough when you make your bread dough the next day. That's it. Give it a try and you'll never go back to the regular way of making bread! ;) It's that good!

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    3. That is really interesting, Amy. Thanks for the tips. I have to look into that one day!

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  9. Your bread looks delicious Monica! It will be the first of many great loaves!! :)

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    1. Aww...thanks a lot, Jo! I hope to make some once in a while for my family. Need a couple more loaf pans!

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  10. Your first attempt of bread looks pretty good. I totally agree with you that making your own bread is a rewarding experience. I actually baked one today and having a slice right now, slightly slathered with honey mustard.

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    1. I love your honesty! 'Pretty good' is how I'd describe it too. : )
      It does feel great to have done this, and to learn something new, do something different and outside my comfort zone. And everything tastes better homemade, doesn't it...it doesn't need to be perfect.

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  11. Monica, look at those beautiful loaves of goodness. Love baking bread and I completely agree that it's one of the best experience, very therapeutic too. I wish I could have a loaf. You have no clue how much I love my carbs:)

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    1. Thanks for the sweet words, Asha. You bet I can relate to your love of carbs!

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  12. Great job on the bread! I still haven't done much with yeast, but it's always on my list of things to try. Your bread looks fantastic!

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  13. Wow Monica - you totally nailed this beautiful loaf! Yum!! Isn't bread making fun. I always feel such a sense of accomplishment - good for you! Beautiful breakfast spread too.

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    1. Thank you, Tricia! It feels really good to do this, and I'll do it again. : )

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  14. Thanks for shasring..
    Bread with meat slice, so wonderful...

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  15. I love white whole wheat flour too - I use it all the time in my kitchen! And homemade bread is the absolute best! I agree - I love watching it rise, etc. And I always feel so accomplished after I make it!

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  16. Proved that you are very talented, congrats! I love how well your toasts turned out. They justify the missing pancake : ).

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    1. lol! The pancake reference gave me a good laugh! : ) I think it proves I'm willing to try and easy to please but thank you very much!

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  17. CONGRATS on your bread baking! These loves look great!
    Shashi @ http://runninsrilankan.com

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  18. Monica, your bread turned out perfect! I'd buy a loaf off you right now if I could! :)

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    1. woah - what a compliment! Thank you, Pamela : )

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  19. So glad to have stumbled by your blog – this is such healthy homemade

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  20. SO EXCITING that you're venturing into the magical realm of breadmaking! It's honestly such a beautiful process. And now your blog lives even more fully up to its namesake ;)

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    1. Good point, Irina! I'm glad to dabble in breadmaking - it is very cool!

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  21. Well done! Bread is one of those things that has always intimidated me, but perhaps it's time to take the leap. Yours looks fabulous!

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    1. Thank you. I totally know how you feel but it turns out that working with yeast is really very interesting and kinda fun.

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  22. YAY congrats on the very successful bread making :D
    It looks softer and more tasty than the store for sure!

    Cheers
    CCU

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  23. These look so amazing! Congrats on conquering your fears ;) Now you'll definitely have to make (and eat!) more loaves just for "experimental purposes" x

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  24. I'm a white bread lover too :) I haven't yet tried the White Whole Wheat flour, though it has been recommended to me. Sounds like the perfect compromise for a white flour lover. You did an AWESOME job at your loaf baking...I don't know what you're talking about because your loaves are gorgeous! I think they look totally like the ones you get at the store. I have attempted yeast recipes but never a good sandwich bread. I'll have to give this a try sometime!!

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    1. Amy - you're so sweet. It was a little too squat and I messed up with the slicing on top but I don't much mind. It came out better than I hoped and good enough to eat so I can't complain. : ) I do love white bread and there are instances when you have to use that but generally, we've gone whole wheat as a mainstay so I figured I'd do this one. Thanks!

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  25. Gorgeous loaves, Monica. Love the spread of foods. You did a great job!

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  26. i love the softness of the bread, this is gorgeous

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  27. YAY! Bread apprehension = conquered!! And what a beautiful end result; it's like the illustrations of bread you see in kids' books, and it's perfect. I like your use of white whole wheat flour here; that's what i like to use too, same reasons you listed.
    Whenever I think maybe i won't go through the trouble of making bread versus buying it, all i have to do is think of one thing: TOAST. because homemade bread toast is the BEST toast; i really like what you did with the breakfast bar, too. Congratulations on your gorgeous bread!

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    1. Yes! Yeast doughs are no longer a "no-go" for me. I think my bread is perfectly imperfect and I'm good with that! It was edible, for crying out loud! : ) And it does make amazing toast!! Thank you, Shannon.

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  28. Yay! Congrats on conquering your fear Monica! Your first bread loaf turned out magnificent! Looks gorgeous and that grilled cheese sandwich is making me soo hungry! Great job and so proud of you girl :)

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    1. Kelly! It's great to hear from you!! Hope you've had a nice break. Thanks for the bread-encouragement! It was fun and made for some really great toast! Thanks again!

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