Today I finally made homemade bread again after a three-year hiatus. And it felt good. And it smelled great. And it tasted delicious. Here is the step-by-step process that used to come second nature to me as I did this several days every week for two straight years. It takes some time, but nothing in the stores or even farmers' markets can compare to the bread you mix, knead, and bake yourself in your kitchen.
Stir one package (1 Tablespoon) of dry yeast into 1/2 cup warm water and add 1/2 teaspoon of honey. Let sit and get foamy. Make sure the water is not too hot and not cold.
In a large bowl, add 4 cups hot water, 3 Tablespoons of shortening/lard/butter (you decide), 1 Tablespoon salt, and 3 Tablespoons honey. Stir until honey is dissolved and your fat source has melted.
Add 5 cups of unbleached flour and stir with large wooden spoon. Once the mixture cools to a lukewarm temperature, add the yeast mixture. Beat well. Add 5 more cups of flour, one at a time and mixing well after each.
Once the dough is no longer sticky, flour your counter well, and turn out the dough onto the floured counter. Also, flour your hands so the dough doesn't stick to you.
Begin kneading the dough.
Add more flour to the counter as needed. I used some buckwheat flour because I ran out of the white.
And keep on kneading until the dough feels elastic and springy.
Keep kneading for about 10 minutes. A willing helper is a definite asset.
Wash your mixing bowl and then generously grease the inside with oil or butter.
Plop your dough ball in the bowl and roll it around so it's coated with the oil.
Then cover it with a warm, damp cloth, dish towel, or a child's apron like I used here. Place it in a warm, sunny area to let the dough rise.
It takes several hours for the dough to rise. You get to leave the kitchen for awhile and do something else!
Once the dough has risen to about twice or thrice its original size and has air bubbles in it, you get to take out all of your frustrations in life on that bread dough.
Punch, punch, punch until all those air bubbles are gone.
I usually have several little people volunteering to participate in this part of the process.
Now you need to grease your bread pans, separate the dough into two or three balls, and put them in the pans. Mine look a little lumpy because I didn't take the time to shape nice smooth loaves, but you might want to do that. This recipe makes enough dough for 2 long loaf pans or 3 normal sized ones.
Cover them with that warm, damp cloth again and let them rise some more for another hour or so.
Then bake them in a 400 degree oven. The smaller loaves bake for about 30 minutes until they're slightly golden brown, and you tap on the tops, and they sound hollow. I like to spread a little butter across the tops.
The large loaves bake a little longer. 35-40 minutes should suffice. Let them cool for a few minutes before you turn them out on a cutting board. Let them cool a little bit more before cutting, and if you turn them on their sides, they get less mangled when slicing.
Ten minutes after pulling them out of the oven, one of the smaller loaves was devoured by my crew. Mouths literally water around here when homemade bread is baking. Give it a try this weekend. Your family won't be disappointed.