For those that love bread, there is no question that freshly baked bread far exceeds what you purchase from your local grocery store. Not that store bought bread is bad, it is just different. But I did not fancy myself a baker by any standard, so store bought bread it was. One day I was gifted a bread machine by one of my husband’s aunts. My immediate thought, if the machine is going to do all the work, maybe I can do this. So I made a loaf here and there to have along with dinner as a treat.
I started using the machine on a more regular basis when we went through 12 months of being a gluten free family as part of an elimination diet for one of my kiddos. Everyone enjoyed the fresh baked gluten free bread more than what was available at the store, but I never really got the hang of making it work for everyday life. The paddle baked inside the loaf, making a huge hole in the middle of the loaf; and the loaves were small, lasting only a day or two.
Fast forward to present times. I am very conscious of the ingredients in the food we consume. Less processed foods are better. I know bread is not supposed to be squishy and spongy. So I started buying more expensive bread. My husband goes shopping, squishy bread. I call him out on it and he says our budget doesn’t have room for expensive bread. Yes, we had a ridiculous conversation about how much one should spend on bread. It was actually pretty funny. At the end of the talk, I declared I would be making all our bread from now on.
My new found faith in my ability as a baker came from my Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer and my good friend Mike. Mike has been baking bread for years. He insisted that it was not that hard and if I had a stand mixer, I could totally figure it out. So I took the leap!
Step one – set up your mixer with the paddle attachment. Add flour, salt, sugar, shortening , and yeast to the bowl. Stir for a few rounds on the lowest speed just to combine.
The next ingredient is crucial to the success of your bread. You need your water to be between 120-130°F to activate the yeast and make your bread rise. Buy yourself a thermometer and make sure your water is the correct temperature.
Add your water to the bowl and beat at first low and then medium speed, as you are beating scrape the bowl frequently. Turn the speed down to low and add the remaining flour one cup at a time. The dough should come together and be easy to handle if removed from bowl, not sticky or gooey.
Now we knead the dough using our dough hook attachment. Using your dough hook attachment, only use the lowest speed on your mixer. Let your mixer knead away for 8-10 minutes.
After removing your dough hook, take your bowl off the stand. It is now time to let the dough rise. Loosely cover the bowl, I use a kitchen towel, and wait for about an hour. The dough should double in size.
Now for the most complicated step of the entire process, at least for me anyway. It is time to form the loaves. This takes practice. It turns out different every time. I continually hear Mike’s voice in my head, “It doesn’t matter how it looks. It is how it tastes that is important!” So as you practice, cut yourself a whole lot of slack, it will come.
Click the video below for added assistance in forming your loaves.
Time to let your dough rise for a second time. Put your newly rolled loaves into greased loaf pans and loosely cover for about an hour, or until doubled in size.
Time for the final stretch. Bake at 425°F for 25-30 minutes. When loaves are golden brown, remove from pans and place on wire rack to cool.
After my declaration of buying bread no more, I decided to upgrade some of my supplies. I went to Amazon and purchased new loaf pans, bread bags for storage, a decent bread knife, and a guide for slicing. After months and months of slicing, I can do it without the guide, but in the beginning free handing did not end with sandwich worthy slices.
You can now find bread rising in my kitchen at least once every two weeks, more likely once a week. My little man can eat a loaf on his own a week! When life gets really busy, I may grab a $.89 loaf at Aldi to make it through the week, but this now results in funny looks from the family. They will take my misshapen loaves over store bought bread any day. I have expanded my repertoire and make a delicious Honey Wheat and Sourdough in addition to Traditional White and purchase bread flour by the 50 pound bag from Costco. I love that the bread we eat only has the 5-6 ingredients required to make it – the family just loves to eat it.
Traditional White Bread using a Stand Mixer
- 6-7 cups bread flour
- 3 tbsp sugar
- 1 tbsp sea salt
- 2 tbsp shortening I prefer Crisco Shortening in the sticks for easy measurement
- 4 1/2 tsp quick active dry yeast equivalent to 2 packages
- 2 1/4 cups very warm water 120-130 degrees F
- Add 3 1/2 cups bread flour, the sugar, salt, shortening, and yeast to the bowl of your stand mixer. Mix on lowest speed for 30 seconds.
- Add water to the bowl and beat with paddle attachment, on low speed for 1 minute. Scrape the bowl frequently.
- Beat on medium with paddle attachment for 1 minute. Scrape the bowl frequently.
- Stir in remaining flour, 1 cup at a time, until dough comes together and is easy to handle.
- Remove paddle attachment. Add dough hook attachment.
- Knead dough for 8-10 minutes using dough hook attachment. Remove attachment. Remove bowl from stand mixer. Knead dough into a ball by hand. Using cooking spray or shortening, coat the sides and bottom of bowl. Place dough in bottom of bowl.
- Loosely cover bowl with plastic wrap or kitchen towel. Allow to rise 1 hour or until double in size.
- Grease 2 loaf pans, 9x5x3, with shortening or cooking spray.
- Gently push fist into dough to deflate. Divide dough into equal parts. Place one half on cooking mat, cutting board, or clean counter top.
- Using hands or rolling pin, flatten dough into 9x14 inch rectangle. Beginning on short side, roll dough tightly. Pressing with thumbs to seal after every turn. Pinch final edge into dough to seal. Press each end flat and fold under loaf. Pinch to seal. Place seam side down in prepared loaf pan. Repeat process with second half of dough.
- Loosely cover loaf pans with plastic wrap or kitchen towel. Allow to rise for one hour or until double in size.
- Place oven rack in lower position, so tops of loaf pans will be in the center of oven. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
- Bake 25-30 minutes, until loaves are golden brown in color. Loaves will also sound hollow when tapped. Remove from pan and place on wire rack to cool.
- Allows loaves to fully cool before slicing or storing.