Bread Making, easy and great!
Have you ever considered bread making at home? This is a pretty easy and yummy activity you can take on during this time. I’ve been baking more and more since we started the lockdown in Belgium. I also know of many other friends spread out in at least 3 countries who have whipped out their baking tools and stated making loaves of bread.
I asked around for pictures and recipes to put together a list of resources for burgeoning bread bakers. From sourdough starters, homemade yeast and different types of breads. All pictures are non-professional shots of homemade breads baked in home ovens; so, you can also achieve the deliciousness of a fresh loaf made by you. Just try it!
What type of flour do you use?
There are different types of bread, and it mainly comes down on what type of flour and ingredients you’re using. More than anything, I really recommend you get good quality bread flour to develop the gluten of your bread. That is what makes the texture spongy. If you can’t find bread flour, you can use unbleached all-purpose flour and mix in a bit of vital wheat gluten (you can buy this separate in the grocery store). You can click here for the actual directions on the correct measures on how to fortify your flour.
What type of yeast?
You will also need yeast. You may use a sourdough starter, instant dry yeast, dry yeast and fresh yeast. Instant dry yeast, dry yeast and fresh yeast you can buy at the grocery store, but if your local market is out, you can follow this recipe to make your own sourdough starter.
If you buy dry or fresh yeast, you first need to “proof it” before you incorporate to your recipe. That means you need to add a bit of flour, water and sugar in order to start the yeast going. If you buy instant yeast (also known as bread-machine yeast), you can just incorporate the yeast to the dry ingredients and go from there.
If you’d like to see the difference in rising and times using all 3 different types of yeast (instant, dry or fresh, and sourdough starter), you can check out this little experiment we did with some very cool videos on a microscope of the yeast.
Any extra ingredients?
For a plain loaf of bread you mainly need flour, yeast and water. However, to develop some flavor and texture, there are many things you can do. For home oven baking it is recommended to add a bit of oil or fat to moisten up the bread, otherwise it’ll be too dry. For this you can use sunflower oil, butter, olive oil… experiment! They all have different flavors. You can also add eggs or milk, but that will give your loaf a bit more of a sandwich or brioche type texture.
This is a very important part of bread making. You have to develop the gluten in your bread, or it will come out hard and flat out of the oven. If you have an electric mixer, then you´ll be able to knead your dough a lot faster. But if you don’t, then you have to knead sometimes up to 15-20 minutes to develop the gluten. How do you know your dough is ready? You have to do the window-pane test. This is holding your dough up and stretching it as far as you can. If the dough forms a thin window-like film, then it is ready. If it doesn’t stretch out much and breaks, you need to keep going.
However, there are a few bread recipes you can use that require no kneading at all… and others that require as little kneading as possible and no yeast (like the Irish soda-bread). So, read on and I’m sure you’ll find the right recipe for you!
One of the most important things about bread is the rising. Yes, you have to be patient. After the first kneading you should place the dough, in a bowl covered by a kitchen towel, in a warm, draft-free spot.
This first rising will take different times, depending on the type of yeast you’re using and the warmth of the environment where the dough is rising. Here in Belgium it’s been a bit cold, so I usually let me dough rise on top of the radiator. The most important thing is that you WAIT for the dough to rise to double its size.
After that first rise, you should take the dough, punch it down (and I mean really punch it), so there are no big bubbles trapped inside. Knead again for a couple of minutes, then shape your loaf (you can do round, long, oval… whatever you prefer). If you have a baking loaf pan, you can use that.
If you’re using a bakers peel cover its surface with cornmeal and place your shaped loaf on top. Otherwise place your loaf on a slightly greased cookie sheet, or you may line it with a silicone mat too.
Loosely over the loaf with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel again, and let rise once more. This rise will probably take twice as long as your first rise. Once the loaf is roughly twice its size, then you’re done.
Some breads, like the Brazilian cheese bread or no-knead breads, require no rising. For no-knead breads you have to bake them in a Dutch oven inside of the regular oven to keep moisture and form. If you don’t have a Dutch oven you can try using two lightly greased cake pans instead.
Scores are the slit-like marks you usually see in some loaves. Those cuts in the dough are done so the bread can keep growing inside of the oven and expand a little more. Use a very sharp knife to do this scores on your bread before you pop it into the oven.
For crusty bread you need a very hot oven and moisture inside too. As home ovens are not very hot and have no moisture inside (unless you have a very swanky contraption), you can do a couple of things. If you are really serious about your bread making, buy a hot stone and a bakers peel. That insures that the surface where you’ll put your bread is super hot and that it will have a crusty crust on the bottom as well as on the top.
You can also add some stones (or a brick. Really.) and a bit of water on a roasting pan at the very bottom of your oven, to produce a moist environment for your bread to bake.
If that’s too overkill for you, you should just make sure to always preheat your oven with enough time in advance, and spray a bit of water all over your bread before you pop it in the oven to bake.
If you see your precious loaf begin to brown too much or two quickly, you can open the oven and drape a sheet of aluminum foil loosely on top of it. Otherwise your top will come out burnt and the center will be uncooked.
Let it cool!!
I know it is hard, but once your loaf comes out of the oven, you have to wait for it to cool down before digging in. Let it rest on top of cooling rack for at least 10 minutes.
And now, get some butter or jam and enjoy!
Some recipe ideas
In this section I’ll find some pictures with links to recipes, some recipes with pictures, and a couple of recipes with no pictures. This is a work in progress, so you may try any of these and share with us your pictures or favorite home bread making recipes too!
Belgian Farm Bread
Ingredients (750 gr. loaf)
- 500 gr. whole wheat bread flour
- 300 ml. lukewarm water
- 20 gr. melted unsalted butter
- 5.5 gr. dry yeast
- 7 gr. salt
- 1 tsp of sugar of honey (optional)
Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl. Add the water and mix well. Add the melted butter and incorporate well. Knead until the dough is soft and stretchy (do the window-pane test). If you’re mixing by machine, it will take about 10 minutes. If you’re doing it by hand, it will take about double that time. The dough must feel stretchy, but not too wet. If it is sticking to your hands add a bit more flour.
Once your dough is ready, cover the bowl up with a kitchen towel and let it rise in a warm draft-free place. This will take about 40 minutes to an hour. When it has doubled-up in size, it is ready.
Punch down the dough and take it out of the bowl. Place it on a slightly floured surface. Knead for a couple of minutes and form your loaf. Place on the bakers peel or greased cookie sheet you’ll use to bake, loosely cover with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel, and let it rise again in a warm, draft-free place. This will take anywhere between 1 hr to 1.5 hrs, until it has doubled in size.
Preheat your oven to 230 degrees Celsius (450 Fahrenheit).
Score your loaf, sprinkle with water and place it inside the oven (rack in the center or lower third) for about 25-30 minutes. Make sure you check in on it frequently, so it doesn’t burn on top.
Take out and let it cool for about 10 minutes. Enjoy!
Multigrain Sunflower Seed Bread
This nutritious bread recipe comes from Joyce Nicol in NY. It is wonderful eaten right away as soon as it’s cool enough to slice. It keeps well and is great the next day too, sliced for sandwiches. To adjust baking time to suit your need, see * remarks.
- 1 packet instant dry yeast (undissolved)
- 3 tablespoons (T) sesame seeds
- 1 teaspoon (t) salt
- 1/2 C oats (quick or old-fashioned)
- 2 T brown sugar or honey
- 1C + 1T water (50-55 degrees Celsius / 120-130 degrees Fahrenheit)
- 1/4 – 1/3 C hulled sunflower seeds
- 2T vegetable oil
In the large bowl of a heavy duty mixer combine about 1 ¼ C flour, brown sugar (if using it), yeast, sesame seeds and salt. Gradually add warm water and oil (and honey if using it) to dry ingredients. Beat 2 minutes at medium speed, scraping bowl occasionally. Add ¼ C additional flour and beat at high speed 2 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally. Stir in sunflower seeds, oats and enough remaining flour to make a soft dough.
Knead 6-8 minutes (or less time according to your sense of the way the dough is developing) adding flour as needed. (I continue to use the mixer for the kneading.)
Let rise in a large greased bowl ½-1 hour until nearly doubled. Punch down. Shape as one loaf in a loaf pan.*
Let dough rise ½-1 hour. Set oven to 190 degrees Celsius (375 degrees Fahrenheit).
Bake about 35 minutes. If browning too fast, lay a piece of aluminum foil lightly on top of bread during the last 5-10 minutes. Check internal temperature with an instant read thermometer; should be about 90 degrees Celsius (190 degrees F) in center when done. Cool. Slice
*At this point you can cover the pan loosely with plastic wrap. Refrigerate it several hours as you may need. When ready to bake, put into cold oven and then set the temperature to 375 degrees F. Check after 35 minutes. It may need 10-15 minutes more. If browning too fast, lay a piece of aluminum foil lightly on top of bread during the last 5-10 minutes.
From Bill Carter in Virginia comes this picture and recipe suggestion. Click here to go to the recipe from King Arthur’s Flour.
Brazilian Cheese Bread
From the kitchen of Luiz Amorim comes this super easy recipe for the most delicious cheese bread.
- 1/4 tea cup oil
- 1/4 tea cup milk
- 1/4 tea cup water
- 1 pinch of salt
- 1 egg
- 250gr manioc starch or sour starch
- 100/120 gr. grated cheese (mozzarela, gouda). It is hard to find the cheese we use in Brazil (queijo minas padrão).
- You can use a mix of cheese that you like, but pay attention to the salt. Parmesan, cream cheese.
- I recommend Yoki sour starch or other brands from Brazil. I do not recommend Asian brands.
- You can also use sweet starch, and the dough will be more elastic. you can also half sour, half sweet.
Boil the water, milk and oil in the same pot.
Put the sour starch in a bowl and pour the boiling mixture. Mix until everything is just incorporated, then add the egg and mix again. Finally, add the cheese and salt.
Form golf-sized balls with a soup spoon. Place the balls on a baking sheet and place in the middle of a preheated oven at 200 degrees Celsius (400 degrees Fahrenheit) for 20 minutes or until puffed up and golden brown.
Let them cool down on a wire rack and enjoy!
Quick NY Style Bagels
I actually have two different recipes for this… as pictured, these were 3 hr Bagels and you can find the recipe here. However, these are a bit bready and not so chewy as the NY bagels are. If you have a bit more time, I prefer this recipe better, but these bagels have to rest in the fridge overnight.
I have done the King Arthur’s recipe with Molasses instead of malt syrup, and I like adding a teaspoon of baking soda and a tablespoon of molasses to the boiling water.
No-knead Irish Soda Bread
This is a super easy to make quick bread. All you need is flour, butter milk and baking soda. There’s no need to knead, and you can put it together in practically no time. Please click here to link to the recipe. If you have no butter milk you can substitute with a half-milk half-yogurt mix.
Share with us!
Do you have a bread making recipe you love? Would you like to share? Please send it to us here!
And if you made any of these recipes, we’d love to hear your comments too!