Monday, January 10, 2011

Lucky in Loaves

Here is bread, which strengthens man's heart, and therefore is called the staff of life---Matthew Henry 
I am your classic female carboholic. I like potatoes. I love bread. And a meal made from some combination thereof...I'm in heaven.  I've passed my love of starch on to my son, who, upon waking from his afternoon nap, often requests a single slice of plain bread, potato if we have it. Whoever the genius was that combined potatoes with bread deserves a hearty pat on the back if you ask me.
Because I adore most any loaf you put before me, it makes sense that I would want to be a successful bread maker. One of my goals for this year is to learn how to make bread well enough to stop buying it at the market. Nothing against store bought breads. There are some fantastic artisan breads out there but I crave the satisfaction of doing it myself. However, my track record with bread baking has been less than stellar. I've yet to produce anything I would let other people see much less consume.
You see....I'm a yeast killer. It's true. At least I think that's what I do wrong EVERY SINGLE TIME. My bread does not rise and upon baking, it turns into a hard, brick-like obelisk, certainly the saddest, toughest of loaves you have ever seen. But this year, this will be the year of the bread.
I wanted to re-start my efforts with a no brainer. Something easy, impossible to screw up. A combination of a store sale and a coupon led me to a free boxed bread mix that could either be thrown in the bread machine or stirred up in a bowl. The only semi-decent bread I've ever made has come from my bread machine so I figured I'd try it there first. I pulled out the bread machine only to discover the kneading propeller thingie was missing and was nowhere to be found. Okay. No big deal. We'll do this old school...
Notice how it claims it's "easy!"
Dump, mix, cover and wait. I put the bowl on top of my dryer and shut the door, entirely expecting that I would remember to return in two hours time to check it's progress, hopefully ooohing and ahhhing over my dough, now doubled in size. Four hours later.....
An utter failure
Nothing. The boxed bread mix that was sitting in a warm draft free place for FOUR HOURS had not risen more than a quarter of an inch up the sides of the bowl. I can't even make bread from a box. Am I to be forever at the mercy of whatever the bread aisle has in stock?? Is there yeast for dummies and if so, where do I find it? If bread is the "staff of life " why is so damn difficult for me to make?
Ug. I'm disgusted. I'm going to the bakery...



    I bought the book this recipe comes from... Easy and very tasty. The master recipe is delicious and I also make an olive oil dough out of the book. After we get back from skiing we pull some dough out of the fridge, roll it out, and make calzones in 20 minutes. I bake focaccia from the olive oil dough, too. Add rosemary and thyme and a little black pepper. :) Tommy's fave is still the master recipe's crusty loaf. I think my water temp is different every time and I haven't had an issue with the yeast. I don't buy packets, tho. Not sure what the difference is. Try it! I'd love to hear if it works for you, too! :)

  2. Ditto on what the previous post says! Buy the book. It's good stuff.

    -Amy B.

  3. Ah, my sweet little daughter. Have you tried mixing the yeast into the dry ingredients then adding the warm water or warm milk? Try adding just a teaspoon of sugar into the dry ingredients with the yeast. Don't turn the dryer on... the jiggling my keep it from rising. I'm not sure what you are doing wrong, but don't give up!

  4. Here's my recipe clipped from BH&G about 10 years ago. It is also on their website underlight bread and lots of breadmaking tips. Don't give up~ Ingredients
    1/2 cup sugar
    1/2 cup shortening
    2 teaspoons salt
    1 cup warm milk (105 degree F to 115 degree F)
    2 beaten eggs
    2 packages active dry yeast
    1 cup warm water (105 degree F to 115 degree F)
    6-1/4 to 6-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
    1. In a large mixing bowl place sugar, shortening, and salt. Add warm milk and stir to soften shortening; cool. Beat in eggs. Soften yeast in the warm water; stir into shortening mixture.

    2. Add 4 cups of the flour. Using a wooden spoon, beat until smooth. Stir in as much of the remaining flour as you can.

    3. Shape into balls. Turn out onto floured surface. Knead in enough of the remaining flour to make a moderately soft dough that is smooth and elastic (8 to 10 minutes total). Place in greased bowl, turning once to grease surface of dough. Cover; let rise in warm place until double in size (about 1-1/4 hours).

    4. Punch dough down.* Grease two 9x5x3-inch or three 8x4x2-inch loaf pans. Divide dough into halves or thirds. Cover; let rest 10 minutes. Shape dough into loaves. Place in prepared pans. Let rise in warm place until double in size (45 to 60 minutes).

    5. Bake in a 375 degree F oven about 23 minutes or until bread sounds hollow when lightly tapped. If necessary, cover with foil the last 5 to 10 minutes of baking to prevent overbrowning. Immediately remove from pans. Cool on wire racks. Makes 2 or 3 loaves (32 servings).

    For pan rolls: Prepare as directed to asterisk (*). Shape dough into 36 rolls. Place in 2 greased 13x9x2-inch baking pans. Let rise in a warm place until double in size (45 to 60 minutes). Bake in a 37 degree F oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Makes 36 rolls.

    I was once told to NEVER, EVER use metal or stainless utensils. It can react with the yeast. good luck! I have used whole wheat flour but it does not rise as well.

  5. Ok, everything will be fine. You just need to find a nice easy white bread loaf recipe to start you off. I began baking bread quite randomly, but have found a great online resource called It has recipes, pictures, tips, and so much more. There is a great beginners tutorial on the website, and it walks you through everything nice and slowly and with lots of pictures. To activate my yeast, I run the water out of the tap until it gets as hot as it will go. I measure out the water called for in the recipe, add it to a big bowl. I then add the yeast and the sugar that is called for in the recipe. If there is no sugar in the recipe, I add a teaspoon anyways to "feed" the yeast. I stir it all around, and then let it sit for about 10 minutes. It will look all foamy when it is ready. I then add the rest of the ingredients. When I am rising the bread, I put it in an oiled ceramic bowl and cover it with a dry tea towel. I turn my oven on to about 150 F while I am mixing my dough together, and then turn it off when I am ready to rise. I put the covered bowl into the warm oven, turn the light on, and leave it for the designated rising time. I always only use traditional yeast, not instant, or bread machine, and I always keep the yeast in the fridge. I have never had an issue with the dough not rising by following this method. Good luck. I have lots of recipes too if you are interested, nothing too fancy, but always delicious!

  6. Stephanie G.,
    This made me smile. Only modern women would add breadmaking to their to-do lists then berate themselves for failing at it...yet more pressure! That said, I have a 10 kg bag of flour sitting in my kitchen, bought in the summer at the height of my bread-making obsession. Now I'm starting to think Jude might be gluten
    My advice...make sure your yeast isn't expired/outdated. And make sure your water isn't too hot or cold! I always use the recipe from the Moosewood cookbook...will send it if you want. "The Enchanted Broccoli Forest" by Mollie Katzen has a great break-down of the whole process, illustrated with hand-drawings! Very nice. Good luck...don't give up, sister!
    Stephanie K.

  7. Stephanie - I, too, use the Artisan recipe that Heather recommends - and I only started making my own bread 4 months ago - I'm 57 LOL

    I make the bread in solar oven too - brilliant bread!

  8. I love the artisan bread recipe as well...the other thing you can do is make sure your liquids are the right temperature. You should be able to put your finger in it for 10 seconds (no more, no less) too hot and you kill the yeasty cold and they don't wake up.

  9. Ditto to the previous post. Hot water kills yeast. If you're unsure how hot is too hot, you can use cold water. It will just take longer to rise. I have recently started making all of our bread, and I use the jar of bread machine yeast. It works great for me.

  10. Don't give up!! Lots of great suggestions from the people above, esp about killing the yeast with too hot water. Keep at it and you will be rewarded with the most amazing present, bread you have made yourself is unbeatable!!