Penny Lulich has won numerous awards for her baking and cooking, including the top prize in the HubPages Recipe Contest.
Why This Recipe Works
I spent years trying to figure out how to consistently make good bread. I tried recipes from experts, homemakers, grandmas, old cookbooks, and new cookbooks.
Some of the recipes were simple; some were very complicated. Some called for eggs, soft butter, milk, cake yeast, and all manner of ingredients. I tried them all. At times I found success, but there were plenty of failures, too—and none of the successful recipes produced successful loaves every time.
Okay, I admit that I didn't always have my techniques down, either. I didn't know the secrets to successful bread, but having a loaf of bread that looks great doesn't always mean it will taste great, too. There's a balance between looks and taste, and of course, we all can agree that taste pretty much trumps everything else.
That is why I kept going. Why I kept testing recipes and eventually developed my own recipe that I have found to both look great and taste delicious every single time.
I also kept going because I just like the idea of baking bread. I like the smell wafting through the house when loaves are in the oven, drawing the family to the kitchen in anticipation. I like having a block of softened butter on the counter, ready to spread on warm bread, along with the obligatory jar of homegrown fruit preserves. I like the kitchen being warmed by the hot oven on a cool, crisp autumn afternoon or a cold winter's day. And, I dearly love the sight of that bread coming out of that oven and being deposited on a cooling rack set out on the kitchen island.
I love all things bread—whether we're talking about loaves, or other lovely yeasty things like donuts, cinnamon rolls, bread rolls, pizza dough, breadsticks, and so on. The recipe I developed and now use exclusively is perfect for any of these tasty treats, and that is why I want to share it with you now.
7 Secrets to Perfect Homemade Bread
- It's easier than you think, or than you've been led to believe.
- Put your salt on the opposite side of the mixing bowl from the sugar and yeast.
- Water temperature counts. Make sure it is between 110 and 120°F.
- The mixer does most of the work.
- The dough should be sticky.
- Let the dough proof three times—inside the oven.
- Serve warm with butter (and whatever toppings you like).
You Can Make Great Bread!
Some of us come to bread making with fear and trembling. We've tried it before . . . more than once or thrice. We have failed. We have produced wonky bread. No one will eat it. We aren't even inclined to eat it ourselves, so into the trash it goes. Oh, the horror!
But wait a minute. Something inside us bubbles up, and we remember how wonderful home-baked bread, done well, can taste. We want to experience that in our own kitchen. We are driven once again to give bread-making a try, and maybe, just maybe, this time it will work. Then the world will know that we too can make great bread!
And, that is exactly as it should be, and exactly why I'm sharing my "no fail" recipe, with instructions. I'm on your team now! I'm cheering for you. I want you to succeed.
Let's get going!
|Prep time||Cook time||Ready in||Yields|
2 hours 30 min
3 hours 5 min
- 3 teaspoons dry active yeast
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 1/2 cups warm water (110 to 115°F)
- 4 1/2 to 5 cups bread flour
- Place 2 1/2 cups of the bread flour in a stand mixer bowl. Add the salt to one side of the flour, and add the sugar and yeast to the other side.
- Add the olive oil and water. Using a paddle attachment, turn the mixer on slow speed, then increase it to medium speed. Mix well for about 3 minutes.
- Add another cup of flour. Mix for about 3 more minutes. Continue to add the rest of the flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until it comes together while mixing, but is still a little bit sticky. (I love sticky. Sticky is good.)
- Take the dough from the mixer, scrape off the beater, and place it on a floured surface. Knead the dough until soft and pliable but no longer sticky. Add a little flour as needed.
- Make a roundish ball with the dough. When the dough springs back after you indent slightly with your thumb, then it is ready for the first proofing. Place the round ball of dough in a greased bowl, cover it, and let it proof for 45 to 60 minutes in your oven with the door shut. I place a casserole dish on the bottom rack (below the bowl with dough) and add boiling water from a kettle to get that warm steam that yeast doughs love.
- After first proofing, remove the bowl and knead the dough on a board, again for about 3 minutes, then place it back in the bowl, cover, and proof for another 30 to 45 minutes in the warm oven.
- For the final proofing, you will shape the dough into loaf pans and cover it for 30 to 40 minutes, outside of the oven but in a warm place. At the 20-minute mark set your oven to 450°F.
- When the final proofing is done, place the loaves in the hot oven. Now, I do not brush my dough with anything before baking because I don't want to risk it falling. I just place the loaves in the oven and begin baking. I bake at 450°F. for the first 15 minutes, and then turn the oven down to 375°F. for another 25 to 35 minutes. You can test the loaves by thumping on them to see if they sound good and hollow. I will also turn out one of the loaves and check the bottom, using oven mitts of course.
- Remove baked bread from oven and place pans on wire cooling rack for 20 minutes. This is when I like to butter the tops of the loaves. It softens the crust and tastes buttery good.
- Remove loaves from pans and continue cooling on a wire rack for several hours. Of course, the hours may drag by too slowly and you may be tempted to slice the bread while it's still warm. Go ahead! You have permission. It's your kitchen and it's your bread, so who am I to say otherwise? I've done it myself many times. Enjoy!
Remember to get some bread flour. I have used all-purpose flour when I had to, but the bread flour does proof better and makes better bread. And, remember that home bakers have been making bread from the beginning of time, as we know it, and the process has not changed. So, I wish you well. I hope for you many successes in your bread-making life.
If you have any questions, leave me a comment. If you have success, please leave a comment and a photo. Have a great day!