Monday, May 26, 2008

Showing You the Dough- Foolproof Bread! This makes french bread, pizza, bagels, and more.

I'm going to debunk the idea that bread is hard to make. I'm also going to debunk the idea that it takes a long time! Time is something it seems we are always pressed for. As caregivers, employees, etc., we need to be multitaskers. So what if I told you, I have someone (or something) that does all the work for me? Actually, I have two somethings. A stand mixer, and yeast.

When I make bread, folks, I break all the rules. And it works! What I discovered: yeast don't care about anything but sugar, moisture, and temperature. Salt kills microbes, making it a great preservative, but an enemy for yeast, which are living, single cell organisms. With this knowledge in hand, I set out to prove that I could make bread for my family, and not spend all day doing it. Okay, some of what you are about to read was an accident. Well, alright, a whole bunch of accidents: forgetting my bread, killing my yeast, all kinds of stuff I do not want you to experience!

But if you mess up, just try again. You have to have a couple of failures, and if you are going to fail at anything, it might as well be bread, because sooner or later you will master it.

Think of all the ways it is peppered throughout your family's diet. Now imagine not having to buy all of these things, and have them anyway, only better than storebought. There is nothing like the smell of home-baked bread! Do you know that Subway sandwich shops bake their bread in the store for the sole purpose of having you smell it? It's true. It would be cheaper to have it ready-made, and it would still be "fresh." They want you hungry. Smelling bread does that, and makes you feel... happy! And it leaves you with the perception that all is fresh, all is well with the world. If I owned a bakery, I'd literally pipe that smell into the air with an exhaust fan.

Here's the dough:

Water: 2 cups

Sugar or honey: 2 tbsp.

Yeast: one packet of quick-rise yeast

Bread flour: I have no idea how many cups I use- it's something in the neighborhood of five. I do know I get two or three batches from a $2 standard package of bread flour. You want bread flour for the higher protein content, or the gluten. You can use regular flour in a pinch, though there is no doubt that bread flour is better.

Salt: 1 tbsp.

Oil: 1/4 cup (or two dollops), of canola or olive oil, depending on the use. For multipurpose, and for daily use, I go with canola. For pizza, or focaccia, I use olive, though canola works fine here, too.


One cup of oat flour, which retains moisture, is good for you, undetectable, and makes the bread chewy. If you can't buy this, grind up oatmeal in a magic bullet or food processor until you have flour. This is how I do it. This is one of my "secret ingredients" for moist, delicious bread.

Flax Meal: 1/3 cup. Excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, and great for digestion. Makes a great dough conditioner, as well.

Whole wheat flour: Sometimes I substitute 1/2 cup of whole wheat flour, because I'm trying to get the kids to eat it. At this small amount, it doesn't affect the dough, and the kids accept it.

Let's make bread!

Put warm water into your mixer bowl with the paddle attachment. Add honey, and yeast. Whisk (using a whisk or a fork) together to combine. You have to really get those yeast dissolved in the sugar and water.

Water should feel warm, slightly warmer than you are, but not hot. Until you get the hang of it, stop here and wait for bubbles, about 5 minutes. This indicates your yeast are alive and well.

Next, add the oat flour and flax, or if you are skipping those, just add about 2 cups of flour, turn on the mixer, and mix until it's like paste. Add more flour, until it gets sticky. NOW, you can add your salt, and oil- your yeast are insulated. Add more flour, until it's a dough.

Switch to the dough hook.

With the mixer on, let the hook knead the dough. If it is sticky, or not wrapped around the hook after a minute or two, add more flour, a little at a time. Keep doing this until the dough is elastic and not sticky. Let knead for about ten minutes, to develop that gluten (stringy stuff) in the bread dough.

If you are using it now: just leave it in the bowl, with the dough hook still attached, cover with plastic wrap, and put a towel on top. Let rise until double, about 45 minutes. Turn on the mixer for a moment, to deflate the dough. Did you notice there were no additional bowls, no greasing, no fuss, no muss?

Use in your recipe. This makes two loaves, 4 pizzas, 12 bagels, amoung other things like pigs in blankets.

What you don't use right away: Put into a container that can handle double the volume of dough and put it covered in the refrigerator. I put a piece of plastic over the top of mine, to keep it from drying out, then put the lid on. It will rise in the refrigerator, so don't let that upset you. It will also stay good for a whole week, and be "ready when you are."

I'm going to give you the pizza recipe first, then bagels, beginning tomorrow. With this dough in the fridge, they take about 3o minutes, start to finish.

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