Sunday, June 15, 2014

Homemade bread - an easy basic recipe

Pizza makings:  dough, the last jar of homemade tomato sauce from last summer's harvest, pesto frozen from last year's basil harvest, freshly picked spinach, spring onions and oregano 

There's nothing like the smell of fresh bread baking.  With commercial breads containing a list of ingredients that stretch across half of the package, I'm even more inclined to try to make more of ours at home as often as I can.  It's pretty easy to make at home with much of the prep being hands off rising and baking times.  There aren't many ingredients so I can turn out a loaf of bread or a pizza crust at well under a dollar each.

Onion sandwich rolls made by adding chopped spring onions to the dough

I have a new favorite basic dough recipe that I adapted from one for Sun-dried Tomato Bread in The Italian Cooking Encyclopedia that I picked up for free at The Book Thing.  The texture is soft because contains both milk and oil.  I eliminated the herbs and tomatoes from the original recipe to make it more versatile for everyday use.  I also added some whole grain flours to make it a healthier everyday staple.  I've turned this dough into pizzas, plain loaves and onion sandwich rolls with equal success.  It would also make great bread sticks or cinnamon buns too.

In the cooler weather, I bake inside in my oven.  In the steamy summer months, I bake on my gas grill on my pizza stone as our steamy weather makes it a challenge to keep the house cool as it is.  On my wish list is a brick oven for our back yard (so many home projects, so little time!). 

Thick crust pizza with spinach, mushrooms, garlic and sweet peppers on the left and a thinner crust sun-dried tomatoes, onions and peppers on the right - both of these pictured are vegan

Basic rich bread dough

Makes 2 large loaves, 3 thin crust 14-inch pizzas or 2 thick crust 16-inch pizzas or 12 sandwich rolls

3 cups bread flour
3 cups whole wheat flour plus extra as needed and for kneading
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons raw sugar
1 tablespoon yeast (or 2 packets)
1 cup of warm milk (I used almond)
1 cup of warm water 
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil + extra for the bowl

In a mixing bowl stir together the flours, salt and sugar.  Make a well in the middle and pour in the warm milk, water and olive oil.  Either by hand or with a mixer fitted with a bread hook, mix the ingredients until you have a fairly smooth dough.  On a floured surface, turn out the dough and hand knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic.  Pour a about a tablespoon of olive oil in the mixing bowl and swirl to coat the sides.  Return the dough to the bowl and flip it over to coat all over with olive oil. Cover with a damp towel and let the dough rise in a warm place for about 2 hours or until doubled.

Punch down the dough, and shape it as desired into loaves or rolls and let rise for about 45 more minutes before baking.  Pizza crusts do not need to  rise again and can be topped immediately after shaping.  

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (450 degrees F for pizza).  (If you have a pizza stone, preheat it in the oven, too).  Bake for about 30-40  minutes for loaves or about 20 minutes for rolls or pizzas.

I have also frozen the dough after the first rise by putting it in an olive oil coated freezer bag.  To sue, thaw at room temperature and proceed with shaping as desired and baking.

I hope you give baking a fresh loaf of bread a try soon. 

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