I have finally done it. After months of teaching myself how to make good bread, and kneading dough until I understand how it should feel to know whether or not it’s done (not so long ago I couldn’t knead dough and have it turn out properly so I swore off of it completely. Luckily that didn’t last), I have finally cracked the code on my arch nemesis – white sandwich bread.
I don’t know why, but I couldn’t get it. I tried so many times, so many recipes, and so many different techniques. I just couldn’t get a tall white bread with a light, airy texture that gives you that “Grandma Sycamore Bread” feel. Maybe it’s the ‘stubborn German’ in me, or maybe it’s just a crazy lady syndrome or something, but thankfully, I didn’t give up. Bread has been my Mount Everest for many years. I was actually too intimidated to really keep at it and learn. I just had so many failed attempts when I first got married that I literally gave up, for years.
But I have this crazy need to know how to make good bread. It’s been my obsession this past year. I somehow got it into my head that I will never be the wife of a Homesteader if I can’t make bread. I have these mental images of what it will be like when we’re living at Scarlett Homestead. Judah and Rob will walk into the house after a long day of working cattle and I’ll have an adorable apron on and the house will smell of fresh baked bread. You can laugh if you want to, but I am actually looking forward to it. It reminds me of my Omi and “I want to be just like her when I grow up”.
Ah, but then I figured it out. After so many different tries, I finally found ‘The One’. For us anyway. The clouds literally parted on this and I heard a harp playing some sort of ethereal music.
I am so thankful for screwing up so many white bread recipes this past year. I have followed some I found online, I have merged a few together, I have tried to make up my own….so many failures. But, like I always tell Judah, “Practice makes progress”. I did make progress and I came up with my own recipe that is everything I wanted. I can officially put my name on this. However, like I’ve said before, I bet you a million ladies on Pinterest have already pinned this recipe and it’s been around for centuries. This time I’m not even going to look or question myself. It’s mine. You heard it here first. Or last. But I don’t care. I have a Pinterest account (finally) and when I add this recipe to my board I’m sure all the fancy Pinterest ladies will point and laugh, but I will hold my head high and still know that in my little kitchen, here in Arlington WA, it was a first, and original.
3 cups warm water at 110-115 degrees
3 packages of active dry yeast (Each package is ¼ oz)
4 teaspoons salt
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup white sugar
9 cups bread flour
In a large bowl, combine yeast, salt, oil, sugar, and pour warm water over it. Stir until dissolved and mixed completely.
Add in 2 cups flour. Mix thoroughly, Add in another 2 cups of flour and mix thoroughly. This is a wet, sponge like mix at this point. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rise for one hour in a warm spot. It should have doubled in size, if not a little more.
After one hour, add another 4 cups flour directly into the risen dough, mix until it’s sticking together and the flour is incorporated. Turn out dough onto a well floured work surface and begin kneading. It will be quite sticky at this point. Gradually add the final cup of flour as you knead for about 10 minutes. Dough should be elastic, smooth, and no longer sticking to your hands or work surface.
Spray another large mixing bowl with olive oil cooking spray and transfer dough to bowl, turning once to coat completely. Cover with a light kitchen towel and let rise for about 90 minutes in a warm spot.
Punch down the dough, turn it out onto the counter once more and divide into two equal pieces. Form each piece into a loaf shape and place into 2 9×5 inch loaf pans that have been sprayed with olive oil cooking spray. Once more, cover both loaf pans with a light kitchen towel and allow to rise for at least 1 hour until doubled, in a warm spot.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Your loaves should be risen over the tops of the loaf pans at this point. Put them into your oven for 30-35 minutes. The tops should be golden brown and should sound hollow when tapped on the top.
Transfer to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely before cutting into them.
Here’s how it turns out:
Put your yeast, salt, sugar and oil into a large bowl.
Pour in your warm water. Stir until it’s all mixed and dissolved.
Add in 2 cups of flour and combine. Then another 2 cups and combine again.
It’s going to be very wet and spongy looking, which is exactly what you want. Cover this with saran wrap and leave it in a warm spot to rise for about an hour.
It should be doubled in size and be really bubbly and active. “It’s ALIVE”!!!!
Add another 4 cups of flour right into this mix. Stir it up to incorporate it. It will be a little sticky at this point still.
With your last cup of flour, use it to flour your worksurface and hands and keep it at the ready to incorporate into your dough as you turn it out and begin to knead.
It’s sticky, so keep adding flour….and knead for at least 10 minutes.
Add flour until you are kneading it and it’s no longer sticking to your hands. It should be elastic and getting nice and smooth.
And at the end, it should be about like this:
Give it a real good slap (I’m not serious obviously, but truth be told, I actually do sometimes. It makes a real great sound. I must have aggression issues), and then turn it once in a greased mixing bowl and cover with a light towel for about 90 minutes to at least double in size.
It will hopefully look like this once it’s done…
Punch it down and once again turn it out onto a floured work surface and cut it into two equal parts.
Take your 2 greased 9×15 inch loaf pans and shape each piece of dough into a rectangle the same length as your pan and pinch the ends under. Then one last time, cover these with a kitchen towl for another hour and let them double.
They should be risen over the top of the loaf pans by now. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and pop these babies in for 30-35 minutes.
When the tops are browned and they sound hollow when you tap them, they are done!
A real downside to my personality is that I can’t ever wait to cut into freshly baked bread but I’m learning to be patient. I let these cool for a couple of hours before cutting into them until they’re completely cool.
But oh, when you do cut into it. My goodness gracious, great balls of fire…..it’s everything that is right about white bread.
It’s got that light and airy feel inside with a really thin outer crust. It’s so soft and makes the perfect sandwich.
Oh, and when you toast it….good things happen. Great things in fact. Especially when you introduce it to homemade jam.
This past year something changed for me….finally. I have made big changes in our home for how we eat, and this has a lot to do with how we want to live in the future when we are finally living at Scarlett Homestead, and using the land for a healthy and sustainable way of life. I am the person who feeds our family every day, three times a day, and I want to look at each meal in a different way. I want the majority of what is served to be homemade, with local ingredients, fresh produce picked from our garden or free range eggs collected from the coop, and that our meat is only our own grass fed livestock. We know where it all came from, how it was raised and how it was prepared. Bread goes right along with that way of thinking for me.
Yes, it has really increased the amount of hours I spend in the kitchen preparing these things, especially the bread, but I’ve fallen in love with doing it.
The funniest part is that I’m an Interior Designer from Vancouver. By nature, that is still who I am. But I’m also a God fearin’, bread makin’ from scratch cookin’ wife and Mama and as I continue down this road of learning new things as we build our home, I’m realizing that there’s more to me that I didn’t know existed.
I’m really feeling thankful today. For what I have, for what is to come and for the fact that my kitchen smells like a bakery. I did that, and I will not waste another second writing about it. I’m off to eat it!
– The Homesteaders Wife