Oh how I love the smell of fresh bread in the oven. It's one of my favorites! Each time I catch a scent of this wonderful most amazing aroma, it takes me on a journey.....a journey back in time starting at my grandparent's house reminiscing of waking up to the aroma of bread just getting ready to come out of the oven for breakfast. I don't think my grandmother ever bought bread from the store. She always liked making her own. From my grandparents' house, my sensory journey continues on to the time I spent living in Europe and my early morning runs past the bakery in the village where I lived. While the rest of the neighbors slept in those wee hours of the morning, all snuggled warmly in their cozy houses lights still off, the bakery was the beacon of light in the neighborhood, alive, and full of energy at 5 am (and likely even before that). As I ran by so early in the morning, I knew that in just a couple hours, it would be hustling with people, lined up outside waiting for the freshest bread right out of the oven. If I didn't have to be into work early on a day here or there, or especially if it was a Saturday, I'd be lined up with the rest of the neighbors, bread basket in hand, taking in all of the amazing aromas of fresh baked bread as I stood practicing my German with the locals : ).
I've always been attracted to not only the aroma of fresh bread, but the flavor. Take me to a bakery any day, and I'm a happy camper! There's something about fresh bread and a warm foamy latte that's just soothing to my soul! I love finding local coffee shops with fresh bakeries where we live or even on our travels to experience new flavors. But, I also like making my own bread! I've been making bread for our household for a while and have finally perfected a recipe that works for me. I've tried many different ones, and have come up with a winning combination that comes with great taste and texture and is not too labor intensive.
Here's how I make my bread. Feel free to give it a try : )
This recipe makes two loaves (5 X 9 in.)
2 1/4 cups of warm milk (80-90 degrees)
2 tbsp. of sugar (or 1/3 cup for sweeter bread)
2 tbsp. butter
2 tsp. salt
1 envelope active dry yeast
2 cups whole wheat flour
4 cups all-purpose or bread flour (I sift the flour as it makes the bread a bit more airy)
In a sauce pan on the stove top, place milk, sugar, butter, and salt and heat on low until warm (~80-90 degrees F). In a large mixing bowl, place 2 cups of flour and yeast and begin mixing. Once the milk mixture is warm, add it to the flour and yeast. Slowly add the remaining flour, continuing to mix by hand or using the dough hook of an electric mixer until all ingredients are well mixed. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes by hand or continue to use the dough hook attachment on your mixer for kneading. Add flour as needed if the dough is still sticky. Once kneaded and no longer sticky, place the dough in a greased bowl, cover with a moist towel, and let rise for about one hour or until it's doubled in size. After one hour, check the dough by pressing with two fingertips at the center of the bowl. If the imprint of your fingertips stays, the dough has properly risen. If not, continue to let rise.
Remove the dough from the bowl onto a floured surface. Split the dough in half. Take a rolling pin and roll out one section of the dough, then the other (like pizza dough), ensuring there are no bubbles left in the dough. Then start from one edge of the dough and begin rolling it tightly into a tube or loaf like structure. Take the ends of the dough and wrap them under the loaf. Place the dough in a two separate greased loaf pans and let rise for another hour.
Pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees. Once it reaches temperature, place the bread in to bake for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, decrease the temperature to 350 degrees and bake for another 30 minutes. Watch the bread for browning on the top. Place an aluminum foil tent on top to prevent too much browning. Once baked, empty bread from the pan and place on a cooling rack. Wait about one hour before cutting. Once bread is fully cooled, you can store it in a plastic or paper bag. Plastic will keep the bread softer, while paper will allow the bread to harden. If you're wanting the bread to be softer and to last for a few days, I recommend using a plastic storage bag. If you're planning to consume it within the same day, a paper bag will suffice.
I hope you enjoy your bread!! : ) Be sure to check back in again to see what else is cooking!