I love bread. I toast it for breakfast with cinnamon and butter. I slice it for lunch with delicious sandwiches. I often make pieces of garlic toast for dinner. Heck, I even eat it plain…especially when it is fresh out of the oven! Despite the mystique associated with it, baking bread at home is really not that difficult. It just takes a bit of time. The actual amount of work involved is minimal, but it is spread out over a number of hours, so plan on tackling this on a rainy (or snowy) afternoon!
Flour. Salt. Yeast. Water. That’s it. Those 4 simple ingredients are all it takes to create delicious fresh bread. Forget about all those preservatives you can’t pronounce and other artificial flavorings. 4 ingredients. That’s it. And I think homemade bread tastes so much better than store bought bread, too. (Not to mention the incredible cost savings!)
Tip: If it’s cold in your house and you don’t have a warm place to let your dough rise, simply turn your oven on to its lowest setting. As soon as it begins to warm up, turn it off. Ideally, your dough should be allowed at about 80-85 degrees. I’ve used this trick plenty of times with great success.
Tip: To fold dough, simply turn dough onto countertop and press into large round shape. (You are just pressing the air out of the dough.) Then fold the dough on top of itself. Rotate 90 degrees and fold the dough on top of itself again. Repeat this for another 3-4 rotations. That’s all it takes!
Tip: To shape dough into baguette loaves, stretch the dough into a roughly 4″ by 12″ rectangle. Next, fold the dough as you would a letter for an envelope. Pinch the seems together at each step. Finally, grip the dough with both hands and gently roll back and forth to tighten the dough. There are plenty of videos of this process on YouTube, so don’t hesitate to look at a couple to get the general idea!
As you see in the picture above, I used a baguette pan to bake my loaves. You can pick up these pans at any kitchenware store, or you can also fashion one out of aluminum foil. If you find yourself baking bread often, you’ll definitely want to pick up one of these pans!
Note: I made a stupid mistake with this round of baguettes–I completely forgot to score the dough before baking! Baguettes are typically scored with 4-5 diagonal slits along the length of the loaf. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes in the kitchen–I forgot to score my loaves, but the bread still tasted great.
It’s true that homemade bread will not last as long as store-bought loaves. But, to be honest, I’ve never had that problem because homemade bread usually just disappears mysteriously (and quickly) around my house! I store my bread in zip-loc bags, but don’t seal the bags until the bread has fully cooled. It also freezes very well!