Bread Baking Made Easy

Reader Contribution by Erin Sheehan
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Jim and I bake our own bread, rolls and pizza dough. I use the dough cycle of our bread maker for pizza dough and rolls. Jim does it all by hand.

Baking bread is not hard, just time consuming. Allow yourself several hours. You won’t be busy that entire time, but you’ll have to stick close to home until you’re done. The time investment is worth it – once you’ve tasted your own homemade bread, you will never, and I mean never, want to eat store-bought bread again.

Here’s Jim’s easy-to-follow recipe for two loaves:

Wheat Bread

2 tablespoons yeast

1/2 cup warm water (105-115 F)

1/3 cup split between molasses and honey

1/4 cup shortening

1 tablespoon salt

2 1/4 cups water or zucchini milk*

3 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (can substitute up to 1/2 cup oat, brown rice or other flour type)

1 cup oats

3/4 cup wheat gluten

2 cups white flour

*To make zucchini milk, take your excess homegrown zucchinis (the bigger, the better!) and liquefy them in your blender, using a small amount of water. This “milk” can be frozen in small containers for future use. We froze nearly 40 containers last summer. It adds a very subtle coloring if you use only white flour, when you use wheat you won’t notice it. No flavor change, but it ups the vitamins in your bread!

Dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup warm (not hot!) water in large bowl. Let sit for about 5 minutes. Add honey/molasses, shortening and salt. Add remaining water/zucchini milk, oats and gluten. Add rest of flour one cup at a time, stirring after each addition. Add more flour if needed to make dough easy enough to handle. It should be slightly sticky but not runny. Knead 10 minutes. Cover, let rise in warm place until double, about 1 hour.

Punch down dough, divide in half. Roll each half into a rectangle, pressing each end to seal. Fold ends under loaf. Place seam side down in greased loaf pans, 9x5x3 inches. Cover, let rise again until double, about 1 hour. Bake at 375 F for 25 to 30 minutes. Loaves should be on low rack so tops of pans are at about the center of the oven. Bread is ready when the top is deep golden brown.

We bought a pizza stone last year and have experimented a bit with using it for baking round loaves without a pan. We use parchment paper to transfer the dough to the oven and it works pretty well so far. The round loaves taste the same, of course, but they are a nice change.