If you’re anything like me, you have a drawer full of recipes printed off the Internet and a cabinet full of cookbooks dog-eared with recipes to try. The problem is that I rarely get around to trying these new recipes. I also started a folder in my Gmail account for new recipes which I do dip into every now and then. See, I don’t like to follow recipes. I much prefer to fly by the seat of my pants, taste and adjust to my liking. Over time I’ve learned that it’s more important to learn a cooking technique than to follow a recipe word for word, which is why I’m not the best baker. I simply don’t understand the whole science behind baking. I know that if you don’t add enough of this your cookies won’t rise or if you add too much of that your muffins will turn into hockey pucks, but it’s all just too technical for me. I like to look at a dish and add something if it’s lacking in color or taste a dish and add more spice if needed. This approach doesn’t work in baking, at least not if you actually want someone to eat your baked goods.
My whole view on baking changed a bit after I had kids. Obviously kids love cookies, cakes, muffins, cookies, cookies, cookies, and more cookies, so I figured I better put on my mom pants and get to baking to please my crowd. Just like anything else you cook at home, homemade baked goods allow you to control what’s going into them and make healthier versions of what you would buy in the store. For example, you can swap some whole wheat flour for all purpose flour, substitute mashed banana for butter, and substitute coconut oil for vegetable oil (to name a few) and feel a little better about giving sweets to your sweeties. My view on baking also had to change after I received my Christmas gift from my husband this past year. Behold, the KitchenAid Professional 600 Series Stand Mixer. I feel like everyone I’ve ever met has a KitchenAid story – “It will change your life!” people rave.
My husband finally picked up on all the hints I had been dropping over the past year, but I didn’t expect him to buy the top dog of KitchenAid mixers. This baby can mix up to 14 cups of flour. I’m not sure when I’ll ever need to mix that many cups of flour at one time, but hey! At least I know I can should the occasion arise. I figured I better start breaking this thing in, and what better way than by baking bread?
Have you ever read the label on the bread you buy at the grocery store? Sure, the first ingredient listed may be enriched wheat flour, but what about all those additives and preservatives? It’s certainly not natural for a loaf of bread to last a week without going stale or getting moldy. I’m not even kidding when I tell you that we’ve had hot dog buns (yes, my kids do eat hot dogs on occasion) sit in a drawer for over a MONTH without getting moldy. I mean, what the heck is in those things? So I decided to take a stab at making my own bread free of additives and preservatives, and I didn’t have to look much further for a relatively healthy recipe than the instruction booklet that came with my mixer. Fancy that! Now, obviously a fresh loaf of bread isn’t a last minute thing you can whip up in the morning when you realize your bread box is empty, but making a couple loaves for the week is totally doable if you plan in advance, especially when a stand mixer does all the hard work for you.
Here’s what you’ll need:
Recipe from KitchenAid instruction and recipe manual (I mean, I certainly couldn’t come up with a bread recipe on my own!)
• 1 ½ cups water
• ½ cup honey
• 1/3 cup butter
• 6 ½ cups all-purpose flour (I used ½ all-purpose flour and ½ whole wheat flour)
• 1 cup quick cooking oats
• 2 teaspoons salt
• 2 packages active dry yeast
• 2 eggs
• 1 egg white
• 1 tablespoon water
• Oatmeal (for topping before baking)
Place water, honey, and butter in small saucepan. Heat over low heat until mixture is very warm – 120 to 130 degrees F (I used my meat thermometer to check the temperature. I’m sure that’s probably not acceptable in the baking world, but…)
First place oats, then 5 cups flour, salt, and yeast in mixer bowl. Attach bowl and dough hook to mixer. Turn to Speed 2 and mix about 15 seconds. Continuing on Speed 2, gradually add warm mixture to flour mixture and mix about 1 minute. Add eggs and mix about 1 minute longer.
Continuing on Speed 2, add remaining flour (I only had used 1 additional cup), ½ cup at a time, and mix about 2 minutes, or until dough starts to clean sides of bowl. Knead on Speed 2 about 2 minutes longer.
Place dough in greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover. Let rise in warm place, free from draft, about 1 hour, or until doubled in bulk.
To my surprise, it actually rose!
Punch dough down and divide in half. Shape your dough into loaves (here is a great tutorial). Place in greased 8 ½ x 4 ½ x 2 ½ baking pans. Cover. Let rise in warm place, free from draft, for about 1 hour, or until doubled in bulk.
Beat egg white and water together with a fork. Brush tops of loaves with mixture. Sprinkle with oatmeal. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from pans immediately and cool on wire racks.
Oh my gosh, you guys, I baked bread! And it’s good! What is better than warm bread fresh out of the oven with some wild blueberry preserves? Not much. It may not be perfectly shaped, but I think it turned out pretty well for my first attempt at baking bread.
Give it a shot and let me know what you think. If I can do it, anyone can do it! Do you have any bread baking wisdom to share?