Prep: 10 mins Cook/Bake: 25 mins Oven Temp: 170 C (pre-heat) Yields: 1 loaf (8-10 slices) Level: Beginner
I have always loved bread in all forms – from the humble white everyday bread to sweet buns to focaccia to kulcha bread, bagels and even Koulouri – I am a sucker for a good flour and yeast combination. However, I had never tried to bake one myself. Not because of a lack of interest or inclination but more so because I had heard that yeast was difficult to handle and that the whole bread-making process was lengthy and tricky to say the least.
And then the whole world went into lockdown (hello Covid-19) and there were people experimenting with finding new things to keep themselves busy and entertained. There were motivational posts all over social media urging one to be productive, to stretch one’s boundaries and what-not. I succumbed to peer-pressure and decided to do the unthinkable – bake bread with yeast…
After reading a LOT about yeast and how fragile they are and how “living” they are, I went through almost 7 different recipes for bread (you will surprised at the number of combinations flour, yeast, water and kneading can get you) and undergoing umpteen experiments (some failed and some super successful), I finally found my Holy Grail basic bread recipe. I will document it here for anyone interested in getting down and dirty with yeast for the first time 🙂
- All Purpose Flour – 3 1/4 cups
- Dry Yeast – 21/4 tsp
- Refined Vegetable Oil – 1 tbsp
- Butter – 1 tbsp (not pictured below)
- Salt – 1 tsp
- Sugar (crystals) – 11/2 tbsp
- Warm Water – 3/4 cup
- Milk – 1/2 cup (room temperature)
There are basically 10 steps to bread making and I know 10 sound a lot but many of these steps require you to do nothing and let yeast do most of the work.
Add the dry yeast to warm water and stir continuously but gently till you can see all of the yeast has dissolved.
When the yeast is all dissolved, set it aside for 3-4 mins.
Add sugar, salt, milk, butter and oil and mix thoroughly (be gentle though).
Add 21/2 cups of the flour and combine the whole doughy mixture with your spoon (I use a wooden spoon).
You will find the dough very sticky and tacky. Keep stirring and adding the remaining flour in small increments.
The dough will now start forming. At this point, ditch the spoon or hook attachment of your mixer and get down to kneading the dough with your bare hands for around 5-6 mins.
The dough will still be “sticky” but will be manageable!
Take a big bowl, grease it with butter or oil.
Place the dough in the bowl and rotate it so that the greased end of the dough ball is not at the top.
Step 7 – Primary Fermentation (1st Rise)
Cover the bowl with cling film & place the bowl in a warm, quiet corner of your kitchen.
You will notice the dough to start rising in the first 30 mins and let it continue to do so for the next 30-40 mins.
Step 8 – Punching down the dough (Degassing)
After 60 minutes of letting your dough rise, remove the sling film and you will notice that the dough has “gassed up”. Firmly yet gently punch down the dough and release all the CO2.
Flour a plain surface and taking the dough out of the bowl, knead it with your hands for about 7 mins (10 mins is too much and 5 too little).
Shape the dough and place it in a greased & floured cake/bread loaf tin. Cover the tin with plastic wrap and let it sit for 30 mins for the proofing or the second rise.
In the meantime, preheat your over to 170 C.
Once the 30 mins is up, you will have noticed that your loaf of dough has gassed up again. Remove the plastic wrap, cut three shallow slits on the top of our loaf and put it in the oven to base for 25 mins.
After 25 mins is up, take a toothpick and push it down the center of the bread. If the toothpick comes out clean, your bread is done.
Take the bread out of the oven and brush the top with butter. to ensure a golden brown crust.
Place the loaf on a wire rack and let it cool for about 10 mins. Slice your bread and enjoy the goodness 🙂 This bread tastes best toasted and buttered.
Tips & Tricks
- When activating dry yeast – use warm not hot water (warm = comfortable for a baby to drink)
- Yeast needs a warm place to rise and hence a yellow/naturally lighted kitchen is a good place. Keep the rising dough away from breeze or wind.
- It is possible to over-proof the dough i.e. tire the yeast out so that it stops “fluffing up”. This usually happens when you let the rise/fermentation happen for too long – more than 90 mins is too long unless the recipe specifically calls for it.
- The bread dough is sticky, do not over-flour it in the endeavor to make it “manageable”. The more flour you add, the more hard your bread will be.
Hope you liked this post and find it helpful to overcome your fear of yeast 🙂 Do let me know through your comments!