I have been making homemade bread for years. It was always one of my kids favorite things. When they came home from college, homemade bread was often one of the few things they requested. (Usually, they just said, “Anything you cook, Mom.”)
With a stand mixer, homemade bread is actually quite easy. You can also make the bread without a mixer. Just bring the dough together in a large bowl until it forms a rough ball. Then you will dump the contents of the bowl onto a board or counter and knead for 5 – 7 minutes. Cover with a towel and let it rest for about 10 minutes. Add the salt and knead for another 5 – 7 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. Then continue with step four of the directions for the bread. Yum!
If you don’t have bread flour (or strong flour, as they say in Ireland), you can use all-purpose flour. The texture will be different but it will still be an awesome bread. Honestly, I made this with all-purpose flour for years. It wasn’t until I attended Ballymaloe Cookery School in Ireland that I really embraced bread flour. I often will also substitute a portion (about 50 grams of 1/2 cup) of the white flour with malthouse or granary flour or some rye flour. It adds a little more texture to the loaf. Another thing I picked up at Ballymaloe. You can find many specialty flours online.
350 grams or 3 cups bread flour
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
3 tablespoons pure maple syrup (or honey)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, preferably at room temperature
2 tablespoons plain yogurt
175 grams or 3/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons oil (I usually use olive oil, but any oil wll work)
- Put all the ingredients, except for the salt, in a stand mixer with the dough hook attachment and the mixer on low speed, mix all the ingredients until a ball of dough forms and the dough isn’t really sticking to the sides of the bowl. Increase the mixer speed to medium-low and let the mixer knead the dough for about five minutes.
- Turn off the mixer and let the dough rest for 5 – 10 minutes. After the dough has rested, add the salt to the bowl and continue to let the machine knead the dough on medium-low for another 5 minutes. At this point, the dough should be elastic, but not too sticky. If it doesn’t seem to be elastic enough, add 1 – 2 tablespoons of milk and continue to knead. If it seems too sticky add 1 – 2 tablespoons of flour and continue to knead.
- After the dough has kneaded in the machine, remove it from the mixer bowl and place it on a lightly floured board (or counter). Knead the dough a few times by hand and form it into a ball. The dough should be smooth and elastic at this point.
- Pour the oil into the now empty mixer bowl and coat the insides of the bowl with oil. You can oil a clean bowl at this point too, but I never want to dirty two bowls unless I have to :). Place the dough into the oil coated bowl top side down and then turn the ball of dough right side up so that the whole ball of dough is now oil coated as well. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set it aside to rise until doubled in bulk (about 45 minutes).
- Butter/oil a 9 x 5 loaf pan. When the dough has doubled, gently turn it out of the bowl and onto a lightly floured board/counter. Keep the plastic wrap that was covering the bowl. Gently deflate the dough. Using your hands, pat the dough into a rectangle that is about 9 inches by 12 inches with the short side facing you. Starting at the top of the rectangle, fold the dough about two-thirds of the way down the rectangle, then fold the bottom edge up to meet the folded edge at the top. (Think of it as folding a letter into thirds.) Seal the seam by pinching it. Turn the roll of dough so that the seam is in the center of the roll, facing up, and turn up the ends of the roll just enough to fit in the loaf pan. Pinch the end seams to seal, turn the loaves over so that the seams are now on the bottom and plump the loaf with your palms to get an even shape. Gently place the loaf into the buttered/oiled pan with the seams down. Lightly coat the top of the dough with oil or butter and loosely cover the loaf pan with the plastic wrap. Allow the dough to rise again at room temperature until it just begins to come above the top of the loaf pan, 30 – 40 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 425.
- Place the loaf in the oven and immediately reduce the temperature to 375. Bake for 35 – 40 minutes until golden brown. If you want to check to be sure it’s done, plunge an instant-read thermometer in the bottom center of the loaf (turn the loaf out of the pan first) and it should read 200 degrees. If you want a darker crust, remove the bread from the pan and let it bake directly on the oven rack for the last 5 minutes. Let the bread cool on a rack before serving.