I was a poor college student when I started making bread back in 1990. 20 years later, I still save money and manage to eat well with this one simple recipe.
3 ½ cups flour
3 tbs. sugar
2 tbs. shortening
1 tbs. salt
1 tbs. yeast
Mix together the flour sugar shortening and salt until the shortening is crumbly. Add 1 3/4c. warm water, about the temp of a baby’s bottle. Dissolve the yeast in ½ cup water of the same temperature. After the yeast is fully dissolved, add it to the mixture and stir. Your mixture should look like grey gloppy soup.
Now comes the fun part! J Add the egg and keep stirring (helps if you have an electric mixer…) now add anything you like! Some things I add to my bread are dried fruits, like raisins or dates. Or you can sauté up some onions and garlic in olive oil and add that to the mix. Add black or kalmalata olives. Throw in some grains such as oatmeal, cornmeal, or wheat germ. You can add seeds such as flax, caraway, or sunflower seeds. You can add different flours such as rye or molasses for flavor. All of these things add texture and flavor to your breads. Feel free to be as creative and crazy as you like!
Now you should really have a gloppy soupy mess. We want this to look more like dough than mess, so to fix that, add flour. You can choose to add more white flour, but I like to add a high gluten flour at this point—either white or whole wheat. Add the flour to your mixture a little bit at a time. Keep stirring the dough. This will form the strands of gluten you need when the bread rises. When the dough won’t take any more flour, turn it out on to a lightly floured surface.
Knead the dough until it is smooth and slightly elastic. Place it in a greased bowl and add a little oil to the surface of the dough to make it soft and stretchy. Place the bowl in a warm place with a towel covering it to rise. This should take about an hour or two.
Once the dough has doubled in size, place it again on a lightly floured surface. Cut the dough into either loaves or rolls and roll it into a tight ball. Place the dough into a greased pan, and let it rise a second time.
When the dough has risen, place it into a 400 degree oven to bake for about 15 to 20 minutes. If you tap the top of your bread and it sounds hollow, it is done.
Bread Baking Tips
- Be sure your yeast is active
Yeast is a spore that eats sugars and releases gas. These burping farting spores are what cause the bread dough to rise. Baking the dough releases the gas, killing the active spores preventing you from eating burping farting food.
- Be certain to thoroughly mix your dough
Wheat flour, when wet, will make strands of protein. Mixing the flour builds the strands making then strong enough to hold up risen dough or batter.
Eggs add strength and elasticity to your dough.
- Keep your dough warm and moist while it rises.
Like all “living” things, yeast wants a warm and cozy place in which to exist, such as near a pot on the stove that is steamy or the top of the dryer.