Homemade Comfort with Country Butter: Foolproof Bread for Beginning Bakers
Written and Photographed by: Marye Audet
Homemade bread is a nostalgic memory, but you just do not find too many people kneading away at the process. The good news? Since bread is easy enough to make, you can give your children and grandchildren their own special memories to make as well. Your kitchen can be full of the wafting aroma of yeasty, buttery goodness any time you want. Just follow the images and instructions below – and do not forget to hang on to the full recipe at the end of the article!
- Flour gives the bread structure and holds the air bubbles that the yeast gives off during rising. As you gain experience, try using bread flour; but for now, all-purpose is easier to knead.
- Yeast eats the sugars in the dough and gives off a gas that creates bubbles in the dough and causes the bread to rise.
- Ground ginger gets the yeast going. Think of it as affecting the bread the same way that first cup of coffee hits you in the morning.
- Sugar feeds the yeast and helps it to grow.
- Milk gives the texture of this bread a delicate softness.
- Butter helps the crumb stay soft and gives it more flavor.
- Salt enhances the flavor and keeps the bread from rising too much.
The Mixing Part
Add the yeast, sugar, ginger, and about ¼ cup of the water in a small bowl. Set it aside for about five minutes. During that time it will foam up quite a lot. The bubbling tells you the yeast is awake and ready to get to work.
Next, add about a cup of the flour, the remaining water, and the milk. Stir that together with the yeast mixture in a large bowl. Do not add the butter or salt until you have some flour mixed in. (Here is why: butter coats the yeast particles and causes them to slip off of each other. Your bread just will not rise as much. Salt can kill the yeast if it does not have flour to protect it. Once there is some flour, you can add the butter and salt without worry.)
After you have added the butter and salt, add the remaining flour a little at a time, stirring all the while. Keep adding the flour and mixing until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
Bread baking is not an exact science and sometimes you will need more flour, sometimes less. The amount you use can vary from one day to the next depending on the brand of flour you use, how humid it is, and whether it is July or February. As you get more experienced you will know by the look and feel of it when you have added enough.
The Kneading Part
Sprinkle some of the remaining flour on the counter. Place the ball of dough down and with the heel of your right hand (or left if you are
a lefty), push the dough away from you, stretching it out as you go. Next take your other hand and fold the dough back over toward you.
Finally, turn it a quarter turn and repeat. Add a little flour, and then additionally to keep it from sticking to the counter.
Over the next few minutes you will feel the dough get firmer and start to fight you back a little bit. Pull a piece of the dough gently away from the ball without pulling it off. Let it go and it should move back toward the main part of the bread dough. A second test is to pinch a piece between your thumb and forefinger. If it is ready it will feel the same as pinching your earlobe.
The Rising Part
Have you heard the old saying that three times is the charm? This dough will need to rise three times. Once you know it has been kneaded enough, form it into a ball and rub it all over with butter or oil. Pop it into a large, greased bowl and cover with a clean tea towel.
Put it in a warm place to rise. It takes about one-and-a-half hours to double. You can tell by pushing your pointer finger into the dough
a little. If the indentation stays, then you are good to go. If not, give it a few more minutes. Turn it out of the bowl, push it down to deflate it, form it into another ball, and let it rise again for about 30 minutes. This time you will shape the loaf before letting it rise the last time.
A quick note: Rising time is like the amount of flour; it can vary depending on the warmth of the house.
Some people roll their bread dough out, then roll it up, and tuck the ends under. Others just smush it into a shape that resembles a loaf of bread. The smushing method is recommended. Grease a bread pan and put the loaf inside of it. Rub some melted butter over the top and cover with the tea towel. It will take about 30 minutes to rise. It is done when the top of the bread rises out of the pan by about one-inch or so.
Follow the directions for baking and you are done!
Granny’s Basic White Bread
Makes 1 Loaf
This is a sturdy, white loaf of bread with a compact crumb. It is easy to get along with and is especially good for beginning bread bakers.
- 2 tablespoons sugar or honey
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 cup warm milk (about 110°F)
- 2 packages dry yeast
- ¼ teaspoons ground ginger
- ½ cup warm water (about 110°F, divided use)
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 5-6 cups all-purpose white flour
- Stir the sugar and butter into the warm milk.
- Sprinkle yeast, ginger and a pinch of sugar on the water.
- Stir to dissolve and let it stand until bubbly.
- Add to milk mixture with 3 cups flour and the salt.
- Stir by hand until batter is smooth.
- Add enough remaining flour to form a dough that leaves the sides of the bowl.
- Turn on to lightly floured surface, cover and let rest 10 minutes.
- Knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes.
- Round up into a ball and oil all sides.
- Place in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a tea towel.
- Let rise in a warm place until doubled about 1½ hours.
- Punch down and cover and let rise again until doubled, about 30 minutes.
- Shape into a loaf and place in an oiled bread pan.
- Lightly butter the tops and let rise until the bread is rounded above the pan, 30 to 45 minutes.
- Bake at 375°F for 30 minutes, or until loaves sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. (Or, if you have an instant read thermometer you can poke it into the middle of the loaf and it should read 200°F)
- Brush butter over the top of the finished loaf.
- Cool in pan for 5 minutes, remove from pan, and finish cooling.
If a soft crust is desired cover the loaf with a clean tea towel during the cooling process.