Bread making is an art form that has been lost to a certain degree. However, handy equipment is bringing it back for new generations. One of these is the Kitchenaid Artisan Mixer. The dough hook makes it much easier to get a good loaf of bread without spending twenty minutes kneading it.
There is another aspect to making bread at home, as there is with most things made from scratch. It can be a lot healthier. The home cook has the advantage of choosing the oil, the type of flour and the amount of salt added. That makes a great difference between store bought and homemade.
In this slideshow, the oil used is light olive oil. The bread will be accompanying pasta and meatballs, so the flavor of the oil is an enhancement. For a “regular” loaf, canola oil can be used. It doesn’t add any flavor to the finished bread.
The first step in bread making is to “prove” the yeast. Proving means like it sounds, proving that the yeast will activate. It is put into the mixer bowl with sugar and warm water. The temperature of the water is of great importance. It should be about the temperature that feels comfortable to the inside of the wrist…much like a baby’s bottle would be tested. If it’s too cold, the yeast won’t activate. If it’s too hot, the yeast will die.
Here is where the difference between a new baker and an old hand at bread making differ. If this is the first attempt, follow the recipe but keep this in mind: The formula for making bread can vary, so the amount of flour needed can vary. If the dough feels too wet, add a little more flour.
Once the water, yeast and sugar mixture are in the bowl, the mixing can begin. This calls for the dough hook, which is often included with the purchase of the mixer itself. Let it run for a couple of minutes before doing anything else.
The first of the flour can go in next. Unless a brick is desired, even whole grain breads will need some all purpose flour. Without it, a chainsaw may be required to cut it and the danger of chipping a tooth is there. Put in at least half a cup of flour, preferably a whole cup.
This does two things. It gives the yeast more to eat and it protects the yeast from the next additions. Salt and oil are added at this point. Other seasonings, such as garlic or cracked black pepper can also be added now.
Continue adding flour until the dough becomes thick enough to form a ball and the bowl is trying to jump out of its stand. The rest of the kneading will be by hand. If using a whole grain with it, use it for one quarter to one third of the flour.
Turn the dough out onto a floured dough board. A cup of all purpose flour should also be out. As the kneading is done, the flour on the board will be incorporated into the dough and will need to be replaced. Otherwise, the dough will stick to the board and won’t be workable. It is also wise to keep some on the hands at all times, as it will stick to them.
Once the dough is elastic and smooth, put it into a greased bowl to rise. Cover it with a clean dishcloth. It should be punched down once and then put into a greased loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees for an hour.
When finished mixing, don’t be surprised if there is flour all over the kitchen, especially around the mixer. Even with the spatter shield, it will get on everything. The best way to clean it up is with a small whisk broom and dust pan. It might be wise to keep one in the baking drawer, dedicated just to this purpose.
The mixer used in making this bread came from Kohl’s. The store has many of the attachments as well.