So now that we've worked with the recipe I started with (Pizza dough), we can move on to my favorite activity: experimenting with it! Well, OK, I'm going to go over the basic bread dough recipe that I've found to be trusty and easy. It's fairly close to the pizza dough recipe, but a little sweeter and, of course, shaped and baked slightly differently. Shall we begin?
Basic Bread Dough
1 tablespoon dry active yeast
1/4 cup white sugar
1 cup warm water
3 tablespoons oil
2 1/2 cups flour (or my preference: equal amounts of regular and whole wheat flour)
1 teaspoon salt
Prep time: 1 hr, 15 min-3 hrs (depending upon how long you let it rise and how many rises you do)
Oven: 400 degrees F
Bake time: 20 minutes
Yield: one 1 pound loaf
First, a short caveat about yeast. This is a repeat of what I said in my original pizza recipe post, but it bears repeating here:
1. The water-- Most recipes will tell you to use lukewarm water. I've found that the water is fine as long as it feels warm or even hot but I can keep my finger in the water comfortably. When I was first learning how to make this dough, I used a candy thermometer and tried to get the water between 110-115 degrees F.
2. Proofing--This is when you dissolve the yeast in your warm water and wait 5-10 minutes to let it grow. This was done to make sure the yeast was alive, which is usually not a problem these days (assuming you've stored your yeast properly). So as long as you are confident that you aren't going to kill the yeast with too-hot water, you can skip this step. It saves you about 10 minutes, which is fairly significant.
3. Yeast & salt-- These two should not be brought into direct contact. Salt can kill the yeast if it is sprinkled onto it, so I always put my salt in last, on top of the flour.
Back to the recipe!
Throw everything into your mixing bowl in the order listed: yeast, sugar, water, oil, flour, salt. You can wait for the yeast to proof before you throw in the oil, flour, and salt if you so desire, but I don't.
Sometimes I let it rise a second time, if I'm not in a hurry, otherwise I shape it into whatever I'm making it. In the case of these pictures, I was making a HALF-loaf, semi-free form. I like to flour the top and then slash it. (Note: If you are making a FULL bread loaf, then shape it into a kind of oblong shape and drop it into your greased bread pan. Let it rise until it's a little above the top edge of the pan. Bake as normal.)
Feel free to post a comment if you have any questions. The comments are moderated, so I should see any questions, no matter how long it has been since this post was published.