Ahhh! There’s nothing like the smell of freshly baked bread. And there’s nothing like creating that spectacular fragrance in your own kitchen. So let’s learn how…
The straight dough method is the easiest of the dough-making methods. The straight dough method gets it name because all the ingredients are mixed at the same time in the mixer. Take solace — you don’t need a fancy bread machine to make bread. All you really need is a mixer. Trust me, it’s a lot easier than you might think. In this tutorial I’m going to make a basic french bread (recipe and directions are condensed at the bottom of the page).
- All Purpose Flour
- 1 Package of Dry Active Yeast
- Malt Syrup or Maple Syrup
- Vegetable Shortening
- Spray Release
- Stand Mixer with a Dough Arm
- Large cutting board
- Paring Knife
- Measuring Cups
- Large Bowl
- Kitchen Scale
- Plastic Warp
- Parchment Paper
- 2 Sheet Trays
- Pastry Brush
1.) Turn the water on your faucet to a medium-hot temperature.
2.) Grab a thermometer and place it in the water. You’re looking for a temperature between 100 -111 degrees. It’s very important that you don’t go over this temperature, as you can kill the yeast.
3.) Once the water hits 100 -111, measure out 16 volume ounces (2 cups) and pour it into the mixing bowl.
4.) Open the dry yeast package and pour all of the contents into the mixing bowl with your warm water.
5.) On your scale measure out a 1/2 weight ounce of sugar.
6.) Pour your sugar in the mixing bowl with the water and yeast. Now mix the yeast and sugar until it dissolves in the water. Be sure to wash your hands thoroughly after this. The sugar is added to activate the yeast, but the yeast needs time to bloom, so let this mixture sit for a few minutes.
7.) While waiting for the yeast to bloom, we can measure out all of our dry ingredients. First, measure out 1 pound and 12 ounces of all purpose flour. The bowl on my scale is not big enough to allow me to measure it all at once. I measured 1 pound and placed it in the mixing bowl set off to the side and then I measured out the remaining 12 ounces and added that to the bowl as well.
8.) Measure out 1/2 weight ounce of Kosher salt on a scale and add it to the bowl with the flour. I’ve seen recipes that call for you to add the salt with the yeast, sugar and water. I do not recommend adding your salt to your yeast. Salt kills yeast and if you kill the yeast in your bread, you’ll end up with a paper weight. (Not very appetizing.)
9.) Measure out 1/2 weight ounce of vegetable shortening and place it in the bowl with the flour.
10.) Measure out 1/4 weight ounce of malt syrup. I don’t have malt syrup so i substituted it with maple syrup. Leave this in the bowl you measured it in.
11.) Now it’s time to check and see if our yeast has bloomed. If the yeast has bloomed properly, the water will have a brown foam on top and it will smell like beer. If you don’t see the foam on top, your yeast is dead and you will need to do steps 1 through 6 again. If this is the case, add a dash of patience to your recipe.
12.) If the yeast has bloomed properly, it’s time to add our bowl of ingredients (flour, salt and vegetable shortening) to the mixing bowl.
13. ) Add the malt syrup (or maple syrup) to the mixing bowl. Make sure to use a rubber spatula to get all the syrup out of the bowl and into the mixing bowl.
14.) We’ll be using a dough hook to mix our dough (a dough hook is the one that looks like Captain Hook’s hook). Attach the dough hook to the mixer.
15.) Put the mixer down and lock and turn the mixer on to speed one (my mixer has Speed 1 as stir) for two minutes. Make sure to start this on Speed 1 or else you could be wearing the flour that is in the bowl.
16.) After two minutes turn the mixer to Speed 2 for eight minutes. Be sure to use a timer because you don’t want to over-mix your dough. If you over-mix your dough, you’ll have a very chewy bread.
17.) After a few minutes of mixing, you’ll notice that the dough will start to come together and it will start to make a slapping sound against the side of the bowl. It will resemble the sound of a flat tire; if you hear this sound you’re golden!
18.) While the dough is mixing get a large mixing bowl and spray it with a spray release. It needs to be able to hold twice the amount of dough.
19.) When the eight minutes are up, shut off the mixer and remove the dough from the mixing bowl and put it in to the large mixing bowl from the previous step.
A little tip: When the dough has mixed for the proper amount of time, there shouldn’t be any dough stuck to the bowl. You want it to look like the picture below. A residue will be left from the dough, but notice that there’s no dough stuck to the side.
20.) Take plastic wrap and completely cover the mixing bowl the bread is in.
21.) Now we need to ferment the dough. During fermentation the yeast in the dough will eat the sugar, allowing our dough to rise. Take the bowl and place it in a warm spot. The ideal temperature for fermentation is around 80 degress Fahrenheit; the plastic wrap will help with us achieving this temperature. Set a timer for 1 hour and 30 minutes and let your dough sit and ferment.
22.) After 1 hour and 30 minutes check the dough. It should have doubled in size. There should also be a considerable amount of moisture on the plastic wrap. If your dough has not double in size, let it ferment for a little while longer before moving to the next step.
23.) Remove the plastic wrap from the bowl. Form a fist with both hands and push them into the dough a few times. This step helps to release some of the air from the dough.
24.) Place a small amount of flour on a large cutting board. If you do not have a large cutting board, a kitchen counter top will be fine. Notice in the picture below that I only used a small amount of flour. This is only to keep our dough from sticking to the surface. Try not to over-flour your surface or the next few steps could be difficult.
25.) Using the palms of your hands, distribute the flour so it completely covers the cutting board.
26.) Take the dough out of the bowl and place it in the center of the freshly floured cutting board. Push the dough flat with your palms so additional air is released from the dough.
27.) Take the dough and roll it up just like you’d roll a poster.
28.) Once you have completed the previous step, flatten your palms and apply a slight amount of pressure on the dough. Now roll the dough along the cutting board to bring it to a round shape. Work your way from the center of the dough all the way to the edges. By doing this, we are pushing more air out of the dough and shaping it at the same time. Repeat this step a few times until you have an even log shape. Be careful to not work you dough too much.
29.) The dough should now resemble a log and have a seam on one side. Take the seam side and place in on the cutting board.
30.) Take your palms and brush the excess flour off the dough.
31.) Carefully pick up your dough and move it to one side of the cutting board.
32.) Now you’ll need a sheet tray that is larger than the dough. In the picture below I am using full-size sheet tray. Place the sheet tray next to the dough and spray with a very light coating of spray release.
33.) Cut a piece of parchment paper the size of the sheet tray and place it on the sheet tray. The spray release on the sheet tray from the previous step helps to keep the parchment from blowing around while the bread is cooking in the oven.
34.) Carefully pick up the dough and place it in the center of the sheet tray.
35.) Using a small knife cut four diagonal slices about a 1/4 of an inch deep and 1 inch long.
Making the cuts in the dough gives it a nice appearance. The cuts also allow steam to escape the dough during the cooking process.
36.) Using plastic wrap, fully cover the sheet tray. Covering the dough and sheet tray with plastic wrap will allow us to proof our dough. The ideal temperature for proofing dough is around 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Proofing our dough will allow the dough to rise. The dough needs to proof about 45 minutes – this time can vary based on the temperature in your house. Basically, we’re looking for the dough to almost double in size during the proofing process.
37.) While the dough is proofing, preheat your oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Set up your oven with two racks. On the bottom rack place an empty sheet tray.
38.) After 45 minutes, check your dough to see if it has almost doubled in size.
There is an easy way to tell if your dough has proofed properly. I call it the “Poke Test.” Slowly remove the plastic wrap from you dough (Try to keep the plastic wrap from sticking to itself so you can reuse it if your dough has not proofed enough). Take your pointer finger and lightly poke your dough, just enough to make a small indention.
If the dough springs back very quickly the dough has not proofed long enough and will need to be recovered and proofed longer. If the dough is very slow to spring back (like the picture below) your dough has proofed long enough and is ready for baking.
39.) Every dough gets brushed with a liquid before it is baked (This is called a wash). For this dough I am using a water wash. Fill a measuring cup with water. Dip the pastry brush in the water and lightly brush the dough with the water. You will normally get a few strokes before you have to dip the brush in the water again. Repeat this step until you have completely brushed the entire dough with the water wash. It is very important that you only put a very light coat of water on the dough. You don’t want a water-logged piece of dough!
40.) Once your oven is pre heated to 450 degrees, place your dough on the top rack. and quickly move to the next step before closing the oven door.
41.) The French bread recipe that I am using is a yeast product. All yeast products call for the bread to be steamed for the first 10 minutes. Since I don’t have an oven that can do this I have a MacGyver solution to this problem. Yes, I said MacGyver. Fill a measuring cup with 1 cup of water. Slide the rack with the empty sheet tray out and pour water on it. The water will instantly start to evaporate so close the oven door and set a timer for 10 minutes. Steaming the dough will give it a nice hard crust on the outside.
42.) After 10 minutes is up, open the oven door for a few seconds to let all the steam out of the oven and close the door. Set your time for another 25 minutes.
43.) After 25 minutes check your dough as cooking time varies greatly by oven. When your dough is done it should have a nice golden brown color like the picture below. Take the dough out of the oven and let it cool for 30 minutes.
When your dough is done you should have a finished product that looks like the picture below. you can use this bread for a number of things. Keep in mind that this bread has no preservatives and will only last for a week at the most, so enjoy relatively quickly!
- French Bread
- Water 2 Cups
- Yeast Dry Active 0.25 ounce (1 Package)
- All Purpose Flour 1 Pound 12 Ounces
- Malt Syrup or Maple Syrup 0.13 Ounce
- Sugar 0.5 Ounce
- Vegetable Shortening 0.5 Ounce
Bloom the yeast with warm water and sugar for 10 minutes. Using the straight dough method, place remaining ingredients in the mixer. Mix for 10 minutes total (two minutes at Speed 1 and eight minutes at Speed 2). Ferment the dough for 1 hour and 30 minutes in a large mixing bowl covered with plastic wrap. After fermentation punch the dough and roll it into a loaf shape. Proof the dough for 20 minutes. Score the dough with four diagonal cuts. Bake it for 35 minutes (first 10 minutes using steam).