For the past several years I have tried many different ways of making bread. I tried a sourdough starter and various yeast recipes and never had very much success, although I stubbornly continued making bread because I am Not-A-Quitter-Dangit. Honestly, the bread was usually too dense, didn’t rise well enough, and didn’t make good bread for sandwiches. The bread that was ok was really time intensive to make.
I read books about how baking bread was an exact science. I read blog posts about innumerable secrets to baking good bread. I tried and tried and still got the same poor results. I began to conclude that I was not gifted in the bread-baking arts. This did not come as much of a shock to me, since I am not particularly gifted in ANY of the homemaking arts. Yet I soldier on.
Then I experienced a BFO (Blinding Flash of the Obvious) about bread. I always have excellent results when I play with the Magic Pizza Dough recipe. What if I modified it to make a loaf of wheat bread instead of a pizza? Well what do you know, it works!
First, put one and a half Tablespoons of yeast in your mixer bowl. I hope you’re buying your yeast in bulk at Costco, since it’s LITERALLY 1/25th of the supermarket cost that way and keeps forever in your freezer.
Next put one and a half cups of hot water in there with it. By “hot” I mean about the temperature of a hot tub – not tepid, but not boiling. You don’t need to stir it or anything. It will start to bubble on it’s own like the picture at left. You don’t need to wait for it to rise or anything, just pour in the water and move on to the next step.
After putting in the water, put in half a Tablespoon (that’s the same as one and a half teaspoons, if you don’t have a half Tablespoon measuring spoon) of sugar, and a half Tablespoon of salt. Then put in three Tablespoons of oil. You can use cooking oil or light olive oil or coconut oil or whatever you want. I haven’t experimented with using applesauce instead of oil in this recipe, but feel free to try that if you really want to. Let me know how it goes.
Next add the flour. I put in two cups of whole wheat flour and one and a half cups of all purpose flour, but you could put in all wheat flour, or mix in spelt or some other kind of flour if you like to play around with that sort of thing. Remember that wheat flour is denser than white flour, so if you increase the wheat flour you might need to start with less white flour and add more as needed.
Once you’ve put in the flour, put your dough hook on your mixer and turn on your mixer on low. Let it mix and knead the dough until you have a nice smooth ball of dough. If it’s really sticky (like it would stick to your hands if you picked up the dough) add a tiny bit more flour. The mixing/kneading should only take two or three minutes, but let it go as long as you need to get the dough to a nice smooth state. If you don’t have a mixer, or if your mixer didn’t come with a dough hook, you could do this step by hand. My hands are usually full of books and babies, so I use the mixer.
Find a spot that is fairly warm, like under a heat vent, or in a non-drafty spot someplace. Put the loaf pan there. It doesn’t need to be really protected, or covered, or anything really special. Turn on your oven to 400 degrees. While the oven is heating up, the dough will be rising. The amount of time it takes to heat up the oven is a perfect time for the dough to rise. That’s what I call convenient.
At left is my dough before I put it in the oven. See how much it rose in just the time it took for my oven to heat to 400??? Isn’t that amazing? So easy! While the oven is heating and the dough is rising, you can do whatever you want. Wash the dishes, feed the baby, read a book to your toddlers, play the piano and sing some songs, say “whining is obnoxious and not an effective way to communicate with Mama” about 600 times, or whatever you need to do.
Once the oven has reached 400 degrees, put the risen dough in there and bake for 15 minutes. After that first 15 minutes, turn the oven down to 350 degrees and bake for another 15 minutes. Then turn off the oven and voila, the bread is done!
Check it out! Look at how high that bread is! Stand in amazement at your culinary prowess! Put the bread on a cooling rack or something for a few minutes, then take the loaf out. I put the loaf in a plastic bag but don’t close the bag while the loaf cools. That keeps the crust from getting too hard but lets enough moisture out so that the loaf doesn’t get soggy. After it’s completely cool, I close the bag.
This bread makes FANTASTIC sandwich slices, because when it’s cool it slices thin and holds together nicely. It lasts 2-3 days before it starts to seem stale and get crumbly. If by some chance you have some left when it gets that old, you can just crumble it into a freezer bag and freeze it for when you have a recipe that calls for bread crumbs.
For those who like a short and commentary free recipe, here is the bare bones version:
Ridiculously Easy Wheat Bread
1.5 Tablespoons yeast
1.5 cups hot water
1/2 Tablespoon (1.5 teaspoons) sugar
1/2 Tablespoon (1.5 teaspoons) salt
3 Tablespoons oil
2 cups wheat flour
1.5 cups all purpose flour, with maybe a little more if the dough is too sticky
1. Dissolve yeast in hot water
2. Add sugar, salt and oil
3. Add flour
4. Using dough hook (or by hand), mix and knead until you have a smooth ball of dough Add additional flour in small amounts if dough is too sticky
5. Remove dough from bowl, roll into loaf shape, place in greased loaf pan.
6. While oven is heating to 400 degrees, put loaf pan in warmish place to rise
7. Once oven is at 400 degrees, bake loaf for 15 minutes
8. Decrease oven temperature to 350, bake an additional 15 minutes
9. Remove bread from oven, allow to cool on a rack for a few minutes, then place in open plastic bag until completely cool.
If you’re interested, you can also try my other variations of this dough, including Totally Excellent Breadsticks (which are really just like Olive Garden breadsticks), and Easy Braided Bread. The braided bread post includes the basic dough recipe that you can use to make pizza or rolls or pigs in a blanket or buns for hamburgers or sandwich rolls or basically anything else you can think of that is made of bread. Many thanks to Crystal who invented the original dough recipe, or at least was first to post it!