James’ Homemade Bread

This bread is simple, rich and tasty. Use to make 2 large (9×5″ pans) or three small loaves, or a 9×13 pan of dinner rolls. See tips in the footnotes. Can easily be adapted for whole wheat or other breads once you get the hang of it. The olive oil can be replaced with regular vegetable oil or butter, but I like the tang of the EVOO. Each time I make this, it gets a little better.

About 36 generous servings. Prep time: 30-35 minutes; Baking time: 30-40 minutes; Rising time: 2 to 2-1/2 hours.

  • 2 cups warm, 110-degree water
  • 1 envelope (1/4 oz.) active dry yeast
  • 8 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  1. Pour yeast and 1 tablespoon sugar into a large mixing bowl. Add the water (use a thermometer to get the temperature right). Stir well to dissolve. Allow the mixture to sit for about 10 minutes to proof yeast. A dirty-looking foam should form on the surface of the liquid. If it doesn’t, your yeast is dead and you need to start over with new yeast.
  2. Divide the flour into three groups: 4 cups, 3 cups and 1 cup to be used at different points.
  3. Heat oven to warm and place a shallow pan of about 2 cups of water on the bottom rack.
  4. Stir in the rest of the sugar, eggs, salt and oil and mix well.
  5. Stir in 4 cups of flour and blend until smooth.
  6. Work another 3 cups of flour into the batter about a half-cup at a time until a dough forms. Flour should be fully incorporated into the dough which should pull away from the sides of the bowl easily.
  7. Turn out onto a very well floured countertop or firm, flat surface. Flour or oil your hands. Dough will be slightly sticky. Cover well with some of the last cup of flour.
  8. Knead the dough, adding small amounts of flour, until it is no longer sticky and is smooth and elastic, about 6 to 10 minutes. It’s ready when a small amount of dough can be pinched off and spread like bubble gum thin enough to see through.
  9. Well grease a clean mixing bowl and drop the dough ball into it. Turn dough around inside the bowl until it is coated with oil. Cover with damp towel and let sit in a warm place until it doubles in size, about an hour.
  10. About 30 minutes into this first rise, grab the sides of the dough and pull up onto the top of the ball all the way around. Recover and let the rise complete.
  11. Uncover, punch down dough and turn out onto floured surface again. Push the dough down until all air pockets are expelled. Shape roughly into a thick rectangle.
  12. Divide into thirds and place each piece into greased loaf pans. Re-wet the towel and cover the pans in a warm place. Allow to rise again until doubled in size, about an hour.
  13. Use a sharp knife to cut diagonal slits in the top of each loaf.
  14. Turn heat up on oven to 350 and allow to reach full temperature. Refill water pan if needed.
  15. Bake bread 30 to 40 minutes until tops are well browned. Remove to wire rack for about 10 minutes. Carefully remove from pans and allow to cool on rack completely, about 30 minutes, before cutting. Serve with softened butter.

Tips:

  • Warm tap water usually will work, but use a food thermometer to get the temperature right. You can vary by about 5 degrees on either side of 110, but the closer the better.
  • Honey can be used instead of sugar, but not artificial sweetener. This is food for the yeast.
  • Use two large mixing bowls and two containers for flour to speed up the mixing process. Also, have a damp kitchen towel or hand towel nearby.
  • For wheat or whole grain bread, mix the whole wheat or grain flour with unbleached white flour, about 50/50, before dividing it into the two batches.
  • This recipe is developed for hand mixing. If you have a stand mixer with a dough hook, mixing and kneading time will be cut nearly in half. If you have a bread machine, use a recipe designed for that.
  • Kneading should be more like folding the dough into itself, turning it around and over on your board.
  • If making rolls, pinch off palm-size balls of dough and shape into a ball, pulling the dough down and around the ball to get a smooth surface. Place next to each other in greased baking pan.
  • If your kitchen is cold or drafty, place the rising dough on the stove top with the oven on warm or a low temperature, like 200 to 250.
  • A bread knife is a good investment. It makes slicing the finished bread much easier. Non-serrated knives may cause bread to ball up during slicing.

 

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