Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread, by C.J.

Bread has been called the staff of life. Throughout history has become a staple to diets across the world. There are literally thousands of bread recipes to be found in cookbooks, online, and in grandma’s little recipe file. Most recipes are actually very similar with the only difference perhaps being a little more or less flour, salt, leavening, or other agent. The one thing in common with most rising breads is the process. Adding ingredients, kneading for a given length of time, allowing to rise then baking. Hoping to find at the end, a perfectly risen mass of wonderful bread exuding a fresh aroma that is beyond compare. And if all goes well, that is exactly what you should end up with.

What I am offering today is a process that I have used for a very long time to bake a week’s worth of bread at one time, with minimal effort and a never-fail methodology. Most of my bread recipes utilize five full pounds of flour–which is how it is typically sold at a grocery store. No measuring cups, weighing, or worrying about whether you forgot to add a cup or added one too many.

Why I use bread flour…

The only real difference between bread flour and all purpose flour is the protein content. Bread flour will give a lighter softer texture, while all purpose flour will give a firmer texture and crust. Other flours can be used as well–although I have not tried them. Almond flour and coconut flour are just two that come to mind. If you prefer a darker crust, then add a few tablespoons of sugar or honey.

I always use instant yeast simply because its easier to use than active dry yeast and does not need proofing. Active dry yeast such as that which is sold by Fleischmann’s needs to be mixed with warm water to become activated before adding it to the flour. Active dry yeast also requires a longer proofing time. If you want to use active dry yeast then keep both of those factors in mind. The best instant yeast I have found is made by the SAF company and is available through stores like GFS as well as from King Arthur Flour, online. I presently pay about $5.00 per pound for SAF yeast.

Storing Dough in Your Freezer

You can also make the bulk dough and freeze it. To do so, portion it out as you would for your loaves and place it in freezer bags. It will freeze well and I have not noticed any loss in flavor when baked a few weeks afterward.

The most basic recipe is for a standard white bread. This recipe will utilize five loaf pans measuring 4 ½ by 8 ½, although you could use any size you like.

For this recipe you will need a large container for mixing. I use a 2 gallon food grade plastic bucket.

Here are my favorite bread recipes:

Everyday White Bread

Add 60 ounces of cool tap water to the bucket.

Add 1 heaping teaspoon of instant yeast.

Add 1 heaping tablespoon of kosher salt

Stir until salt and yeast are blended in the water

Add 1 five pound bag of bread flour. (I use Gold Medal “Better For Bread” flour with great success.)

Stir well with large wooden spoon for a few minutes to make sure all the flour is dampened. Cover the bucket with plastic wrap or a damp towel and place on top of refrigerator or kitchen counter overnight.

In the morning you will see that the dough will have risen at least double overnight. No kneading, no mess on the counter and the dough will be ready to portion.

Spray your bread pans with a non-stick spray like Pam

Put a small amount of flour on your counter and empty the dough onto it as is usually done when making bread. Form the dough into a large circle.

Using a bench scraper or other cutting device cut the dough into five relatively equal pieces.

I say relatively because its not really important that they are exactly the same.

When divided, lift each piece into a bread pan and roughly level it with your hands. That’s it. No kneading, shaping or trying to make each loaf perfectly even.

Once the dough is put into the pans allow them to rise on the counter for about an hour and a half while covered with a lint-free towel.

15 minutes before they are done rising, preheat your oven to 400 degrees and place your oven rack in the center of the oven. When ready to bake, place two pans in the back of the oven going across lengthwise. Place the other three pans in front of them facing longways to the front. They should all fit. Allow room between each pan for air circulation.

Bake for 45 minutes.

When finished, place pans on the counter and allow them to rest for five minutes before removing bread. Place hot breads on cooling rack and allow to cool.

 

And Now Some Variations

There are many simple variations on this method that will produce excellent breads of other types as well.  Here are a few.  (For the sake of brevity, I‘ll only describe how these breads vary from my standard white bread recipe.)

 

Whole Wheat Bread

Three pounds white bread flour

Two pounds whole wheat flour

60 ounces cool water

1 heaping teaspoon of instant yeast

1 heaping tablespoon of kosher salt

Continue as in the white bread recipe.

 

Light Rye Bread

Three pounds white bread flour

Two pounds rye flour

60 ounces cool tap water

½ cup caraway seeds (optional)

1 heaping teaspoon instant yeast

1 heaping tablespoon kosher salt

(Continue as for the white bread recipe.)

Oat and Honey Bread

Three pounds of white bread flour

Two pounds of wheat flour

60 ounces of cool water

½ cup rolled oats

½ cup honey

1 heaping teaspoon instant yeast

1 heaping tablespoon kosher salt.

Add all ingredients as for the white bread recipe making sure to add flour before the oats so that the oats do not absorb the water.

(Continue as for the white bread recipe.)

 

Focaccia Bread

Make the basic white bread recipe and divide the dough into three pieces instead of five. You can freeze two of these if you do not want to make it all at once.

Sprinkle a cookie sheet with corn meal to prevent dough sticking. Place piece of dough on cookie sheet and spread with your hands to desired size and thickness. Sprinkle with olive oil and poke fingers into the dough creating small pockets. Sprinkle with Italian seasoning, or any topping of your choice. Bake as before until golden brown.

 

Bacon Buns

Precook one pound of bacon and dice into small pieces.

Prepare white bread dough as in original recipe.

Portion dough into small equal pieces about the size of a golf ball.

Indent each piece with finger and place a generous pinch of bacon in the indentation, closing the roll over it.

Place on a cookie sheet that has been sprayed with a non-stick spray and allow to rise 45 minutes.

Brush with egg wash for a shiny appearance.

Bake 20 minutes or until golden brown.

 

Onion Buns

Prepare dough as for the bacon buns and fill with onions that have been slowly fried until golden and chopped into small pieces.

Brush with egg wash if desired.

Bake until golden brown

 

Sesame or Poppy Seed Buns

Prepare dough as for the other buns and allow to rise.

Brush tops with egg wash and sprinkle generously with sesame seeds or poppy seeds prior to baking.

Bake until golden brown

 

Dinner Rolls (36 rolls)

Follow the recipe for basic white bread up to where the dough has initially risen. It is best to have a scale if you want consistency with dinner rolls but it is not necessary. A full recipe of basic white bread should yield about 36 – 2 ½ ounce dinner rolls. Place parchment paper or foil on a lightly sprayed (with Pam) cookie sheet and preheat your oven.

As you portion these, either by eye or with a scale, place them on the cookie sheet leaving a little space between them. Bake for approximately 20 minutes until golden brown. You may have to turn the sheet half way through if your oven does not heat evenly.

 

Navajo Fry Bread

This dough will lend itself well to a fried bread very similar to Navajo Fry bread. The yeast will make it fluff up a bit but the flavor will be great.

Make the basic white bread dough to the point after it has risen in the container. Portion the dough into approximately 2” to 3” balls depending on how large you want them. Roll them out to a circle and about ¼” thick. Heat up a frying pan to medium heat and either spray with Pam or put a little oil in in. Place a rolled circle of bread into the pan and fry for a few minutes, checking for it to get brown. Once it lightly browns on one side flip it and do the same on the other. Continue doing this until you have enough fry breads for your meal and freeze the rest of the dough.

 

I hope that you enjoy these recipes.

 




14 Comments

  1. Thank you CJ for the Daily Bread recipes. We were a five loaves/ week family till the kids all disappeared. Now we’re are a three and usually give on or two away depending on company. Just as you said, After all these years, there is nothing like the smell of fresh loaves coming out of the oven (aside product testing).

  2. Thank you for these great recipes. Even though I know how to cook simple things very well, I have never tried to bake bread, cake, pie, or anything. The oven on my new range has never been used in the over a year that I have had it. Baking just looks too intimidating. But I think that I will try baking some of this bread. I think that baking bread was on the list of things that Robert Heinlein said that every man should be able to do. Well, maybe not…
    “A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.” Maybe it is covered by the words “Cook a tasty meal”.

  3. Thanks for the article! When I had a full house I made bread every weekend to get us thru the week. Now there are only two of us; so I use a bread machine. I found that with all bread recipes the amounts can vary a little depending on your location and altitude.

  4. This is such a timely article! I just mentioned to my husband this past week that I need to master this skill. I always prefer to learn from those who know more than I do, and will therefore be following your instructions and recipes.

    Would you (or anyone else here) be able to offer any guidance or advice about which type of yeast has the longest shelf life? Thank you!

    1. Here at the ranch, we keep blocks of powdered dry yeast in the freezer. They seem to keep for years, with no perceptible difference in their rising performance, once we thaw them out.

  5. I’m celiac so we make our gluten free bread weekly. Found a great mix and bought a case of 24. So simple, and as Jimmy would say, free smells, and fresh bread. And some think there is no God…fools, one and all.

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