So I randomly decided to try my hand at breadmaking the other day. I don't have a breadmaker, and I ALWAYS seem to kill the yeast, so I have never really been into it. I discovered recently why my bread never rises...it is not a good idea to store your yeast in the cabinet above your oven, which gets hot enough to cook bread itself. I feel so stupid; I can't believe I never thought of that.
So, I got some new yeast, and tried a recipe I found online for plain white homemade bread. The recipe called for too much flour and too little water, so it took forever to get the proportions right, which meant that the dough was waaaaaaay overworked by the time I got it right (I decided to use the dough hook on my Kitchenaid, rather than knead by hand). I also had been keeping the yeast in the big pantry cupboard next to my oven, which I think is also too hot, as the yeast only partially activated. So, yeast in the fridge from now on!
This time, I used yeast that a friend brought over, and my new wet/dry ratio, and added spices, raisins and sugar, and ended up with awesome bread! The recipe is kind of trial and error; you start out with some general ingredient measurements, and adjust as you go. This can be made so many ways...herb bread, cheese bread, you can add dried fruit, or just go plain. Give it a try!
Homemade Cinnamon Raisin Bread
Makes 1 loaf
3-4 C flour
1 C warm water (around 110 degrees)
2 1/4 Tsp active dry yeast
1 Tsp white sugar
1 Tsp salt
1 Tbsp melted butter
2/3 C brown sugar (this bread is mildly sweet; add a bit more if you want it sweeter)
1 Tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/2 C raisins
Fill measuring cup with 1 cup warm water. Sprinkle yeast over the top of the water, add the white sugar, and stir to break up any lumps. Let it sit for about 5-10 minutes, until the top of the water becomes thick and foamy -- this means the yeast is working. If is doesn't foam, your water is too hot or too cold, and you need to toss it and start over.
Add the salt, melted butter, brown sugar, spice, raisins, and 1 cup flour to your mixing bowl (this recipe is assuming you are using a stand mixer with a dough hook...no hand kneading!). Add the yeast water and start mixing, slowly adding more flour 1/2 cup at a time, until it forms a dough that is dry enough to not stick to the sides of the mixer, but wet enough to be slightly sticky. You may need to add a touch more flour or water to get it right.
Let the mixer run on a medium speed for 10 minutes, checking periodically to pull the dough off the hook (it will start to work up and over the hook after a while and just spin in circles). The dough should be smooth and soft to the touch when done, kind of like your skin.
Lightly grease a large bowl with butter, canola oil, or shortening. Form your dough into a ball, and roll it around the bowl to coat it in your fat of choice. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and place in a warm, dry place (above the fridge is good, or in your oven if it is not hot). Let the dough rise until it is doubled in size, about 1 hour.
Uncover the dough and punch it in the middle, and it should pull away from the sides. Knead it a few times, and form it into a loaf shape. Place it back in the bowl and recover, and let it rise again for another 40 minutes or so.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Place the loaf on a greased, floured baking sheet, or use a Silpat, which is an awesome silicone mat used for baking. Cut a few slashes in the top to keep it from tearing as it cooks. It won't hurt if you forget, but it looks nicer with the cuts on the top.
Place in your oven and cook for 20-30 minutes, or until it is big and fluffy and lightly brown all over. Let the bread cool before slicing, or it will get crumbly and fall apart.
Spread with butter and eat, or use it for french toast, or pop it in the toaster and cover with peanut butter...anything, really!
Sorry for the lack of pictures in progress; I'm working on remembering to take them :P