I absolutely adore the smell of fresh-baked bread. In fact my favorite Memphis moment is driving by the Wonder bread factory while they are baking.
Many people think that homemade bread is too daunting and hard, but I say No Sir, and will prove to you that’s just not the case – no bread machine required. In fact, I have been known to come home from work and bake a batch of bread and get to bed before midnight. No Joke.
The key to bread is not killing the yeast. So first – start with fresh yeast. Check your expiration date. Yes, yeast does die eventually, so check the date. The second key? Warm water – not boiling, molten lava hot water. I have produced many, many rock solid loaves of bread, because the water was too hot. The perfect temperature is 105-110 degrees, so just over body temp. If your water is too hot to touch, it’s too hot for yeast. Add a little cold water or let it hang out for 2-5 minutes.
If you can keep the yeast alive, you can have home-baked bread when you want. This recipe is versatile and fool-proof. Try different flours and shapes – dinner rolls, bread loaves, pizza crust, anything bread.
4 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
2 cups warm milk
1/2 cup warm water
6 tablespoons shortening, cubed
1/4 cup of honey
1 1/2 tsp of salt
3 cups whole wheat flour
4 cups all-purpose flour
In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, add the yeast, warm water and honey to the bowl and mix on the lowest speed. This will wake up the yeast and get it hungry. While your yeast is working, warm the milk in a small pot on the stove. Warm the milk until it is just warm to the touch. DON’T boil. It will kill the yeast and you will end up with rocks instead of dinner rolls.
When the milk is warm, slowly add to the yeast. Then add the shortening. Don’t worry if the shortening doesn’t melt all the way, the lumps will come out when we add the flour. Then add the eggs. Once the eggs have started to combine, add the wheat flour and the salt, and mix until combined.
Now, slowly add all-purpose flour – a 1/2 cup at a time – until the dough starts to form a ball and pull away from the sides of the bowl. Once your dough is firm to the touch but is still a little sticky, replace the paddle attachment with the dough hook. With the dough hook attached, knead the dough on medium-high speed for five minutes.
Add your dough to a glass bowl and cover with a towel until, and let it rise in a warm place. I put mine in front of a sunny window. It will take an hour to an hour and a half for your dough to double in size. Once it has doubled, punch down the dough, and you’re ready to form your bread.
Here – the sky is the bread limit. This dough can be used to make anything bread-related.
For loaves: Split the dough in two even balls and form in two loaf-shapes, and put into greased loaf pans. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and let your bread rise a second time for 45 minutes. Bake your loaves for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Once done baking, remove the bread from the oven. Melt some butter and brush over the top of the loaves. Let the bread cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then remove from the pan and let it cool completely.
For dinner rolls: Portion the rolls into 40 small balls, and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and let the dough rise for a second time 20-30 minutes. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven, and brush with melted butter. Cool completely.