Homemade Bread – There’s Nothin’ Better!

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It’s true, isn’t it? Nothing smells better than fresh baked bread wafting from the oven, and that first taste of soft warm bread and hard crust is like heaven. After watching Alton Brown make some bread on Good Eats the other night, I have been craving a warm, crusty loaf of homemade bread. And so today was bread baking day. The recipe that I used for this bread makes two loaves, which was just perfect. I made one regular, plain white loaf. The other I transformed into a knock-off of my grandma’s famous Bacon Cheese Bread. Usually around different holidays she will make bread with crumbled bacon and Romano or Parmesan cheese in it. It’s one of my favorite things that she makes and so I decided to make my own.

In that Good Eats episode Alton gave a great tip for getting dough to rise – put the dough in the oven (not turned on) and on the rack beneath it place a pan that has just been filled with piping hot water. With the oven door closed the steam from the water will create the humidity needed for a good dough rise. It worked wonderfully – my dough rose perfectly!

I also did a good bit of research on the best way to store homemade bread, and what I found out was that it’s pretty near impossible to keep fresh homemade bread from going stale or moldy in a few days because it does not contain any preservatives. The vast majority of the advice I found suggested slicing the bread and then, holding the loaf together as one, wrap the bread in a cling wrap, and then again in foil and store in the freezer. You can easily then take out as much as you want and let it thaw. This has been found to be better than keeping out on the counter (goes moldy quickly) or in the refrigerator (it gets dried out).

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White Bread

(Adapted from Better Homes & Gardens, New Cook Book, Limited breast cancer edition; Courtesy of Amber’s Delectable Delights)

Low fat
Prep: 30 minutes
Rise: 1 1/4 hours (divided)
Bake: 40 minutes
Makes: 2 loaves

Ingredients:
5 3/4 to 6 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (I used less than the minimum amount – definitely go by feel)
1 package active dry yeast
2 1/4 cups milk or buttermilk (I used whole milk)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon butter, margarine or shortening
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

To make the Bacon/Cheese version:
8 slices bacon, cooked crisp and drained
1/2 cup grated Romano (or Parmesan) cheese, divided
1 Tablespoon melted butter

Directions:
1) In a large mixing bowl combine 2-1/2 cups of the flour and the yeast; set aside. In a medium saucepan heat and stir milk, sugar, butter and salt just until warm (120 to 130 degrees F) and butter almost melts. Add milk mixture to flour mixture. Beat with an electric mixer on low to medium speed for 30 seconds, scraping sides of bowl constantly. Beat on high speed for 3 minutes. Using a wooden spoon, stir in as much of the remaining flour as you can.

2) Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead in enough of the remaining to make a moderately stiff dough that is smooth and elastic (6 to 8 minutes total). Shape dough into a ball. Place in lightly greased bowl, turning once to grease surface of dough. Cover; let rise in a warm place until double in size (45 to 60 minutes).

3) Punch dough down. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface; divide in half. Cover; let rest 10 minutes. Meanwhile lightly grease two 8x4x2 loaf pans.

4) Shape dough halves into loaves by patting or rolling. To shape by patting, gently pat and pinch, tucking edges underneath. To shape by rolling, on a lightly floured surface roll each dough half into a 12×8 inch rectangle. Roll up each rectangle, starting from a short side. Seal seams with your fingertips.

For Bacon/Cheese Bread: After rolling out the dough, brush it with the melted butter. Sprinkle 1/4 cup Romano cheese over the dough, top with crumbled bacon, and then top with the remaining 1/4 cup Romano cheese. Roll dough up as you did with the regular loaf and proceed with the recipe. Before putting it in the oven I brushed it with a little more melted butter and sprinkled some grated Parmesan on top. I think that this version would also taste very good with fresh ground black pepper in it as well.

5) Place shaped dough halves in prepared pans. Cover and let rise in a warm place until nearly double in size (30 to 40 minutes).

6) Bake in a 375 degree oven about 40 minutes or until bread sounds hollow when lightly tapped (if necessary, cover loosely with foil the last 10 minutes of baking to prevent over browning). Immediately remove bread from pans. Cool on wire racks.

23 Responses

  1. Those look awesome! I love your blog =)

  2. Thanks Bethany!🙂

  3. I’m so going to make this bread, it looks awesome!

  4. Thanks Ally! It was easy to throw together and definitely worth the “homemade” effort. If you make it let me know how you like it!

  5. Why those photos are near perfect if you ask me!! You are so talented…. especially with a photo editor in your back pocket😀

    Love you!! Make some more bread and bring it home to me. THANKS!

  6. Thanks Laur🙂 If you stop by next weekend I’ll have some for you!

  7. Bacon, cheese and bread? Sign me up. Yum.

  8. My thoughts exactly, Peabody🙂

  9. I’ve been using the Alton Brown breadmaking techniques for about a year now and they are seriously the best! Perfect bread all the time!

  10. Kate, Alton totally rocks! I love learning little things like that from him.

  11. They look amazing! I am glad you enjoyed the recipe and were able to take your own spin on it. The bacon and cheese loaf sounds divine.

  12. Thanks Amber! I really enjoyed working with this dough – it was fantastic and the outcome was definitely the best basic white bread I’ve tried so far. This is my new standard recipe🙂

  13. oooooh, the bacon/cheese combo sounds amazing! i will have to give that one a try…as everything is better with bacon, right?🙂 instead of the pan of water, you can turn the oven to 175 (or the lowest setting your oven will go to) and then turn it off…let some of the warm air escape until it feels warm when you put your hand in the oven but not too hot (about 5-10 min) and then put the dough in there and let it rise!

  14. MrsPresley – thank you for the tip on heating the oven! I did end up spilling some water on the floor in the process😉

  15. Oh, and if you try the bread let me know how you like it!

  16. […] outcome of the recipe was good. I have never made French bread before (just some variations on white sandwich bread, honey wheat bread, Italian bread, and sweet rolls), so I have nothing to compare this to other […]

  17. I might well have to try that method for getting the dough to raise. Currently I just set my oven to the lowest setting and place the dough on top of the outside of the oven. It seems to rise nicely there. It was even better when I had a gas range and the heat from the pilot light got it nice and big!🙂

  18. I made this bread tonight and wanted to know how to store it. What beautiful pics. I love Good Eats, Alton Brown is my favorite person to watch on tv. That bacon cheese bread looks SO YUMMY. thanks for sharing it.

  19. Hi Shelly,

    If you know you’ll eat the bread right away (within the next few days) you can wrap it in plastic and/or put it in a freezer bag and it will keep like that. What I do, because we don’t eat bread that fast, is slice the entire loaf and then wrap the whole thing in plastic then in foil, and store in a freezer bag in the freezer. Then when we want bread, we can take out however many pieces we want.

    Also, be sure to check out my new site, as I’ve recently moved:

    http://www.browneyedbaker.com

  20. Thanks so much!! I am at the point where I don’t ever want to eat store bought bread again… but I go through so much of it! I think the freezer idea is best as well… as long as it is wrapped properly it freezes just beautifully. happy bread baking everyone!!!!

  21. IT IS LOOKING OWESOME.I WILL DEFINATLY TRY IT.THANKS

  22. Hi michelle, I made this bread tuesday night. I do have a bread machine but I had never made it by hand before last night. excellent recipe.old fashioned hand method still beats the machine any time ;HANDS DOWN !
    Both my loaves came out wonderfully perfect. thanks for posting this recipe. My husband loves it..looks just like ur picture when i got finished… thanks for the storage method / tips..I used the oven method as well to raise the bread worked out great..Thanks again sharon

  23. An outstanding share! I’ve just forwarded this onto a friend who was doing a little homework on this. And he actually bought me lunch simply because I stumbled upon it for him… lol. So let me reword this…. Thanks for the meal!! But yeah, thanx for spending the time to talk about this topic here on your site.

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