This guest post comes to us from Angela McKeller of KickBackKook.com. Angela is a recipe contest winner, food blogger and cooking show maven. She has appeared on Paula Deen’s “Paula’s Party” and has recently completed her first cookbook.
By Angela McKeller of
Have you thought that baking bread is too difficult? Well, let me tell you! There is nothing like the aroma of freshly baked bread throughout your home and it makes the best gift! Freshly baked breads are an easy way to say â€œI love youâ€ and are surprisingly easy to prepare. Knowing the basics can make all of the difference and it’s a great way to spend an afternoon bonding with the family!
First, be aware that yeast breads and quick breads are very different. Quick breads are your banana breads, zucchini breads, blueberry muffins and the like. While they are â€œquickâ€ and delicious, yeast breads are often overlooked, fun and equally delicious! Sourdough breads, rye breads, brioche, challah and bagels (yes, bagels are easily made at home and children love to help!) are yeast breads and so much love goes into these breads that I can’t resist them!
For yeast breads, know that you must follow a set sequence of steps for success. No matter what type of yeast bread the sequence is this: 1) activate the yeast in warm liquid and create a starter as directed if needed, 2) add wet ingredients and then dry, 3) mix with a paddle attachment until creamy and slowly add yeast, 4) continue to mix until dough pulls away from the from sides of bowl. You will need to switch from the paddle to the dough hook at this point and continue mixing. Yeast breads are just as versatile as quick breads! Add cinnamon and raisins to a basic yeast bread and there ya go!
Further, know that yeast breads have a first and second rise. Before the first rise, make sure you place your dough in a deep, lightly oiled bowl and make sure the dough is in the form of a ball, lightly oiled all over so as not to dry out. Store it in a warm place for the first rise and cover loosely with plastic wrap or a â€œdampâ€ towel. The first rise may take 1-2 hours, so mark on the bowl with a non-toxic wax pencil where â€œdoubleâ€ the size will be. If you poke the dough and the indentations stay, it’s done! If not, recover and check every 15 minutes.
The second rise releases gases caused by the yeast and prevents the bread from stretching and breaking (creating holes in the bread) while baking. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and â€œpunchâ€ it down, literally with your fist. Form it into a loaf or whatever kind of shape you wish for it to have by stretching it into that shape, flattening it, folding over the ends and pinching the â€œseamâ€ together. When you fit the dough into the pan, the dough should fill it ½ to ¾ full and the seam side should be facing down. Any less dough in the pan will create a flat loaf and more will make it top heavy. Give it 30-45 minutes to rise again, test that it’s springy and then your ready to bake! Enjoy your bread!
Rosemary Tomato Basil Ciabatta
Makes 2 loaves
1 1/3 c. room temperature water
2 1/3 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
¾ tsp. active dry yeast
3 T. warm water
¾ c. warm milk
3 T. tomato paste
2 tsp. active dry yeast
2 2 1/3 c. bread flour (significant for gluten), plus any extra as needed
1 ½ tsp. Salt
1T. fresh rosemary, chopped
1 tsp. freshly chopped basil
2 T. extra virgin olive oil
To make starter (1-3 days in advance):
With paddle attachment, mix water, 1 c. of the all-purpose flour and yeast.
Mix on low for 1 minute.
Add remainder of flour and beat on low for another minute until smooth.
Remove bowl and cover with plastic wrap; let sit at room temperature for 4-6 hrs (will double or triple in amount).
Refrigerate for 8-12 hours or up to three days and set out until it reaches room temperature before using (one to two hrs).
To make dough:
Use paddle attachment, mixing the warm milk, water and yeast to the starter, making a soup-like mixture.
Add tomato paste and blend just until turning a pinkish color.
Add 1 ½ c. bread flour, salt, rosemary, basil and extra virgin olive oil.
Mix on low for about 3 minutes.
Add remaining flour (perhaps not all of it), only until the dough is soft and moist, occasionally scraping the sides of the bowl and paddle with a spatula.
***Note: Dough should pull away from sides, but stick to the bottom.***
Cover a large bowl sprayed with non-stick spray with oiled plastic wrap and let rise for 2 hours.
***Note: It will have double or tripled in bulk, will be smooth on top and sticky on bottom.***
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Turn onto a baking sheet that has been lined with foil and lightly sprinkled with flour.
Pat the dough with your fingers and create a rectangle, folding it like a business letter the two ends into the center.
Turn the cookie sheet, pat dough with your fingers and create another rectangle and fold it into another â€œbusiness letterâ€, sprinkling with flour as needed to keep everything from sticking.
Let the dough rest for 10 minutes and then cut into two rectangles.
Cover loosely with plastic and let set for 20 minutes.
Sprinkle tops generously with flour (about 1-2 T.) and open your fingers like a fan; pressing, pulling and pushing into an 11â€ or so rectangle and giving it the characteristic â€œdimpledâ€ look.
Cover the dough and let rise for 1 ½ hours.
During this time, press a sprig of rosemary into each loaf and press more â€œdimplesâ€ into the loaf, sprinkling chopped basil over the loaves.
Ideally, you want to place the baking sheet on a baking stone (like a pizza stone) and bake for 20-25 minutes.
Let cool on the baking sheet or serve warm.
Great with pasta dishes or as bread for sandwiches!