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Simple country bread can be a good first yeast option

Cristen Clark explains the mechanisms of making yeast breads and gives a recipe for an easy variety.

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If you possess a fear of yeast and have never baked a loaf of bread, simple country bread is a great recipe to start your foray into bread baking. My grandma used to bake bread very similar to this in large round loaves or “boules.” She slashed the top and baked them until golden brown.

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Cristen Clark
Cristen Clark

The soft texture of this peasant-style country loaf makes it ideal for sandwiches, panini or eaten plainly with a smear of butter. You can also shape the dough into long loaves for use in baking garlic bread.

I think I inherited my love of yeast breads from my grandma. We sure did have fun visiting about recipes prior to her passing. She understood my love of reading cookbooks, like novels. Reading cookbooks has given me a significant amount of appreciation for all types of baking. However, written words are still no substitute for Grandma’s phone calls or the aroma of baking bread wafting around her home.

When you’re ready to take the plunge into baking your own yeast breads, here are a few quick reminders of the steps involved in this exciting baking adventure!

Mixing: Involves proofing yeast and mixing all ingredients together until a shaggy mass forms.

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Kneading: Pressing the dough out, folding, turning and repeating to develop gluten structure for the bread. If you didn’t knead the dough, you would end up with a flat brick. The gasses produced by the yeast ‘raise’ or leaven the bread and the ‘structure’ or gluten network is what allows the bread to grow, holding shape.

First rise: Letting the dough rise and develop flavors. Usually done in a warm environment with dough well oiled, in a bowl and covered.

Punch and shape: After this rise, dough is punched down and given a rest to relax gluten. Dough is then shaped into a loaf, rolls or other shape, sprayed with nonstick spray and covered with plastic wrap to rise again.

Second rise: The dough rises for a second time prior to baking to make a fluffy, flavorful loaf.

Bake: Most sweet loaves and basic loaves are baked at 350 degrees F. Artisan breads are baked at higher temperatures and use steam to blister and make the crust chewy.

Cooling: Cooling breads after baking will allow the moisture within the loaf to escape. If you cut bread too soon it can be soggy and may not cut very well.

Simple Country Bread

Pieces of bread next to a cut loaf of bread. One piece has an orange spread on it, and the other is plain. Behind the bread is a jar of the orange spread. The words "simple country bread" and "Cristen Clark Food & Swine" are over the photo in white.
If you possess a fear-of-yeast and have never baked a loaf of bread, simple country bread is a great recipe to start your foray into bread baking.
Contributed / Cristen Clark

Makes 2 large loaves of soft white bread

Ingredients:

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2 cups warm water (divided into 1/2 cup and 1½ cups)

2 packets or 4 ½ teaspoons yeast (I use instant/bread machine yeast.)

1 tablespoon sugar

2 teaspoons salt

2 eggs

1/4 cup butter

6 cups all-purpose flour

Topping

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Egg wash: 1 egg + 1 teaspoon water (to brush on risen loaves of dough prior to baking)

Directions:

In a large mixing bowl add 1/2 cup warm water, yeast and sugar.

Proof the yeast until foamy (5-10 minutes). Add 1½ cups warm water, salt, eggs and butter. Whisk vigorously until combined.

Add flour and fold into mixture until a shaggy mass forms. At this point continue by hand until a ball forms or immediately move to a heavy duty stand mixer to work dough until a smooth ball remains. (6-8 minutes on low speed). By hand, knead dough for 8-10 minutes, on a lightly floured work-space until a smooth ball forms.

Place dough in clean oiled bowl and lightly oil the top of dough. Cover bowl with plastic wrap, leave to rise in a warm area.

Let dough rise 60 minutes, or until double in size (this depends on the warmth of the environment, on a stove top of a pre-heating oven is where I place my dough).

When done rising, punch down to de-gas. Cut into 2 pieces. Shape the dough into two round loaves, being sure to create surface tension so the loaves don’t go flat.

Spray dough rounds with nonstick spray and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in warm area until double in size (60 minutes).

When ready to bake, remove plastic wrap. Brush loaves with egg wash. Slash dough 1/4”-1/2” deep with razor blade or very sharp knife.

Bake loaves in a 350 degree preheated oven for 30 minutes or until loaves are golden and sound hollow when tapped. (Temperature: 190-200 degrees F on an instant read thermometer)

Remove from oven, place on cooling rack. Cool until warm or room temperature.

Cristen Clark lives on an Iowa farm where her family raises corn, soybeans, pigs and cattle. She loves cooking and writing, and sharing contest winning recipes with people she knows. She can be reached at cristen@foodandswine.com or at foodandswine.com.

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