When I was growing up, my Dad was our bread baker. His bread was sooooo good, that he started selling loaves to our customers at the bar. Dad had been a Norwegian Bachelor Farmer (as Garrison Keillor says) until at age 55 he married my Mom. So he had been making bread on the farm most of his adult life. Yet he learned a few tricks from my Mom, who was no slouch at bread, either.

The main factor in the wonderfulness of Dad’s bread was the kneading. He had the patience of a saint and would keep kneading until the bread told him, by feel, that it was ready.

Every batch of dough is different, depending on freshness of the flour and other ingredients, humidity and temperature of the room, and attitude of the baker.

  1. Kneading is probably the most important factor contributing to the crumb, taste and rise of your bread. I do not believe that any dough mixer can do a better job than your hands. So do not rush this step. Kneading is what works the gluten so that can effectively trap the gas bubbles created by the yeast as it digests the starch and fiber of the grain. And it is those trapped gas bubbles that produce the rise and shape the crumb.

  2. Freshness of the yeast is very important because it produces the gas bubbles that rise the dough. If the yeast is old, it cannot produce as much gas; also it may not be able to hold its own against other microbes in the dough. For this reason, I keep my yeast in the fridge.

  3. Freshness of the flour is also important, especially with whole grain flours, because the fragile oils in the grain/flour are easily oxidized - made rancid. The result of this oxidation produces free radicals which are bad for your health, but it also affects the rise and the flavor of your bread.

  4. Humidity and temperature of the room affect the success of your bread in very subtle ways. Like all living things, the yeast has its optimum environment requirements. If the room is quite humid, you will need to use less moisture in the dough. And the warmer the room, the more rapid the rise - up to a point. The slower the rise, the richer the flavor of the bread; so if your room is too warm, you may want to find a cooler spot for the rise. 80° - 85° F is optimum. Many people create just the right humidity and temperature in a picnic cooler.

  5. About yeast

  6. When I was a kid, yeast came in two different versions: cakes of fresh, compressed yeast; or dry, granular yeast. Dad preferred the former, but the latter proved to be more generally popular and soon that was all he could get. And today, the dry yeast comes in two versions: regular rise and quick rise.

  7. I use the regular rise dry-yeast from Bobs Red Mill. When I bring the package home, I transfer it to a glass storage container with a lid that seals, then put it in the fridge to keep it fresh. When I’m ready to make bread, I take out what I need and place it in a glass measuring cup to rest at room temperature while I assemble my equipment.

  8. About milk

  9. Not all recipes use milk. I’ve never used non-dairy milk in bread making, so I cannot speak to that. I use raw milk when I can get it, or plain pasteurized milk (not ultra-pasteurized) when I cannot get raw milk.

  10. It is important to scald the milk before using. Unscalded milk results in too-soft bread and may also slow down the action of the yeast.


Basic Yeast-Risen Bread Recipe


This recipe, adapted from the Whole Wheat Bread and White Bread recipes in Wonderful Wonderful Danish Cooking by Ingeborg Dahl Jensen, makes one 4" x 8" loaf.  The first time you try this, I suggest using whole wheat flour and unbleached white flour, both of the hard-wheat type (Wheat Montana’s Prairie Gold, and Organic unbleached white flour are what I use). See Flour. for more info). After you get the technique down, you can experiment with the flours of other grains like oat, spelt, barley and rye.

This method does not include a sponge; see the recipe below for the sponge method. A recipe with more than 50% whole grain flour greatly benefits from the sponge method.

The basic ingredients in yeast-risen bread are: flour, water, salt and yeast. You can replace some or all of the water with scalded milk; you can add butter, oil, and/or egg for a richer bread; and you can add sugar for a sweeter bread. But I highly recommend starting with the simple recipe until you get the method down and are happy with the result.

How do you know when it has risen enough (doubled in size):

  1. Finger test for rise in bowl: Poke it with 2 fingers (apart), about 1/2” deep; if it holds the indent, it’s ready (per BonAppetit, Choosing Voluntary Simplicity), or if it mostly holds the indent but springs back a little (per Fresh Loaf).

  2. Finger test in pan: With one finger, make a SMALL dent in the dough near the side of the pan. If dent remains it is ready to bake. (from Choosing Voluntary Simplicity)

This recipe makes 1 large loaf

Ingredients and Equipment:

Proof Yeast

  1. 1/2 Tbsp Rapadura sugar

  2. 1/4 cup lukewarm water (110°-115° F)

  3. 2 1/4 tsp dry yeast (or 1 package)

Bread

  1. 1 1/2 cups scalded milk

  2. 2 tsp unrefined sea salt

  3. 1 - 3 Tbsp honey, molasses, or Rapadura sugar, or a mix of these

  4. 3 Tbsp butter

  5. 1 1/2 - 2 cups whole wheat flour   

  6. 2 1/2 - 3 cups unbleached white flour

Equipment

  1. small amount or melted butter

  2. large bowl

  3. cotton dish towel

  4. 5" x 9" loaf pan


Procedure:

  1. 1.Butter a loaf pan.

  2. 2.Scald the milk: place over medium heat until steam begins to rise from the milk, but does not yet boil, about 185° F. Remove from heat. Pour over salt, sweetener and butter in your large bowl. Let it cool to point where you cannot feel its warmth on the the back of your wrist.

  3. 3.Proof the yeast while milk is cooling: Measure water into 1 cup measure and test for temperature; add sugar and sprinkle dry yeast over. Let sit until yeast begins to foam, then stir into warm milk.

  4. 4.Add whole wheat flour and mix thoroughly; then beat with a wooden spoon for 100 strokes to work the gluten.

  5. 5.Add unbleached flour in increments, until you can no longer stir the dough.

  6. 6.Flour a board or counter with unbleached flour, turn dough onto floured surface, and knead in as much of the remaining unbleached flour as it takes to keep it from sticking, yet light and elastic.  The dough will be a little sticky and light. Shape into a round and let it rest while you prepare your bowl.

  7. 7.Wipe out the bowl, and then rub a little olive oil or melted butter around the inside of the bowl. Add round of dough to bowl.  Cover with a damp cotton dish towel (or place bowl in moistened plastic bag), and let rise in a warm place (80° - 85° F) until double in bulk (Two finger test; see above), about 1 1/2 hours. If the place is not that warm, it will take much longer to rise. Also, if you used spelt, it will take less time to rise - if you let it rest too long, it will fall after rising.

  8. 8.Preheat oven to 450° F.

  9. 9.Knead the dough again on floured surface. Shape into an oblong loaf:  Flatten dough with hand, then roll up tightly along long side.  Place into buttered loaf pan, cover with the damp cotton cloth (or place pan in moistened plastic bag), and let rise again in a draft-free warm spot until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour. See “finger test in a pan,” above, to determine when it has doubled in bulk.

  10. 10.Bake in preheated 450° F oven for 15 minutes. Lower heat to 375° F and bake an additional 45 minutes.

  11. 11.Remove bread from oven and allow to cool before slicing.  Turn off oven.




Basic Yeast-Risen Bread Recipe - Sponge Version

This recipe uses the method described in the Tassajara Bread Book by Edward Espe Brown, but the ingredients of the recipe above.

Making up a soft sponge to presoak the whole wheat flour makes the grain much more digestible, and makes its minerals more absorbable. It also partially breaks down the gluten, so you need to add some un-soaked flour after the presoak, in order to have enough gluten to help the dough rise. A bit of baking soda is added to neutralize the acid from the presoak, for a better flavor (not sour).

I usually set aside a day to make this bread, letting the sponge rest 1 hour. However, I do think I get a better loaf if I start in the evening and let the sponge rest in a cooler spot overnight. I provide instructions for both ersions.

Ingredients and Equipment:

Proof Yeast

  1. 1/2 Tbsp Rapadura sugar

  2. 1/4 cup lukewarm water (110°-115° F)

  3. 2 1/4 tsp dry yeast (or 1 package)

Sponge

  1. 1 1/2 cups scalded milk

  2. 1 - 3 Tbsp honey or molasses, or a mix of these

  3. 1 1/2 - 2 cups whole wheat flour

Bread

  1. 2 tsp unrefined sea salt

  2. 3 Tbsp butter, melted

  3. 2 1/2 - 3 cups unbleached white flour

Equipment

  1. small amount or melted butter

  2. large bowl

  3. cotton dish towel

  4. 5" x 9" loaf pan


Procedure:

Sponge:

  1. 1.Scald the milk: place over medium heat until steam begins to rise from the milk, but does not yet boil, about 185° F. Remove from heat, stir in sweetener, then let it cool to point where you cannot feel its warmth on the the back of your wrist.

  2. 2.Proof the yeast while milk is cooling: Measure water into 1 cup measure and test for temperature; add sugar and sprinkle dry yeast over. Let sit until yeast begins to foam, then stir into warm milk.

  3. 3.Add whole wheat flour and stir to mix; then beat with a wooden spoon for 100 strokes to work the gluten.

  4. 4.Cover bowl with a damp cloth, or place bowl in a dampened plastic bat. Set in warm place (80° - 85° F to rise about 60 minutes. It will rise a bit, and then may fall, but that is OK.

  5. Alternately, if you started this in the evening, you can set the covered bowl in a cooler spot (55° - 65° F) to rest overnight.

Bread:

  1. 5.Sprinkle salt and melted butter over the sponge and stir it in.

  2. 6.Using your floured hand, fold in white flour, a little at a time, until the dough separates from the sides of the bowl.

  3. 7.Turn out onto a floured board to knead in just enough flour to keep it from sticking to the board, 10-15 minutes, until the dough is smooth but still light.

  4. 8.Cover with a damp cloth (or place bowl inside a plastic bag), and set in a warm spot to rise until double in bulk (see finger test, above), about 50 minutes.

  5. 9.Punch down and let rise again, about 40 minutes.

  6. 10.Meanwhile, butter a loaf pan and preheat oven to 350° F.

  7. 11.Remove dough to floured board and shape into an oblong loaf:  Flatten dough with hand, then roll up tightly along long side.  Place into buttered loaf pan, cover with the damp cotton cloth (or place pan in moistened plastic bag), and let rise again in a draft-free warm spot about 20 minutes. The dough should have risen about 1” or more above the top of the pan. See “finger test in a pan,” above, to determine when it has doubled in bulk.

  8. 12.Bake in oven 1 hour until done. Turn loaf out of pan onto a rack to cool before slicing.





Recipes adapted from:

  1. Wonderful Wonderful Danish Cooking, by Ingeborg Dahl Jensen

  2. Tassajara Bread Book, by Edward Espe Brown



return to Recipes Menu  or Health Essays Menu

 
  1. Introduction (All Moved)

  2. Basic Yeast-Risen Bread Recipe

  3. Basic Yeast-Risen Bread Recipe - Sponge Method

  4. See also (this site):

  5. Rusk

  6. Scandinavian Holiday Breads

  7. Sponge Method - Yeast Risen

  8. Whole Wheat & Bulgur Bread

  9. Whole Wheat & Oat Bread

by Catherine M. Haug,  April 2013

Basic Yeast-Risen Bread

Cat's Kitchen