Wednesday, September 1, 2010

My First Bread

When I was growing up, my mom made all of our bread.  She baked every weekend, and alternated between white bread, wheat bread and French bread.  She would make and slice about 6 loaves at a time and put what we didn't use in the freezer for future use.  Mom always let me "help" make bread, but my favorite part (other than tasting) was kneading.  She would say "Enola made the bread", but in reality, I had just pushed it around the table for a few minutes.

Those hours helping my mom were hours well spent.  I learned what temperature the water or milk had to be to activate the yeast (not by using a thermometer, but by putting my finger in the liquid).  I learned how much flour to put in while kneading and what dough looked and felt like when it was ready to rise.  My mom taught me to knock on the bottom of the loaf to "hear" if it was done.

The first bread I was allowed to make all by myself was French Bread.  My mom had gotten the recipe from a friend years before, so this bread was affectionately called "Andrea's French Bread".  It had few ingredients, required little attention and rewarded the baker with unfailingly perfect results.  I will never forget the first bake sale that I brought this bread to and could proudly announce "I baked this myself"!  I think I was about 10 and more than a little proud of my accomplishments!

"Andrea's French Bread" has morphed into "Enola's French Bread" over the years.  I have added Olive Oil to improve the texture, but other than that, it is still the perfect, simple "first timer" bread recipe.  Give it a try - you too can make wonderful, homemade "from scratch" bread!

Andrea's French Bread

4 C Water
3 Tablespoons Sugar
2 Tablespoons Yeast
2 Tablespoons Salt
1/3 (more or less) C Olive Oil
11 C Flour (sifted)

Dissolve yeast in water (I use the hottest tap water in my kitchen - it should be hot, but not so hot you can't keep your finger in the water- about 110 degrees if you use a thermometer) with the sugar, salt and olive oil.  Let those ingredients "sponge" (sit until the yeast is big and puffy because it has been activated) for 1/2 an hour up to 3 hours.  Add sifted flour.  I begin with about 6 cups of sifted flour and add from there.  Knead until smooth (about 5 minutes if using a Bosch or other bread kneading machine, and about 10 minutes if kneading by hand).  Put into a greased bowl.  Cover with clean dish towel.  Put in warm place and let rise until double in size.  Punch down, turn dough over so that the greased side is up, cover with towel and let rise until almost double.  Punch down and cut into three pieces.  Shape French style loaves, place on cookie sheets and cut 3 diagonal slits in the top of each loaf.  Let rise until double.  Bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes.  Turn oven down to 375 degrees and bake for an additional 20 minutes.

Enjoy the unmistakable fresh from the oven bread smell as is permeates your home too!
Adding sifted flour to the "sponge"
Kneading the dough
Putting dough into greased bowl
First rising
Shaped loaves ready to rise final time


  1. Thanks for the recipe! Can you tell me about your Bosch?? I have an 80's Bosch universal mixer that I was thinking of upgrading to a new one so I can get all the gadgets to go with it. But heck the old one is still going strong! Your Bosch looked like a newer model and I wanted to know if you are happy with it? Thanks.


  2. Enola Gay, you should write a cookbook.
    Afterall, you've got plenty of spare time. LOL

    NoCal Gal

  3. Save the Canning JarsSeptember 2, 2010 at 5:55 PM

    I saw your pictures and said, "Oh, you've got a BOSCH!" I got my Bosch about 6 months ago and love it. Good for you!!!!

    As soon as I'm done canning peaches, I'm going to try your bread recipe (and the almond cookies, and the thin mint girl scout cookies, and...

  4. I learned to make bread when I was young, all on my own with little input from anyone. Mom bought bread, but let me do this if it was what I wanted.

    When I got married, I knew my husband was from a family that owned a bakery, but he never worked there, nor spent much time there. I thought I'd impress him with my self-invented home made bread.
    All day long the neighbors in my apartment building came by to ask about the wonderful smells. But when my new husband walked in he asked "What have you been doing? It stinks, like a bakery in here!"
    I hadn't known till then that he didn't look back on some parts of his bakery childhood with fondness. What a pity.

  5. OK, So I have a question...when you make any of these bread/donut/roll recipes, do you use white flour or freshly ground. If you do use freshly ground, what are you using? I have hard red, soft white, spelt, and hard white. Any suggestions on how to make these recipes with that kind of flour? These sure sound DELICIOUS! ;D

  6. Yes, what kind flour do you use for the french bread? I am a newbie with yeast breads and grinding wheat. Am eager to try your bread recipe.
    Thank you for explaining things like 'sponge'.
    TK :)

  7. For the people who have asked about using whole grain flours in a recipe like this (and I know it's been a few years since you asked!) -- try substituting 1/2 of the white flour with a whole grain flour (hard white wheat or kamut are best). Soft white wheat is delicate and best saved for pastries, cakes, cookies, etc. :)