RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Trapped indoors by cold winter weather? It's the perfect time to fill your kitchen with the warm, yeasty aroma of homemade bread. We've got some easy bread recipes that you can use to create fresh, healthy, warm loaves that taste as great as they smell. And if you’re intimidated by the idea of working with yeast, don’t be—it’s not nearly as hard as it seems. For expert advice, we talked to Pastry Chef Caitlin Grady, of Stephen Starr’s Parc in Philadelphia; Grady crafts authentic French breads and pastries at the restaurant. Read on for her words of leavened wisdom, along with some classic, easy bread recipes from the Rodale Recipe Finder. And before you know it, you’ll be kneading and baking like a pro.
Mix the bread dough until you can stretch a piece of it thin enough to create a translucent skin or “windowpane.” At this point the gluten has developed enough and the dough can be left to rise (a.k.a to proof).
If left at room temperature, most dough will proof in a little over an hour (slightly less for small dinner rolls). To keep a skin from forming on your bread as it rises, rub a small amount of cooking spray or olive oil on the surface of the dough before it proofs. This allows your bread to expand in the oven to its full size.
For extra flavor, you can let the bread proof in your refrigerator overnight. This is a long, slow fermentation, and will give the bread a nice crust. Make sure to proof on the tray you will bake the bread on, and to cover the dough loosely with plastic, which prevents the bread from absorbing too much moisture in the fridge.