My daughter asked me the other day for my bread recipe. She knows I don't use a recipe and have simply made my bread according to how many loaves I need. Do I need enough bread to make a ham- roll with onions and cream cheese and another couple of loaves, or am I wanting to make home-made hamburger buns, or just enough loaves for a couple of weeks? Depending on the amount of bread needed, I use a large sauce pan full of water for several loaves, or a smaller sauce pan of water for just a couple of loaves. Anyway here I will try to narrow down my process.
Generally I begin by making a sponge:
In a large sauce pan gently heat cold tap water to around 110 degrees.
For a large batch of bread use 6 cups of water, I estimate using 1-2 cups of water per loaf of bread wanted: 2 loaves 3-4 cups water etc. (Scalded milk can also be used instead of the water).
Add yeast to warmed water, I use the ratio of 1 tbs. of yeast per 1-2 of water. Sprinkle just a little sugar into the yeast to feed it.
In a large bowl, place 2-3 cups of flour,(I use half wheat and half un-bleached flour), 1/4 cup honey and 1/2 cup melted butter or 1/4 cup olive oil.
The olive oil is added to bread I will be using for a more savory bread: toasted sandwiches, grilled cheese or croutons. Butter is used for bread that will be used for making toast with jam or honey.
Usually when I use water I use olive oil. When I use scalded milk, I use butter.
When the yeast is bubbly pour into the flour mixture and stir well with a wire whisk.
Cover and let sit for an hour.
Now stir down the sponge and begin to add your flour. If you desire a denser bread add an egg, add a couple for a large batch.
When the dough is still sticky but holding together, take out of the bowl and put it on a floured counter. Knead the dough adding in enough flour (again I use a half wheat mix) to make a firm, slightly sticky, dough. Do not add too much flour or your loaves will be dry!
Knead for 10 minutes or more.
OLIVE OIL/ WATER BREAD is baked on a flat baking sheet covered with oil and corn meal. I also put oil on the top of the bread along with seasonings of choice. When I am adding fresh herbs, vegetables, or cheeses to a bread I always use the olive oil bread. Omit the honey for a savory bread.
BUTTER, SCALDED MILK AND EGG BREAD is also good to use for cinnamon rolls, dinner rolls, or other sweet breads.
Hopefully this has given you some useful information. I will give you the best tip I have come across in my years of making bread. The best method I have discovered for kneading bread is to use an extra large pan to make the bread in. When you are ready to begin kneading your bread dough, place a towel on the kitchen floor and place the bowl on the towel. The kitchen counter is a little high for me and I discovered that by lowering the bowl it was so much easier to knead.