I’ll happily admit that I get a wee thrill of pride from being able to say that I make all my own bread. I mean, that’s kind of cool, right? Or if not actually cool, it’s neat (please, let me have neat), and tells people that I have some free time and a lot of flour in my house. Anyhow, it took me some time to find a bread recipe that made a great, all-purpose loaf. Something soft enough for toast & eggs, with good flavour, a bit of healthy fat, and some flexibility. It also needs to freeze well because I don’t have that much free time.
I started my search with the Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day book series, because seriously, there is no reason to ever use any other bread cookbooks, especially if you’re looking for a bread you intend to make in largish quantities, by hand, on a weekly basis. I may be a bit biased here, but I love these books, and I love the bread you get from them. Best of all, you don’t really have to know anything at all about bread to bake their bread, or have fantastic kneading biceps. Nope. You just need a big ‘ol bowl and about 20 minutes of free time scattered throughout your day.
I started with their American Sandwich Bread recipe, and went from there. Zoe & Jeff (the authors, whom I somewhat oddly feel I am on a first name basis with) preface the recipe with a bit of disclaimer about this bread being for kids and not being as fancy as the other crispy-crusted, olive-studded, rosemary-laced loaves in their book. I don’t care. Before this beautiful loaf I tried many “fancy adult” loaves that left my mouth feeling like I’d had eggs and knives for breakfast instead of eggs and toast. I wanted something soft and delicious. So sue me.
I made it as is, and then went from there, finding things I liked as I went along. Change #1 was swapping the butter for coconut oil. I did this because I’d recently impulse-bought 2 gallons of coconut oil over the internet and had a massive barrel-like tub of it occupying a large amount of space in my pantry. It turned out to be a brilliant idea, yielding a slightly nutty loaf of bread that is just wonderful, as well as being loaded with all the awesome things that coconut oil fans love to rave about.
Change #2 was dropping the white sugar and a bit of water in favour of some raw, local honey. Yes, I know raw honey isn’t raw anymore once you’ve baked it, but I’ve yet to find local honey that isn’t raw, so I feel like it’s a good guarantee that your honey is local (and not corn syrup) if nothing else. Plus, one of the few bonuses of living in the middle of the prairies is that raw honey is roughly $10/kg here, so it’s pretty affordable.
Change #3 was switching it up with the flour a bit. The original recipe calls for 7 cups of all purpose flour, but I’ll generally swap one for something else (still in the flour category, of course). Be it spelt, whole wheat, kamut, rye, buckwheat, whatever—it always works out nicely.
I finally feel like I’ve perfected a fantastic sandwich loaf. A nice, flaky/crispy/lightly crunchy crust, soft, a little sweet, slightly nutty tasting, and awesome as toast (which is how I eat 99% of my bread). I love it, and I think you’ll love it, too.
My Favourite Homemade Bread
6 cups all-purpose flour (measured using the ABi5 “scoop & sweep” method)
1 cup whole grain flour of choice
1½ tbsp dry activated yeast
1½ tbsp kosher salt
4–8 tbsp extra virgin coconut oil, melted & cooled a bit
2–3 tbsp local honey, melted
Warm water to make 3½ cups liquid (that’s oil + honey + water =3.5 cups liquid)
You can also swap one cup of water for 1 cup of milk or buttermilk
Coconut oil, melted, for brushing & pan greasing
Stir together the flours, yeast, and salt in a large bowl.
Add the coconut oil, honey, and water, and mix everything together with your hands. You will probably have to get your hands wet to incorporate the last bit of flour, especially if you chose a hearty whole grain flour for your variety cup of flour. Now, you are not kneading this dough, so once you have a wet blob of dough without too much dry flour kicking around, stop.
Cover the bowl. I tried damp dish towels, but ended up with so many coated in blobs of dough that never really fully came off that I switched to clingfilm.
Let the bowl rise somewhere warm. The original books say your counter is fine, but these recipes were obviously not developed for life in Canada. I like to warm my oven briefly until it’s maybe 30°C, turn it off, and then pop the covered dough bowl in there. If you have a wood burning fireplace, you can also place the dough next to it while a fire burns away. Let rise for 2–5 hours.
After your initial rise, grease & flour two loaf pans. Dust your dough and your hands with flour, and tear the risen dough in half. Roughly shape each lump into an oblong shape and drop into a greased loaf pan. Don’t be too fussy or overenthusiastic about this part.
Brush the tops of the loaves with melted coconut oil to keep them from drying out. Let the loaves rise again in that warm place for another hour.
To bake, preheat your oven to 350°F (take the bread out first, if that’s where it was rising). Bake the loaves for about 35–40 minutes, until they’re golden and sound hollow when knocked on the bottom.
Let cool completely on wire racks before slicing. Enjoy!
As with all Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day recipes you can store this one in the fridge between the initial rise & baking. You can store this one in the fridge for up to 10 days. The only change you’ll have to make is to the second rise time—it’ll need closer to an hour and forty minutes rising time before baking.