We know that you, our Dabblers, love to get your hands dirty; and when it comes to carbs, nothing beats store-bought quite like digging into dough. That’s why, to prep for the upcoming Chicago class in Homemade Holiday Pasta, we thought we’d share a few of the basics of baking bread.

Our featured blog baker is Dani Hollis, a gardener and food ethics champion local to Chicago. (You may have spotted her this summer manning a booth at the Logan Square farmers market.) She walked me through the bare basics of quick-bake bread with a delicious Breakfast Pecan Loaf.

Why did Dani take the time out of her day to tutor me, you might wonder? Because I showed her with pride a bowl of dough I had left to “rise” overnight. “Look!” I had boasted, “I’m baking bread!”

“Did you activate the yeast?”

“Did I what the what?”

Two hours later, we feasted on hard-as-rocks flour lumps. Lesson learned.

Dani’s method for making bread is the product of many years of experience. Over time her technique has become less measure-twice-cook-once and a little more improvised. For example, one major step in her process is, “mix flour and water until dough looks… doughy.” While this may not be so straightforward, here are the ratios you might need to treat your friends and family to some breakfast bread fresh out of the oven this holiday season:

Homemade Pecan Breakfast Bread

Step 1: Preheat your oven to 430 degrees.

Step 2: What kind of yeast do you have? If it’s instant yeast, skip the next step. If it’s active dry yeast, you’ll need to activate it to save yourself from a super-dense loaf.

Step 3: Activate your yeast by filling a small bowl with 1/2 cup warm water (around 100 to 110 degrees Fahrenheit will activate without killing the yeast.) Mix in a pinch of sugar. Then, pour in about a teaspoon of yeast. Stir vigorously, and cover with a towel or napkin for 1 – 10 minutes.

Step 4: While the yeast sits, measure out 4 cups of flour into a large bowl.

Step 5: In a separate container, mix 1 cup warm water with 1 tablespoon honey and 2 teaspoons vanilla. Make sure the honey dissolves.

Step 6: Once the yeast is active, pour the mixture into the flour and mix well.

Step 7: Make a well in the middle of the flour and pour in the second water mixture. Mix with a fork/ your hands.

Step 8: Move dough to a greased loaf pan, sprinkle pecans and cinnamon across the top, cover, and let rise for over an hour.

Step 9: Bake for 15 – 20 minutes, then lower heat to 320 degrees and bake for 10 – 15 minutes, or until a fork in the loaf comes out clean.

Step 10: Let cool. Enjoy!

 

If you’re more willing to wing it, just keep in mind that the typical flour-to-water ratio is 3:1, and that you shouldn’t activate yeast in more water than your total recipe calls for. Also, don’t forget to follow the last step of the recipe and enjoy!