Why should you bake bread?
I bake bread because it makes the house smell like home, because soup needs a friend, and because sometimes I just need to pound on something. Being able to make incredible bread is a talent some people work very hard on. This is incredible bread, but it is a simple recipe that requires no experience. I have been baking this bread for at least 10 years and it is one of my all-time most requested recipes. It is just that wonderful! Prepare to have many requests for these moist, chewy loaves.
What makes a bread recipe great? (Tips and Tricks)
There are several tricks that make this recipe superior and easy: Lots of butter, flavorful sweeteners, fresh yeast and a digital cooking thermometer.
Butter makes the bread rich and changes the texture. Using just a few tablespoons will make a lighter loaf with a more fluffy texture. Using the entire stick gives it a decadent, chewy texture that makes me fall in love with bread again every time. I know it seems a bit extreme, but try it just once – I dare you!
For sweeteners I almost always use brown sugar for bread. It gives a lovely caramel undertone that remains subtle after the bread is baked. Sometimes I drizzle in some honey just for that sweet, homey taste that warms me deep inside. Yeast eats sugar but is not picky about what kind. You can use white, brown, or even honey.
Tips on baking with yeast
Always remember that yeast is a living organism. It needs warmth to grow and sugar to feed on as it grows. The growing yeast gives off gas that makes your bread rise. This is why it is so important that yeast be fresh and healthy.
How do I store yeast?
Whenever you buy yeast, store it in the refrigerator to keep it fresh longer. Keep track of how old it is and toss it after a year or when it has expired. I buy instant yeast about 2 cups at a time in bulk at Winco and put it in a Ziploc bag. This way I spend way less than I would on the individual packets. That makes it easier to toss out the old yeast when it’s, well, old!
If you have a septic tank instead of a city water system toss old yeast down the toilet. It is good for your septic tank!
This is the dough right after I have made a slice to divide it. Look at those beautiful stretch marks on the dough – it’s nice and elastic. This is a solid sign you have healthy yeast action. When I see dough like this I already know it’s going to be good bread.
How do I rise bread dough?
To support healthy yeast growth, I like a consistently warm place to let the dough rise. If I’m cooking up a storm and the stove is pumping out heat I let the bread sit next to the stove. If it’s cool in the kitchen I turn my oven on to 350 F for two minutes. THEN I TURN IT OFF and put the bread in to rise for about 30 minutes. It should look “happy.” For bread, happy is round and plump – if you stuck your finger in the side it would not bounce back – but if you did that you would have a finger hole in your bread…This is what mine looks like when it has risen.
How do I tell if my bread is done?
My final (and most important!) secret to great bread is a thermometer. 180 F = perfectly tender, chewy, melting in your mouth moist bread… Bake 15 minutes and then check the temperature with a thermometer. Keep checking every so often until it hits 180 F. Heads up you do have some wiggle room. The temperature will rise faster later on in the baking process, so be prepared. Even at 210 the bread is still nice. I always aim for 180 and usually pull it more like 190 – 195 if I overshoot. No more thumping the loaf. No more guess work. Just amazing bread. My favorite cooking thermometer is by ThermoWorks. You need to order them from the store – the ones available on Amazon are crazy prices.
If you have never successfully baked bread, give these tricks a try and wait for the compliments to pour in! I hope this recipe becomes as treasured in your home as it is in mine.
What Size of Cast Iron Skillet Should I Buy?
I use a 10″ or a 10 1/4″ cast iron skillet for this recipe. You can also use a 12″ if you want. If you are just going to buy one skillet a 12″ is a good size unless you are only cooking for 1-2 people in general. A 12″ will be a little bit heavier so keep that in mind when you select your skillet. Not all cast iron is good quality. I recommend buying a Lodge brand for quality and price.
How Do I Clean a Cast Iron Skillet?
Cleaning cast iron is easy. Take a piece of tin foil (used or new) and scrunch it up. I usually use a piece bigger than a dinner plate. Use this ball of tin foil like a scrubber to scrub your pan under warm or hot running water. This takes off food residue and cleans the pan up beautifully. Dry the skillet with a soft cloth or paper towels and apply a thin layer of grease to the inside. I like Crisco but you can use cooking oil if you prefer. Using a solid shortening like Crisco makes it easy to apply and it won’t go rancid if you store the pan for some time. Turn a stove burner on medium low and put the greased pan on the burner for about 10 minutes until it is good and hot. This helps keep up the seasoning on the pan. Depending on what you cooked in your pan you might not need to always do this step. I only do it every few times I cook or if I have to really scrub the pan.
How do I season a cast iron skillet?
Many cast iron skillets come seasoned but if you need to season it yourself it is not hard.
- Scrub the skillet and cover in a thin layer of geese as described above.
- Put a sheet of foil on your lower oven rack to catch drips.
- Place the cast iron skillet on the top oven rack upside down.
- Turn on the oven to 375 and bake one hour.
- Leave the pan to cool in the oven.
My Cast Iron Skillet is Rusty. Do I have to throw it away?
Nope! These puppies are super resilient! Just clean as described above and you are all set. If the rust is stubborn try a green scratcher pad to get it all off and then continue to clean as described above.
Things NOT To Do to Cast Iron Pans
- Never use soap to clean your cast iron.
- Never put cast iron in the dish washer.
- Never leave the pan to sit with acidic food such as tomato, apple or pineapple. Remove those foods after serving and store leftovers in a different container. Wash your pan as described above after cooking and you are all set for next time.
Cast Iron Skillet Bread
- 10 oz water
- 1 large egg
- 2-8 Tablespoons salted butter
- Honey if desired - a few Tablespoons
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 4 cups flour
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 1 Tablespoon instant yeast
- Crunchy salt for top crust if desired
- Put the ingredients into your bread machine starting with water and finishing with yeast. Set the machine for the dough setting and let it run.
- When the dough is ready, oil two smaller cast iron skillets. You can use two skillets that are 8" each or one 10" skillet. (Alternately, bake in stoneware or glass.)
- Divide the dough in half and form two balls. As you form the balls pull the edges under the ball and place the seam side down on the pan. Place one in each skillet.
- Leave the bread to rise in a warm place for 30 minutes. I suggest turning on your oven for two minutes and then turning it OFF before placing your dough inside to let it rise.
- After the dough has risen, remove bread from oven and preheat the oven to 350 F. Bake your loaves for 15-25 minutes until a digital thermometer reads 180 F in the center of the loaf. (If baking in one skillet the bread will take a few extra minutes.)
- Remove bread from oven and let it rest for 5 minutes in the pans. Then place loaves on a rack to cool.
What Can I Make In A Cast Iron Skillet?
I make lots of things in my cast iron skillet. It is a favorite of mine for sauteing onions and mushrooms, for browning meat, for breads, casseroles and desserts!
I always use cast iron for corn bread. It makes a wonderful crispy crust and looks pretty for serving.
Apple Crisp is pretty in a cast iron skillet and it is a great dessert baking dish.
Casseroles are great in cast iron skillets. I make Poor Potato Hamburger Casserole in mine and bakes up beautifully.