It's easier to buy a loaf of bread at the store but it can't compare with the aroma of freshly baked bread made in your own oven. It makes the house smell divine. Years ago I taught a bread baking class and I discovered that many people were afraid of recipes involving yeast. So here is a recipe that doesn't involve yeast except for making the starter. It's the easiest bread recipe that I know. It's the one I use most. I have been taking this bread to our Thanksgiving family dinners for years and years.
Big Sister calls it "Mimi bread." I consider that a compliment of the highest order. (Who do you think often gets the first loaf?) If you want to bake some for the holidays, make your starter now since it takes 5 days to get it ready.
1 cup starter
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup oil
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1-1/2 cups warm water
6 or more cups bread flour (use the extra to flour the surface for kneading)
Mix bread ingredients. (I use a wire whisk to mix in the first 3 cups, and then use a spoon for the last three cups.) Place in large bowl sprayed with PAM. Lightly spray dough with PAM. Cover with plastic wrap. Let stand and rise at least 8 hours.
Punch down dough and knead on floured board about 10 times. Divide into 3 parts.
Spray three 8-inch loaf pans with PAM. Shape dough and place in pans.
Cover loosely with plastic wrap.
Let stand and rise until pans are full, about 5 to 6 hours.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes, or until brown and bottom sounds hollow when tapped. Cool on a wire rack.
Whole wheat bread: Use 2 cups whole wheat flour and 4 cups bread flour.
To feed starter: Remove 1 cup for baking (or discard) and feed with 1/3 cup sugar, 3 tbsp. instant potatoes and 1 cup warm water. Mix well and let stand 8-12 hours. Then refrigerate. Store in plastic container with slits cut in lid. Feed every 3-7 days. (My favorite container for storage is a large Cool Whip container. Cut an "X" in the lid to let the starter breath.)
To make starter: Double the feeding recipe. Put in a glass or plastic container, loosely covered. Let set out for 4 days. Then add one pack dry yeast. Let stand another 24 hours. Use 1 cup for the first batch or store in refrigerator for up to 7 days.
This bread freezes beautifully. It makes a great gift.
When our daughters were younger and I had more people to feed every day, I baked a lot of bread. I kept a batch of starter going for five years then. Now, I usually bake just around the holidays and through the winter months. So I make my starter just before Thanksgiving and will keep it going until spring. Or until I get tired of baking it. We never get tired of eating it.
You really do have to feed the starter every few days. If you are not baking, discard a cup of starter and then feed it and let it stand for 8-12 hours. Last year I sent starter back with Jessica when she was home at Thanksgiving. We made up batches of sugar and potato flakes measured into plastic snack-size bags, ready to feed the starter. Drop all those little bags into a larger ziploc bag. That makes it really convenient.
I'll be baking a double batch for the bake sale at our church next weekend. If you don't want to bake it yourself, stop in and buy a loaf!