Bread Recipe

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I was a latecomer to the pandemic fad for baking bread-- I don't know, the concept didn't really move me. But recently Shea'la hooked me on the concept of baking bread with the idea that when you bake it in house you can cut thick pieces and toast them and it's extremely pleasant. So I asked for her recipe and now I'm joyously wolfing down thick slabs of bread with thick slabs of butter and sometimes cinnamon sugar. Shea'la's way is toasted with jam, no butter.

I think I've made this four times now, the first time was great, then it got much better, then it got maybe a little better, now I think I've plateaued. I find the process pleasant, the smells heavenly, and the daily wolfing of thick slabs of bread with thick slabs of butter achievable and luxurious, a sort of pauper's decadence. This is by no means the best bread on earth, but I think it's a pretty good First Bread, for those who have never baked. At some point in the kneading process you will think you failed, then you will proceed through the failure using any emotion available to you-- hope, anger, joy, spite, sensual pleasure, or simple determination. And through this you will emerge victorious. Unless something really is wrong, in which case I don't know. Every option is available to the initiate.

OK, here we go--

Shea'la's bread

You will need:


The first step is to take a half stick of butter out of the fridge and cut it into little cubes. Then leave it on the counter to warm up. You don't want it to melt, but it's to your advantage if it's not cold. Then prepare your station-- you'll want a really big mixing bowl, probably the biggest you have, and a clean surface to knead the dough. For a kneading surface I use a large cutting board (about 12x24"), but a clean table is also fine. I warm up a little water on the stove, you want it warm but not hot. Warm water from the faucet is probably fine. Get out all your ingredients, listed above.


Put 1/2 cup of warm water in the bowl, then 1 tbsp yeast and 1 tbsp sugar. Whisk it to blend thoroughly and then let it sit on the counter for 5 minutes.

Add another 2 cups of warm water, and then the 7 cups of flour. Measure out the tablespoon of salt but DON'T add it in yet. Prepare to mix the dough.

About kneading:

The recipe I got from Shea'la assumes you have a mixer with a dough hook, I'm going to assume you don't. And if you did, then you probably already have a good bread recipe. Neither Shea'la or I do, and both of us find that mixing by hand is fine, it's just messy. Personally I find it enjoyable. Before you sink your hands into the mixture, be sure to take off any rings, watches, or bracelets, and roll up your sleeves. If you're wearing a sweatshirt, I would take the sweatshirt off, even if it's cold in your house at the moment. Kneading the dough is a physical activity and you can't really take the sweatshirt off halfway through the process when you hands are essentially covered in a thick elastic paste. Also take this time to select a sufficiently upbeat music, and again bear in mind that it will be difficult to change the music until the mixing is complete.

OK, get in there and mix the flour into the water with your hands. It's going to really stick to you and feel absolutely wrong but just keep going. Eventually the dough will start to come together as a singular entity instead of just a bowl of goo, and you can transfer to your clean surface. Add the salt and knead that in, then slowly add the butter a little at a time.

After you've added the butter the dough is going to turn into a nightmare, and regardless of what I write here, you're going to think "damn, I messed up". It's going to want to come apart, and this part always makes me think of the Thing in certain scenes of the movie The Thing (1982). It's going to feel real slimey, and chunks of butter may start to push out onto your surface. Just keep going and it'll come back together again, and it'll be better than it ever was. The butter will be fully absorbed and the dough will feel bouncy and smooth and elastic and not greasy and honestly very satisfying. Bear in mind that the whole kneading process might be 15 minutes or longer and you really gotta twist and fold and push, it's a lot of work. The first time I made this I didn't really knead it long enough and the bread was great, and then the next time I was like "what if I realllllllly knead it this time" and it was even better. So if you're sick and tired of kneading and it's turning into a bad experience, well as long as the butter is absorbed I think that's enough to move forward with.


Once you're done go ahead and clean the bowl you were using, and also your hands, and scrape off any dough that's caked your arm hair. Put a little bit of olive oil in the bowl and wipe it around the interior with your hands, then plop the dough in there, and flip the dough around so it gets oil all over it. Shea'la's recipe says to cover the bowl with cling film but I cover it with a damp cloth and that works fine. Then, covered, you let it rest at room temp for 45 minutes to an hour, until it doubles in size. If it's been an hour and it doesn't really look doubled in size, no big deal. If it didn't grow even a little bit, then your yeast is too old. I'm guessing this is why this stage is called "proving". Take this time to clean up the mess you made, but leave the kneading surface alone, you're going to use it once more.

After the first proof, guess what, you gotta prove it again. Oil your bread pans. Then cut the dough ball in half and stretch it into a rectangle about 9" wide and 12" long. Fold the top down about 2/3rds of the way, then fold the bottom up to meet it. Pinch the seam shut, then turn it a little so the seam is on top. Fold the sides in a little, just enough so it'll fit in the tin, and pinch those seams. Then drop it in the oiled pan, seam side down. Do this to both halves.

Cover the pans with cling film / damp cloth once again, and let them rise once again until they double in size once again, about 45 minutes. At some point in here you're going to want to preheat your oven to 375°F. Also make sure the oven rack is in the center.


After the second proof your dough should've raised some, and if it doesn't seem like it did, I mean shit I don't know. Obviously you're going to try and bake them anyway and see what happens. When the oven is hot, put your two loaves in there, in the center. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes. They should look "honey-brown" says Shea'la's recipe, and they should've puffed up and over the rim of the pan, impressively so. Take them out of the oven and out of the pans, and let them cool on racks. Shea'la's recipe says to let them cool completely but I'm not going to waste your time-- you're probably going to cut into a loaf ASAP and cover a hot slab with butter. I'm not going to entertain any other option. Go with God.

Basic info



Whisk together a half cup of water, 1 tbsp yeast, 1 tbsp sugar, let sit 5min.

Add 2 cups warm water, 7 cups flour, knead until it comes together.

Add 1 tbsp salt, knead.

Gradually add 1/2 stick of butter, in chunks, then knead until it's bouncy and not greasy.

Put in an oiled bowl and cover with a damp cloth or cling film for 45 min - 1 hour.

Cut in half and arrange into 2 loaves. Put them in oiled bread pans, then cover and prove another 45 minutes.

Bake at 375°F for 35 - 45 minutes.

In Conclusion

Hopefully you enjoyed this baking experience. Maybe you want to pursue other recipes, or maybe figure out some finesse points in making this recipe a little bit better. Maybe you hated this experience and now you know "this is not for me". All of these are positive outcomes in my opinion.

If you tried this recipe and it came out great let me know, I love to hear that sort of thing. If it came out bad then I remain as always completely free of blame, like a mountain or an ocean wave.

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