Baking your own bread is one of the best ways I know to stretch your food budget. Our family can easily go through a loaf a day, and at over $2 a loaf even for the "cheap" bread, that eats up a major percentage of our monthly grocery budget. While making your own bread on a regular basis *can* be quite time consuming, there is a way to make from-scratch homemade bread without a lot of time or effort: Refrigerator Bread Dough! This is one of those golden recipes that feels like it changed my culinary life. I can easily have bread ready-to-go whenever I need it without feeling like I'm chained to the kitchen. If you've never tried making your own bread before, rest assured that it's actually pretty simple as long as you attend to a few key details. This dough is incredibly versatile and forgiving. I will be sharing lots of different ways to use it in the future, but let's get started with the basic recipe:
Whole Wheat Refrigerator Bread Dough
Time: 15-20 minutes
5 tsp active dry yeast
2 cups warm water
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup mashed potatoes
1/2 cup canola oil
1 1/2 tsp salt
4 cups whole wheat flour
3-3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1. In a large bowl, combine the yeast, water, and sugar. Let stand 5-10 minutes or until yeast is thick and foamy. (Note: This is the most critical step for beginners! If you don't get a thick, foamy solution after 10-15 minutes, your yeast is not active - either it's too old or the water temperature was too hot or cold. You'll need to try again!)
2. Add mashed potatoes, oil, egg and salt. Mix well.
3. Gradually add the whole wheat flour, stirring until well combined.
4. Slowly add all-purpose flour as you begin to knead the dough. Knead for 5-8 minutes, adding flour as needed, until dough is smooth and elastic (it should no longer feel sticky).
5. Place dough in a large bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Place in fridge.
It's all done until you're ready to use it! The dough will complete its first rising in the fridge and will keep for about a week. There is enough dough for 3 loaves of bread.
To make loaves:
Time: Hands on prep:5 minutes shaping
Waiting: 1 hr rise, 25 minutes baking
1. Divide dough into three equal portions. You don't have to bake all three loaves at once, so if you only want to make one or two loaves, return the remaining portion or two of dough to the bowl, cover and store in the fridge; dough will keep for up to a week from the day you made it. For each loaf you're making, roll out a portion of dough into a rectangle, approximately 9"x12".
2. Roll up, starting at longer edge of dough. Pinch seam together to seal. Turn seam side down. Tuck edges of loaf under (so that the loaf is the same length as the baking pan).
3. Place loaves in greased loaf pans. Place in a warm location and cover with a clean kitchen towel. Let rise 1 hour or until doubled in size.
4. Bake at 375 degrees F for 25 minutes or until loaf sounds hollow when tapped.
5. Cool on a cooling rack for 5-10 minutes, then remove from pan to finish cooling.
-Buy yeast and flour in bulk to keep the cost as low as possible (bulk yeast can be stored in the freezer)
-This is a great way to use up those leftover mashed potatoes you might have in your freezer if you've been keeping up with your Sunday Night Fridge Cleanout
-I don't usually have enough leftover mashed potatoes to keep up with the demand for bread dough, so I'll cook up a big batch of potatoes, mash and freeze in 1 cup portions to have on hand for dough making