Back to Basics: Making Bread, Butter and Mayonnaise From Scratch

By / Photography By Courtney Pankrat | April 27, 2015
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homemade bread

Bread, in one form or another, has been around for at least 30,000 years and yet making bread has always seemed like such a daunting task to me. First, because of the extensive kneading involved and second, because it seemed the potential for failure was very high. It seemed that even if I followed the directions to the letter, once in a while my bread would still come out flat and hard.

I’d be left to figure out what could have possibly gone wrong: Not enough kneading? Too much kneading? Bad yeast? I would have only one option: Toss the brick of bread and wonder where I’d strayed.

Once I stumbled on the No-Knead Bread recipe, I never again had to play detective with a brick of bread. Now the result of my baking was always the same: one beautiful medium-sized round, crusty, delicious loaf. I even started to experiment with the recipe, adding cheese cubes or substituting some of the flour with whole wheat.

After making this bread for a few years, I started to think about what else I could make instead of buy. I experimented with making mayonnaise and, again, it was simple and delicious. As it turns out, mayonnaise doesn’t have to come from a jar and making it takes less than two minutes.

My third experiment was making butter. This was the project I was most nervous about. The only time I’d ever considered making butter was when I visited an old-timey town as a child. They churned butter the old fashioned way and it seemed like a very long process. I’m interested in cooking from scratch but I don’t have time to churn butter for eight hours. I had always assumed that the only other way to make butter was in a factory.

However, I found that the process is shockingly simple and I was astounded with the results of my first attempt. Butter is only a mixture of sour cream and heavy cream. The trick is to use a stand-up mixer, because the creams need to mix for around 15 minutes.

Next time you get groceries, think about how the products you are buying are made and maybe try making some yourself! Here are the recipes I use for bread, mayonnaise and butter.

No-Knead Bread

3 cups of flour

¼ teaspoon instant yeast

1½ teaspoons salt

1⅝ cups water

Mix together all the ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. Cover the bowl and let sit 12–18 hours in a warm area. Afterward, the dough should have doubled in size. Take the dough out of the bowl and put it on a lightly floured surface and fold it over a few times. Cover again and let rest for another 2 hours. Place a Dutch oven in the oven and preheat to 450°.. Then take Dutch oven out of the oven, lightly flour the bottom and put the dough in. Bake in the Dutch oven with the lid on for 30 minutes. Remove lid and bake an additional 15 minutes. Let cool completely on rack and enjoy! Recipe adapted from Jim Lahey of the Sullivan Street Bakery in New York.

Homemade Mayonnaise

1 large egg

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1⅓ cups canola oil

4 teaspoons white wine vinegar

Combine the egg and mustard in a small bowl. Mix with a hand-held blender until evenly combined. With the blender on, slowly add the oil until completely combined. Add the vinegar and pulse until smooth. This should only take a couple of minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Because there are no preservatives, the mayonnaise is good only for around 4 days. Recipe adapted from

Homemade Butter

2½ cups heavy cream

1 cup sour cream

Prepare a bowl of ice water. In the bowl of a stand-up mixer, whip the cream and sour cream together. After a couple of minutes, the mixture will turn into whipped cream. Keep whipping! Continue whipping until the cream separates and the mixture thickens. This will take about 15 minutes. The cream will eventually break and you will see a clear separation between the butter and milk. Use a rubber spatula to gather up the butter and remove it from the bowl. Gather the ball of butter together into a kitchen towel and plunge it into the ice bath. Season to taste with salt and pepper. The milk that’s left over in the bowl is buttermilk. You can save it for the next time you make pancakes! Recipe adapted from Alex Guarnaschelli of the Food Network.

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