Sunday, October 2, 2011

Bread. Seriously.

Ok, this post really is about. . . bread.  And I realize that's a bit of a departure, but bear with me.  I like *good* bread.  We're talking sandwich bread here, so it's not sophisticated, but it can't be cheap.  Like flimsy cardboard, and with a matching taste - no, that just won't do.  But when I get on a fiscal responsibility kick then buying the Greenlife bread for $5 a loaf seems a little silly.  So, when push comes to shove, I just make my own.  And since a lot of people seem shocked to discover I bake our bread - as if I needed Harry Potter's wand to conjure it out of thin air - I thought I'd share the recipe.  If nothing else it's a fun way to spend a slow day.

And - it does kind of take all day.  Not your actual labor, just the whole process.  So don't start on a day when you need to be out of the house all day.  This is a good weekend project.  Like, you could start the dough, go mountain biking during the first rise (it can take a while - and I'm pretty loosy goosey with timing and it still works fine), punch it down and put it in the loaf pans and then go out for dinner, and then come back and bake it.  Easy.

To give you a little incentive, here are the three loaves I made today.  Yum.  If you're wondering why they aren't the same size - my pans aren't the same size.  You might have noticed I'm not a particularly structured sort of person.

Here's the recipe.  I think this started from the King Arthur's flour website, but I've bastardized it considerably so now it's pretty much just mine.

  1. Put about 7/8 cup of hot water in a measuring cup, add a few drops of honey, and 2 1/2 teaspoons yeast.  Stir it with a knife (it sticks like crazy to a spoon).  Leave it alone for the yeast to come to life.
  2. In a Mix Master (you are a glutton for punishment if you make bread without a good mixer), add 2 cups minus 3 tablespoons whole wheat flour.  
  3. Add 3 tablespoons wheat gluten.  The easy way to do this is put the 3T wheat gluten in your first measuring cup of whole wheat flour - fill it the rest of the way with whole wheat, and you're good. I know the anti-gluten people can't believe I'm adding more gluten instead of figuring how to bake with less - but honestly your bread will be way better with the extra gluten.  It's why plain whole wheat bread can have the consistency of a brick.  And also why the gluten free breads range from somewhat palatable to awful.  Gluten - it's a friend of the baker.
  4. Add 1 1/2 cups white bread flour.  Sure, you could use all whole wheat instead - sometimes if I'm feeling virtuous I do.  Or if I'm feeling not at all virtuous I use even more white flour.  Live a little.
  5. You can also substitute other fun things - like 8 grain hot cereal mix, other grain mixes etc. - for some of the flour.  And you can throw in nuts or seeds.  Go crazy.
  6. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. 
  7. Add 4 tablespoons dry powdered milk.
  8. Whiz it all up in the mix master.
  9. Then add 1/4 cup honey (or molasses or maple syrup - they're all pretty good, but I can't tell a ton of difference in the final flavor.)
  10. Add 1/4 cup olive oil
  11. Add about 1/4 cup orange juice
  12. Add the yeast/water mix.
  13. Mix it up in the mix master with the paddle, then switch to the dough hook.
  14. Mix for about 6 minutes.  I don't know why I picked 6, but I tend to follow it.
  15. Check your consistency - I like my bread flour quite sticky - much more so than pizza dough, which I like to have the traditional "ear lobe" consistency.  I want the bread dough just barely able to be worked with.
  16. Oil a bowl, coerce your dough into a ball, roll it around in the oil (or spray a little more on there), then cover.  With cling wrap or a damp dish cloth - depending on how green you're feeling.
  17. Leave it there to double in size (more or less).  This can take a while.  A couple of hours if it's really warm, several hours if it's not.  Don't stress - it doesn't really have to all the way double - just make a sincere effort.
  18. Punch it down (kids love this part), oil your loaf pan, shape into something kind of log shaped, and put it in the pan - making sure the push it down into the corners.
  19. Let it rise again, covered - until it's as big as you want your loaf.  I like mine pretty well up over the top of the pan.
  20. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.
  21. Immediately put onto a cooling rack, then let cool completely before cutting.  I usually leave mine in the microwave overnight.  Is that weird?  It's the one place I know crafty pets can't get it. I don't turn the microwave on or anything.  Sheesh.
Ok, so that's it.  The 21 steps make it seem more daunting than it is. Once you get used to it you can whip out dough without the recipe.  And I make 3 loaves at a time - because that's the number of pans I happen to have - so I only have to do it every 10 days or 2 weeks or so.  Not so bad.

A note on the cutting.  Here's a loaf I just cut.

It pretty much looks like sandwich bread, and I just cut it using the old bread knife in the picture.  A slicer would be entertaining, but it's totally not necessary.  This isn't exactly rocket science.  

That's my treatise on bread baking, such as it is.  Tomorrow back to our regularly scheduled program - running, or jewelry making, or poodles (poodles!) or romance novels.  Again - you might have noticed I'm not an especially structured sort of person.


  1. mmm, bread. i blog a lot about food. sometimes i forget that i have a business to talk about.
    we make bread here too. it's so good right out of the oven.

  2. I love that your blog is about more than business - but I'm a fan of the business stuff too. Also, I think you're considerably more of a foodie than I am- I tend to have a rather narrow focus on what I make from scratch. Of course my proximity to Greenlife probably influences that as well.