Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Introduction to Whole Wheat Bread Baking

Have you really read the ingredients on the bag of your favorite bread recently? Do you have any clue what's in that loaf of "goodness"? Good luck finding one without high fructose corn syrup or some other sinister item that has fallen out of favor. For example, store bought bread must be preserved to some degree or it wouldn't last long enough on the store shelves to get it home before going rancid or moldy.

Perhaps you aren't concerned about preservatives or unnatural sweeteners. Or you'd rather not know. Isn't ignorance bliss, you say? I really believe we have tampered with our food so much that it doesn't even really resemble food anymore. Okay, it looks like food, but it's what I call "fake food", a term my girls hear from me often.

For those interested, I'm going to attempt to do a series of posts for making homemade bread. I know there are a ton of recipes out there, and even some YouTube videos. But few tell you in one place all the little tips that make it work. Most people quit after their first or second loaf because it isn't even close to what a store bought loaf looks like. While they will never be identical due to ingredients (and that is a good thing!), you can achieve something that is not only good, but desirable.

I need to warn you, I'm not an expert. I'm just a mom who decided that the stuff at the store just wasn't something I wanted my family ingesting on a regular basis. I've gone through spurts where I made it for a while and then quit, only to start making it again. Honestly, when I was teaching at my daughter's school, I was usually too tired when I came home to make bread. So I understand that it isn't for everyone. However, part of the reason I didn't do it was because I wasn't proficient at it and didn't consider making a couple of extra loaves at a time and freezing them.

About 6 months ago, my younger girls had some friends over and I hadn't made any bread. We needed a loaf for sandwiches and some milk. Quickly, I ran into the store, grabbed the milk and bread, forking over nearly $10 for the two items. Mind you, this was a small loaf of bread and only half a gallon of milk (not raw milk, but organic - we only drink raw milk, but for friends, I bought the pasteurized version). I think I pouted for two days over that pricy purchase, ranting about what the world is coming to when it cost nearly $10 for two basic items! I decided that I would not be buying bread again (with the exception of an occasional specialty bread).

That decision led me to step it up a bit in the kitchen. I'd have to be proactive and make enough to keep my family fed and happy. So we've basically fallen into a routine where once a week we make at least two loaves for sandwiches. One is ready to eat, the other goes into the freezer for mid week. Obviously, some families need more bread to get by during a 7 day stretch. We have actually cut back a bit on our consumption. Instead of sandwiches nearly every day, we look for alternatives. Left overs have always been welcome at our home, but even these won't feed a growing family every day at lunch. Somehow, it's all worked out and everyone is happy. For evening meals, we occasionally make a quick bread such as cornbread or drop biscuits, but not at every meal. Only if it completes a meal in a special way - such as cornbread with chili. You got to have cornbread if you're having chili, right?

It would be easy to increase your bread intake, rather than reducing it, because homemade bread tastes so good! And at first, you probably will eat more, but if it is a regular staple in your diet, your family will come to expect it and not go wild every time it comes out of the oven (but they'll still be tickled pink). Also, homemade bread is more filling. I find that I don't want as much because it is so satisfying. Remember, this is the good stuff with whole grains. That means all of the wheat kernel.

In several posts, I will cover grains, milling, my standard recipe, and tips. And if I think of something else, I'll cover that, too. My daughter is doing a great job now making most of our bread. If I can teach her, perhaps I can teach you, too. And for those who already know how, be sure to add your tips in the comment section as well, because the more we know, the better will be at this bread making thing!


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