Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Observations About Bread

Today I decided to make a variation of the Italian bread I made the other day. Instead of two loaves, I separated the dough into three pieces and braided it. Just to make it fancy. It's not that hard to spice up a simple life.

Having the ability to make my own bread is fun and satisfying. It's also more affordable than the artisan breads at specialty stores. This loaf of bread cost me approximately $1.50 to make. I used 1 tbsp of organic butter, water, 2 tblsps of yeast, sugar, salt, and 5 cups specialty flour. Purchasing this loaf in a store would cost $3.00 to $4.00. It might even be worth more in a store because it is larger than a store bought loaf.

Here is the bread before it was baked.
Here it is just out of the oven.

And here is a close up. It didn't last much longer after this! I ran out of sesame seeds to top it with so I skipped them. I really missed them. It's just not Italian bread to me without them!

When I first started making bread I:

agonized with a thermometer over the temperature of the liquids

agonized over the amount of yeast
agonized over the amount of flour

agonized over the correct texture when kneading

agonized....agonized...agonized......You get the picture.

I agonize no longer. After a while you just get the feel for it. I'm so glad I kept plugging along at it. I've refused to get a bread maker. I'm not replacing or purchasing any electrical appliances, unless I deem it worth it. So far I haven't replaced my toaster oven, coffee maker or my ice maker. But, I do use my Kitchen Aid stand mixer to knead the bread. Lord help me when that dies. I love that mixer. It'll be a hotly contested mental debate on my part. Practical Vs. Love.

The biggest key to ending the agony was ditching the thermometer. Which is another thing I love dearly. I have to get everything to the perfect temperature, still is important when making fudge or pralines, but not bread. I just feel the liquid with my finger. The temp is right when the liquid is very hot, but I can still leave my finger in. If it is too hot to leave my finger in, it is too hot! Most breads basically follow a variation of this:
2 cups of liquid (water, milk, butter or a mixture)

2 tsps salt

1 tblsp sugar

2 tblsps yeast

5 cups of flour

From what I have observed, the texture and look of the bread depends on what you do with it once it has been kneaded. The taste depends on the flour and the liquids you use.

I found this series on making bread by Nancy Today very interesting. I haven't tried her wooden bowl method, but I did leave out the salt like she said. I got some very strange looks from my girls. Seleste said with one eyebrow raised, "Um Mom....this bread tastes...well...kinda funny like a sponge." So I make sure I put the salt now.

If you have any bread making tips you want to share. Bring 'em on. I promise not to agonize.


Tiffany said...

Now THAT calls for some homemade butter! Do you and your girls know that trick where you take whipping cream (I think...might be half and half...I'll have to google it!) and a marble and put it in a jar and shake it to make homemade butter?? I used to do that with my kids when we were homeschooling and it made really yummy butter!

han_ysic said...


I found this bread recipe which works for me, cheapest I can find, no work, only preparation and delicious loaf, costs me around dollar compared to $6 in shops. It worked first time, and now I'm a convert, don't think I'll buy a loaf again!

Sandy said...

Amen and Amen to all of the above! I have been working at my bread making on and off for about 5 years. It's just been recently that I really feel like I've got it. It's tough b/c I'm self taught, so there's been a lot of trial and error. Big things I've learned: 1) Typically novice bread bakers add too much flour. Really the dough should be sticky to touch. 2) Deflating bread is actually a very delicate process. 3) When making whole grain breads, it's almost imperative to use a mixer or bread machine on dough setting. I have a kitchenaid and think that this is invaluable. Definately get a new one when it dies. However, they last forever --so you probably don't have to worry. My mother still has hers from when I was a kid and it's like new, still plugging away. 4) if you bake bread regularly, consider going to a local bakery and asking if you could buy a big ole bag of flour at their cost. Makes your savings even better! :)
Your bread looks delicious.
ps- LOVED the b-day party pics!! you did an incredible job.

Sandy said...

(forgot to mention why you use a mixer for whole grain -- this is to get a high loaf -- unless you attack kneading like the tazmaninan devil it's hard to get a good lift and therefore you end up with a brick) also www.thefreshloaf.com is a great resource for recipes and problem solving. you can ask questions and people respond like you wouldn't believe trying to walk you through a solution

tipper said...

Nothing better than homemade bread!!
I love the whole process of kneading and rising and baking-but sometimes I do cheat and use a bread machine :)

Kristi said...

Thanks everyone for the tips. I'm going to check out the sites suggested.