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.