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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

In Search of Bread

by N. @ Bad Human

One of the first and arguably most rewarding green changes we made was making our own bread. Unless you are buying artisan bread on a regular basis, your average store bought bread probably leaves something to be desired. 
Making your own bread can be as simple or as involved as you would like it to be and 
we started making our own bread using an Amish White Bread recipe that we found online here.  The only change I made was to cut the amount of sugar and yeast in half. Otherwise the loaves exploded over the edges of the loaf pan.  Of all the recipes I'm going to present this one takes the least amount of time and is the most common recipe that we make in both form and function . It's make a nice, all purpose bread good for toast, sandwiches or just snacking. 

one of the small loaves, originally uploaded by svacher.


After getting over my fear of yeast and mastering that recipe my husband and I wanted to try something with a little more flavor.  For Christmas we asked for and received Maggie Glezer Artisan Baking.  Most of the recipes require a sourdough starter, which we don't have, so we decided to try "Judy Unruh's Wedding Zwieback." You can use the recipe to make sturdy rolls but we used it in a pan to make sandwich bread.  I  think this is the best one we've tried so far but it takes a full two days to make.   This is the perfect sandwich and toast bread.  It slices beautifully due to its dense fine-grained texture.  If it only took a day I would make this our go-to recipe, but (practically speaking) it does take two, so we decided to keep looking.

Tuna Mayonnaise Sandwich, originally uploaded by SeetYing.


My husband prefers a chewier, crustier bread so, while at the library, we picked up "Bread Alone." If you are looking for a single book to take you from basic to artisan loaves this one is for you.  The author goes into great detail about the tools required and the various types of flour for the best loaves based on the style of bread being cooked.  This book still focuses a lot on sourdough recipes (this trend bothers me, since, while I like sourdough, I don't want all my bread to be sourdough) but did offer more variety than did "Artisan Bread."  All told, this recipe also took 2 days.  

We started with a Country Hearth Loaf; a loaf with a simple flour combination of unbleached white and whole wheat flours.  The recipe starts with a poolish (which is a base for a lot of different recipes) This takes 2-10 hours.  The poolish can also rise in the fridge for 12-15 hours after which it needs to sit at room temperature for 2 hours.  Next, the remaining ingredients will be added and then kneaded, by hand or stand mixer.  Now the dough needs to ferment for another 2-3 hours, after which it is deflated and allowed to let rest for another 30 minutes, divided into loaves and proofed for another 1-1/2 to 2 hours.  Finally you are ready to bake it! 

This recipe does require a baking stone and a small spray bottle. In the first 10 minutes of baking, the inner walls and floor of the oven are sprayed to steam the loaf.  After which the temperature is, and baking continues for another 20 minutes.  Personally, this is too high maintenance for me.  I realize the multiple rises makes it "better", but I don't have that kind of time.  I would forget or get sidetracked or it just wouldn't fit in my schedule.  That said, it makes nice bread, its chewier than the Zwieback or Amish recipe, and has a much thicker crust. I would consider this good soup because it is best eaten plain or with butter. It doesn't slice very well so it doesn't fit into the toaster, and if you make a sandwich with it you are going to get a mouthful with every bite!


Artisan Bread - Loaf 1, originally uploaded by jenniferdames.


Our most recent experiment was a Dutch Oven Bread Recipe and it's by far my husband's favorite. It's not quite as time intensive as the Zwieback or Hearth Loaf and the only special equipment needed was the dutch oven. We already own one and are always looking for ways to put it to good use. This makes a nice crispy crusted bread with a soft bubbly texture on the inside.  My one complaint is that it's never going to be loaf shaped so it's harder to toast.
IMG_2857



Overall, I would say the Amish recipe is still a good, low maintenance go-to recipe.  If you've got a bit more time and a dutch oven the Dutch Oven Bread is crispy and has really nice flavor. If you find yourself with a lot of extra time I would vote for the Zweiback.  

You may think we've got something against whole wheat bread, however I would say that whole wheat flour has something against me!  I've not found a whole wheat or even mostly whole wheat recipe that rises well.  I'm sure this is due in part to the type of yeast I'm using but I use what's available and I need a recipe that will work with that. 

What's your favorite bread recipe?  If you have a good whole-wheat bread recipe that doesn't bear the consistency of a brick, please feel free to fire it off to us. 

23 comments:

Willo said...

That bread looks heavenly. Bread is my favorite food so I am literally drooling. Unfortunately, I can barely make toast so I think bread might be a little outside of my kitchen prowess.

Pat aka Posh said...

Have you tried adding gluten to your whole wheat bread? It's very inexpensive and I keep a box of it on hand not only for whole wheat bread but for those days when it's gloomy outside and I know it's not going to be a good day for bread to rise. The directions comes on the gluten box.

Tara said...

If you liked Bread Alone (a great book,) perhaps you might like Local Breads by the same author (Daniel Leader), although it also focuses on sourdough, there is a great quick baugette recipe and my favorite bread I've made so far is the Gezano country bread (it's so so so delicious!)

kirsten said...

I recently "acquired" a breadmaker (yay freecycle!!! brand new too!) and am looking foward getting started and trying different recipes. i made a basic french bread the other day, which turned out well.

my question though, how do you wrap/store your loaves in a fashion that's both economical and environmentally friendly? i've thought about Ziplocs, or about saving the bags from my storebought loaves...

suggestions?!

simplydar said...

I absolutely love baking bread. When I first started baking bread the two books that helped me the most were, "The Wooden Spoon Bread Book" and "Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book". I still use the first one frequently and I'm not exactly sure of the title for the second one. I also use a whole grain recipe that ends up having a nice fluffy texture of white.

angela jiniel said...

My wheat bread recipe is no fail for me! The recipe is here: http://angelajiniel.blogspot.com/2009/01/my-home-made-bread.html

I have had success with up to 5 cups of wheat and 1 of bread flour, but an even mix makes the best in my opinion. I've also added nut and seeds successfully, but my husband won't eat it that way. I believe the key is to let the yeast proof for a few minutes before adding it to the flour.

The ability to raise this bread overnight in the refrigerator makes it very easy :_

Ms.Moxie said...

Oh everyone MUST try this bread recipe here just once!!!
http://nannamanna-moxie.blogspot.com/2009/01/bread-recipe.html
It was revolutionary for me :) I may venture out later down the road when I get my nerve up!!!

Darren (Green Change) said...

I listened to a great podcast the other day that interviewed Daniel Leader about breadmaking. Go here and search for "Daniel Leader":

http://www.metrofarm.com/mf_Food_Chain_Radio.php

This is actually a really interesting podcast generally, so have a poke around while you're there.

Joanne said...

Kirsten, we used to just wrap our bread in a clean tea towel. This kept the crust crusty but prevented too much drying out. Unfortunately it didn't stop a home-invading mouse!
After that we converted a largish plastic storage container into a bread bin. Wait until your bread is completely cool to prevent condensation and store the bin in a cool dark place.
You may be able to buy a purpose built bread bin, made from wood. I am keeping my eyes open at thrift stores for just such a treasure!

s/v High Country said...

For really good 100% whole grain bread, check out Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Bread book. You can't go wrong.

badhuman said...

I've never thought of gluten thanks for the tip!

We store our bread in a large cake sized tupperware container. It's plastic but we already owned it and we use it over and over again. If we are going to freeze it we'll wrap it in plastic wrap and aluminum foil that we use over and over again.

livinginalocalzone said...

I LOVE LOVE baking my own bread, it is something that is satisfying for all the senses and the emotions and the pride and the deliciousness :-) There are so many variations, it can never get dull for me.

One of my recent favs is a yogurt/buttermilk roll that is almost foolproof. I love it for all the variations, dried red pepper mixed in being a winner for me. (The recipe is a mix from lots of sources and some imaginings of my own, so I'm not sure where to credit the recipe, but it is on the recipe page of my blog)....

Your recipe sounds like such a good staple, which is something I am always looking for. Do you have some general thoughts on adapting recipes to 100% wholemeal flour? I make 100% wholemeal breads almost all the time, but struggle with the adaptions of recipes....

marthastewart2001 said...

One of my friends had the link to the entry here about the Amish bread, and since then we have made it our go-to bread. It is probably the best consistancy bread with the best flavor that I have found so far. My kids love to help make it, and since it doesn't drop easily I can make it with them home. I also love that it can easily be sliced into nice, thin pieces, unlike many of the other breads we have used.

Anna in Atlanta said...

The King Arthur Whole Grain baking book has a great whole wheat batter bread recipe. It's yeasty, moist, and rises in the pan from a batter -- only 45 minutes to rise, and no kneading required!

I very much recommend this book. Get it from your local library to try it out for yourself before you buy!

Green Bean said...

Thanks for the push. I'm always overwhelmed by this stuff and usually just turn to my breadmaker (acquired used). I think I'll give the Amish one a try this month

Anonymous said...

For simple, everyday, frugal (yummy!) bread, check out some of the recipes on Hillbilly Housewife or Frugal Abundance.

S said...

My favorite bread recipe is from SouleMama. It's called WHO bread. I just throw everything into the stand mixer and use the dough hook to mix it a while. Sometimes I also throw in some steel cut oats for some extra crunch.

susaninfrance said...

your no knead/dutch oven bread looks so much higher and rounder than mine usually look...i love that recipe, have been making it for 2 years and I fear I'll never get on to real bread making as the results are too easy and too good!

Kelly said...

Wow great bread with the dutch oven. I was thinking of investing in one but was worried I might not use it for much...this may just tip me in favour of getting one :D
Cool blog BTW..will be back lots :)

FiFi said...

I have to say, Rhonda's bread tutorial is my current favourite. And so well explained that my loaf looked EXACTLY like her pictures at every stage! Gave me real confidence that did.

I would like to try making a sourdough starter as I understand you can get cracking bread out of it. Is there something on here about how to get one going?

FiFi said...

Oh, and Kirsten, I've been making bread from a breadmaker (usually just on the dough setting then making rolls out of it) for quite a while now, and I keep my fresh bread fresh wrapped in a teatowel and stored in the bread bin. It never lasts long enough in my house to get stale anyway!!

FiFi x

Rosa said...

for the recipe that requires spritzing to get a good crust - I make a whole-wheat version of the Quick Italian Bread recipe in the Farm Cookbook, and instead of spritzing they just have you add boiling water to a pan in the oven before you put the bread in.

it's not quite as good as white-flour artisan bread, but it's way crustier than no steam, and easier than spritzing.

Diane said...

One way to approach bread making is to start with a basic white loaf that works well for you, then start playing with it. Adding whole wheat, up to half, is pretty easy although it doesn't substitute exactly one for one so you should go a bit short. Bread flour, as opposed to all purpose, has extra gluten so it's useful if you are adding other flours like rye or cornmeal. I have borrowed some of the new bread books from the library and decided I didn't need to make artisanal bread after all. The Joy of Cooking and The Book of Bread (Evan and Judith Jones) have plenty of information to get on with.