Last night I took a little “me time” and attended a bread making class. I love to see how other folks do things and I always hope to learn something to “sharpen my saw” along the way as well.
I’m happy to say the time spent was well worth my while and a successful addition to my Mental Preparedness aspect. However, while I was sitting there and listening to the instructor, I realized that I’ve never addressed some of the nuances of bread making in my articles, and to be frank, I discovered these little “secrets” are what makes or breaks a successful loaf of bread for me.
Bread Making is a Vital Skill
Before I go on, allow me to share with you why bread making is a vital skill everyone should have. To be perfectly honest, I used to think that learning how to make bread would put me in some antiquated category of a Mrs. Cleaver housewife that I could never relate to. In some respect, I thought if I was ever “one of those women” who made my own bread, I would also be the same woman who had 12 kids, a house that always smelled like dirty diapers who ate things like canned pickled beets for dinner. (I loathe beets, just FYI) In other words, for some dumb reason I thought I’d lose my unique identity as a “modern-day woman” if I embraced making my own bread. I’m happy to say that I was WAY wrong in those notions.
Making bread today has come a LONG way from when your grandma made it. I can make a loaf of bread from flour to fragrant in about 75 minutes total—including rising time thanks to today’s technological advances. Additionally, making my own bread increases my mealtime buying power easily by 400-500%! With one recipe I can have a couple loaves of bread, cinnamon rolls, an apple cinnamon breakfast braid, pizza dough, as well as some scones for Navajo Tacos and spend only a small fraction of cost for EVERYTHING that I would if I had to buy all of the ready-made processed stuff. Not the least of importance, storing wheat is a bit senseless and expensive if you don’t know how to use it, right? Wheat may be the cheapest form of food that will store long term, but that doesn’t mean a hill of grains if I can’t do anything with it that my family will eat. So I consider knowing how to take that same wheat and make yummy foods just as important as buying and properly storing the wheat in the first place. So, here are a few vital bread making tips for you to help your bread making experience more successful.
Kellene's Vital Bread Making Tips:
Vital Bread Making Tip #1:
It’s best to start out with freshly ground wheat, that way the nutrition and glutens are alive and frisky. Frisky glutens make for softer bread.
Vital Bread Making Tip #2:
SAF Yeast is my yeast of choice because is it isn’t coated with that additional coating that other yeasts are. As a result, I throw the yeast directly into my bread ingredients without having to proof it first. Also, I have successfully stored this kind of yeast for 10 years in my cool, dry pantry without any problems using it for bread. Once I open the package I put it in the freezer and simply scoop out whatever I need for my recipes directly from there. There’s no need to let it warm to room temperature. Also, you don’t have to measure with exactness when you’re putting your yeast in. I always use HEAPING spoonfuls of yeast. And if I know that I’m going to be freezing the dough for a while, I use even a bit more yeast. (Yes, this means that you never have to buy that frozen stuff again.)
Vital Bread Making Tip #3:
The kind of oil that you use in your bread really doesn’t make a bit of difference. It’s up to you. If you want to use cold-pressed coconut oil or vegetable oil—it doesn’t matter (although if I were you, I'd read my article on the types of oil that are best for you). You can use liquid soy lecithin for additional health benefits, or you can use lecithin granules. Either of these will store for YEARS on a cool, dry shelf and will last quite a while.
Vital Bread Making Tip #4:
Dough enhancer makes your bread dough happy. Dough enhancer contains a little more yeast, some vitamin C, some more gluten, and a few other great vitamins. Yeast LOVES vitamin C. And if your yeast is happy, so is your bread. I always include some dough enhancer in my bread. Even when I make the 100% whole wheat bread, it’s not heavy and hard. My father-in-law still thinks I’m fibbing to him when I bring him a big fluffy loaf of 100% whole wheat bread. He swears that it’s white flour and is still not sure that I really make it my own home. :) I think he may secretly believe I buy bread commercially made, zap it in the microwave and wrap it in foil before bringing him some. :)
Vital Bread Making Tip #5:
Vital Wheat Gluten is overrated. Really. As long as you’re grinding your flour fresh, you’ll never need to use vital wheat gluten. As you may recall, I do use vital wheat gluten. But that’s to make wheat meat/seitan with. Not to use in my bread.
Vital Bread Making Tip #6:
When you’re putting yeast and salt in the initial dry ingredients, don’t put the two on top of each other. Give them their own side of the bowl. Yeast doesn’t like being bullied by the salt in a naked fashion. When you initially mix the dry ingredients together it’s fine because then both the salt and the yeast have the flour as a shield for them.
Vital Bread Making Tip #7:
When dividing your dough into loaves, rolls, or what have you, don’t pull it apart. You need to either pinch it or cut it. The reason is that you need to give the live gluten clusters a clean break in order for them to stay intact. If you pull them apart, you are essentially leaving some of the clusters in shreds rather than contained.
Vital Bread Making Tip #8:
A lot of folks simply add too much flour. When you’re rolling out your dough or separating it, or handling it, DON’T use flour on your counter or your hands. Use a non-stick spray instead. When you’re initially mixing your bread dough, within the first few kneads (rotations of the blade) you should see a few “peaks” topped with flour. If you do, it’s perfect. If you have a lot of “peaks” topped with flour then you need more water. If you have no “peaks” topped with flour then you need to add about another quarter cup of flour. Too much flour makes for an unpleasant baked good.
Vital Bread Making Tip #9:
You can use sugar or honey or agave or whatever sweetener you choose in your bread recipe. It really doesn’t matter on a scientific level. However, honey has its own little “powers” so to speak. So if you’re going to use honey, add it in AFTER you’ve mixed your dry ingredients together.
Vital Bread Making Tip #10:
I used to be afraid that I would get the water in a recipe too hot or too cold and it sure seemed like a pain in the fanny to have to test it with a thermometer all the time. So here’s a simple rule. If you can put your finger into the water and hold it there without it burning, it’s not too hot for the yeast. You will kill your yeast if your water is too hot. But on the other hand, your yeast needs heat to develop. So bring on the hot water. But just be sure you test it with your finger first.
Vital Bread Making Tip #11:
You don’t need to wait for a long time for your bread dough to rise. When you begin making your bread, turn your oven on to 200 degrees. This level of heat should be just hot enough, but not so hot that you can’t touch that rack in your oven with your bare hand. When you’ve put your bread dough in whatever pan you’re baking it in, put it in that warm oven. Then turn the heat off and wait for it to rise until your dough is double in size. There’s no need for towels, plastic wrap, or anything else like that. Once it’s doubled in size then turn your oven back on to 350 degrees and bake it until it’s golden brown.
Vital Bread Making Tip #12:
Remember, you’re not just making bread dough, folks. You are making a great dough for scones, rolls, doughnuts, bread sticks, cinnamon rolls, calzones, pizzas, and even tortillas. Feel free to get creative with your dough. You can roll it out flat into an oblong shape, put your favorite filling down the middle and then bring in the sides in a braided look or just roll it up and have all kinds of yummy meals. (Ideas: broccoli, chicken and cheese, apple or cherry pie filling, pizza fixings, taco fixings, etc. etc. etc.)
Vital Bread Making Tip #13:
My favorite bread making tool of all time is my Bosch mixer. It’s run with a bona fide MOTOR, not belts and such. The warranty on it has a “transmission” warranty—not some cheap plastic parts. I’ve had mine for over 10 years, and I know several homes that have had and used theirs for over 25 years. One single revolution of the Bosch mixer is like kneading your dough and turning it over four times. The dough hooks may look like they are just pushing the dough around, but they are indeed grabbing it and rotating it. As a result, I initially mix my dough for about 1 minute and then check for the small “flour peaks.”
After that I mix/knead it in the Bosch for an additional 7 to 8 minutes. The first 5 or 6 rotations are going to tell me that I did it right as the dough will come cleanly away from the sides of the bowl. Yes, I realize a Bosch mixer won’t do me much good if there’s a prolonged power outage. But my husband is officially addicted to my bread and has assured me that if there’s a way, he will allow us to use our minimal battery power to operate our Bosch mixer for the 8 to 10 necessary minutes. (How gallant of him, right? :))
For my original 100% whole wheat bread recipe, check out this previous article. And enjoy. I’ve suddenly got the urge to make some more bread!
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