16 January, 2009

Bread for People Intimidated by Making Their Own.

Many people feel intimidated at the prospect of making bread. Baking bread does not have to be a fussy or time consuming business. I like to fit bread making into my schedule, rather than vice-versa. It really only needs a few minutes of attention here and there. As you get more comfortable with the process, you will find that your bread choices are limited only by your imagination.

Always make more bread than you think you will use. Bread is a very sociable commodity. There is always someone to share a loaf of fresh baked bread. The following procedure will make three or four loaves, depending on how much it rises and the size of you loaves.



The liquid ingredients need to be slightly acidic to support the growth of the yeast:

☻ Of course, plain water can be used. Add a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice for the yeast.
☻ Rejuvalac (water in which wheat berries soaked for 2 days) gives the yeast an extra enzyme boost.
☻ For extra protein, soured milk or whey makes a delightful loaf. Naturally soured milk works very well, but if you don’t have any, a teaspoon of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar in the bowl will produce just what you need.
☻ Another choice: use left over water from cooking beans. Soy beans, however have chemicals that inhibit yeast growth, so any other beans will be a better choice.
☻ Adding fruit juice makes a moist, sweet loaf that does not need any additional sweetener. Dilute half and half with plain water.
☻ For 'pizza bread,' use half water and half tomato juice or tomato paste.


The fats in the dough help to support the gluten. It seems to seal in the little bubbles, so the loaf does not deflate as easily.

☻ Butter actually is best to provide support for the gluten.
☻ A mild tasting vegetable oil, like sesame, grape seed, or coconut works nicely.
☻ Or, if you are making an herbed Italian loaf that will allow a stronger taste, try olive oil.

Be careful with oils that turn rancid easily, like safflower and sunflower. The heat required for cooking your loaf may be too much for them. The rancid oil will give the bread an off flavor, that may be none too pleasant.


Yeast requires a lot of energy for its growth. For that reason, some sort of sweetener is necessary. It will get some of its energy from the natural sugars in the grain, so you don’t need to go overboard, a little goes a long way. You can use anywhere from two tablespoons to half a cup in this recipe.
☻ Blackstrap molasses provides both the yeast and the final consumer with the best nutritional profile. It is often used to grow the yeast commercially. Sometimes you will not find ‘blackstrap’ in your grocery store, it may be labeled robust or full flavored.
☻ Barbados molasses can be used, as well, but it is much sweeter, so less is needed.
☻ If you use honey, again in smaller quantities, it will act as a natural preservative, and your loaf will keep a day or two longer.
☻ Stevia (use the green powder) sweetens without adding calories. The yeast seems to like it, for some reason I have not been able to determine, but the bread rises quite nicely with lower amounts of other sweeteners.
☻ It is not necessary, or even desirable to use white cane sugar for your bread. It provides no real nutritional value for you or for the yeast.


On the baking ingredients aisle you can find pre-measured yeast in those little yellow and red foil-lined packets. It is certainly convenient to use this product. You can get pre-measured, packaged yeast in the bakery aisle at the supermarket. At times, however, this is not as active as buying it loose and measuring it yourself. Buying it in bulk is more cost effective and decreases the amount of packaging required, resulting in less packaging to dispose. The yeast stays active for a very long time, as long as it is kept out of extreme heat. I bought 5 pounds when my kiddies were little and I was making bread every day. I kept it in a tub in the freezer most of the time. It survived several moves, when it was impossible to refrigerate the tub. My young 'uns are all grown now, and I just recently used it up and it was still quite enthusiastic.


Many, many seeds can be used for bread. Each gives a certain character to the bread. The texture and flavor of your loaves can be enhanced by mixing different flours. Of course, the best flours are made of the whole ground seeds. Whole grains make a denser loaf that lets you know you have really eaten something. If you must use white flour at first, mix it half and half with any other flour until your family's palates are trained to eat 'real bread.' Sometimes, it takes a while to work up to this.

☻ For the sake of the texture of your bread, wheat is far and above the best grain for the flour in you loaf. It is the gluten in the wheat that captures the carbon dioxide bubbles produced by the yeast. The bubbles are what makes the bread rise. Sixty to eighty per cent of the flour needs to be wheat.
☻ For a lighter loaf, you will want to add some gluten flour, especially if you are using less gluten rich flours later on. One tablespoon of gluten flour per cup of any other kind of flour is generally sufficient.
☻ Rye is a traditionally used for dark, heavier loaves which remind many of 'the Old Country' for those of European descent. It contains a fair amount of gluten, although not as much as wheat. So, you can use a greater percentage of it in your loaves - up to a forty percent of the flour can be rye.
☻ Oats provide a moisturizing influence on your bread, making a nice soft loaf. They, too contain some gluten, although it is a rather small amount. As much as a quarter of your flour can be oats. Oats absorb more moisture than other flours, so increase the liquid in your recipe or decrease the amount of your dry ingredients.
☻ Rice flour also absorbs moisture, so keep this in mind when measuring. There is no gluten in rice, so use it for an eighth or less of your flour. It gives the bread a crispness that can be delightful, especially if you intend to eat it toasted.
☻ Buckwheat is used in pumpernickel bread. It is more dense than most other flours. Use a small amount. Buckwheat makes a nice 'warming' loaf that is satisfying in the cold winter months.
☻ Garbanzo beans can be ground easily in your blender to make flour. They give a slightly nutty flavor to the loaf. It is also a nice way to get a complimentary protein into the mix.
☻ Soybeans are often touted for adding protein to bread. However, there is much controversy over the use of soybeans. This is not the place to address the controversy, so we will leave that for another time and place. Soybeans contain an enzyme which inhibits the growth of the yeast, so its use should be minimized. On a side note: much of the soybean crop is genetically modified, so it is mandatory that you use only organic soybeans.
☻ Carob powder is often used in pumpernickel bread, too. It darkens the loaf and provides a mellowing influence.

Additional Ingredients

Salt controls the growth of the yeast. Too much or too little salt will not allow the yeast to grow properly. Half a tablespoon of salt is optimum for this size batch. Half a tablespoon of ginger can enhance the digestibility of the bread as well.

Here is where the real fun begins. You can add all sorts of flavor and nutrition to the bread. Amounts are for the recipe below. Adjust to the size of your batch.

☻ For traditional rye bread or pumpernickel, sprinkle in four tablespoons of caraway seeds.
☻ A Swedish rye results from adding 2 tablespoons of anise seed, 2 tablespoons of fennel seed, and 2 tablespoons of grated orange peel.
☻ An omega rich loaf can be made by adding 3 tablespoons of flax or chia seed per loaf.
☻ That pizza bread will want Italian spices: a tablespoon of thyme, two tablespoons of oregano, and three tablespoons of basil. Do not add garlic or onion at this point because they will retard the growth of the yeast. More later on adding flavors that are less yeast friendly.
☻ Throw in a half cup of raw sunflower seeds.
☻ Put a cup of raisins or dried fruit in for a sweet bread.
☻ Add two to three tablespoons of rosemary. Better yet, roll your loaves in the rosemary after they are formed.
☻ If you want a sweeter bread, add a tablespoon of green stevia powder.

The Basic Process

Start with a quart of room temperature or slightly warmer liquid. Add one-fourth to one-half cup of oil and an equal amount of sweetener. Measure them both in the same cup. The oil will help the sticky sweetener to slide out of the cup much easier. Then you can run a rubber spatula around the inside of the cup quickly to get the rest of the oil out.

Now that you have all the liquid ingredients assembled, it is time to introduce a tablespoon of active dry yeast to them. The recipe books from the past couple of generations ask you to soften the yeast in one half cup of warm water. That can still be done, if you desire. You can, however, skip that step and add it directly to your liquid ingredients if they are at room temperature. The yeast will get a jump start on absorbing the nutrients that will allow it to be strong and healthy as it builds your loaf. It takes ten minutes or so for the yeast to come out of its dormant state and begin to grow again. Since it is in a medium that will feed it, yo do not have to be strict about attending to the next step. It can be left for an hour or more without damage, You will come back to see lots of frothy bubbles.

Finally, it is time to add some flour a few cups at a time. Begin by adding four cups of flour to your yeast mixture. This is also the time to add your salt and ginger as well as whatever ‘extras’ you will put in your loaf. Now that you have all this stuff piled up on your poor yeast, mix it in until it is smooth. It will still be a very wet batter.

The next four cups of flour do not have to be wheat. Rye flour has enough gluten to comprise as much as forty per cent of the mixture. Other flours with less gluten need to be used sparingly – no more than a total of two cups in this recipe. Once these are mixed in, add the final two to four cups of flour, one at a time, mixing and observing the consistency of the dough. At this point, the dough should be still a bit sticky, but not gooey.

This part of the process offers the ultimate in flexibility. It is a good idea to allow the mixture to sit for an hour or more before kneading. It can sit for several hours, even overnight, until you get some time to spend kneading it. If it is left longer than, say, eight hours, it will start to take on a sour dough type flavor which will get stronger the longer it sits. During the down time, the bran, herbs, and seeds can absorb the amount of liquid that they will need during the rest of the process. When it comes time to knead your bread, you will know pretty closely the final texture of the bread and be able to adjust accordingly. The additional benefit is the fact that it takes less actually about half as much) time kneading to achieve the right elasticity of the loaf.

It is time to form your loaves. When dividing the dough, cut off pieces with a sharp knife so you don’t tear the gluten. Grease the insides of the pan either with butter or with a light vegetable oil. The spray on kind works well and does not leave a big mess.

Loaf pans get filled halfway, so there is plenty of room for the bread to rise and form a nice rounded top.

Without a pan, you can make the ever-popular ‘artisan loaf.’ These can be round or oblong with a gash across the top.

For an extra fancy presentation, try braiding your dough.

On the other hand you can make individual serving sized breads like rolls or buns of various sorts. With a rolling pin in hand, you can make pizza shells, pitas, or flat breads.

Once your bread is in the form in which you want it baked, you can add extra flavor by pressing into its crust those tasty morels that do not get along with the yeast: onion, garlic, or cinnamon.

Mmmm! Time for some cinnamon rolls!!!!

Sesame seeds add a nice nutty flavor to the loaf when pressed into the bread. You might want to decorate it with rolled oats and/or corn meal instead.

For a more tender crust, apply a little water to the top of your loaf. Be careful not to soak the loaf, only apply enough water to make the top look glossy. A pastry brush will be helpful in controlling the application of the water.

If you want a golden brown top. Spread a thin layer of butter on top of the loaf.

Let the formed loaves rise one more time--about an hour, depending on your indoor weather conditions.

If you are in a hurry you can actually let them rise in the oven as it warms. Many sources warn against this action because with white bread, the yeast will grow too fast exhausting the gluten and your loaf will collapse by the time there is sufficient heat to kill the yeast. However, with the well fed yeast and additional support you loaves will rise nicely and bake up fluffy.

Bread that has already risen will take 35 to 40 minutes in a pre-heated (325 degree Fahrenheit) oven depending on the size of your loaves. Rolls, of course will cook faster, more like 30 minutes. If you allow the loaves to rise as the oven is heating, allow 45 minutes to an hour for them to bake.

Test for done-ness by dumping the loaf out on the counter and thumping the bottom. An unfinished loaf will respond with a dull thud. Put it back in the oven immediately and cook for another five minutes, then test again. The fully baked one will sound hollow.

Let your loaves cool on the counter for ten minutes before cutting them.

To keep the crust moist, put them in their bag at this time. Many people feel that packaging them before they are cooled makes the crust soggy. Try it for yourself and decide which way you like best.

Enjoy pampering your family and friends with fresh baked home made bread. This method allows you to put it together on your time, rather than becoming a slave to the dough.

♥ ♥ ♥

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