Bread making is something that I do every week, more than once a week. I make six to nine loaves every week. I’ve been making bread since I was fifteen although not in those quantities. When you have teenagers it tends to increase the amount of bread you need – just sayin’.
Maybe someday I’ll share the recipe I’ve developed over the years, but honestly, there are thousands of recipes online. So today I just want to share with you some tips that I thing will encourage you to make bread and make the experience more fun and successful.
First of all, you need to find a good recipe, and I would start with a white flour recipe.
Back when I started learning how to make bread I only used white flour. It’s slightly easier to work with. Follow the recipe exactly. So much about making bread is learning what the right “feel” is. I can easily tell now if my dough needs more liquid or more flour. And this leads me to my next point…
There is very little that you can do to damage bread. It will more or less turn out edible unless, of course, you leave out the yeast (as I have done when loading my bread machine) or leave out salt. Never, never forget the salt in bread. You will still eat the bread because you don’t want to waste it, but you will not enjoy it.
If you want to transition to whole wheat bread here is what I would recommend once you have your white bread perfected…
Slowly, and I can’t emphasize the slowly part enough, substitute one half to a full cup of whole wheat flour for the white flour.
Not only does this give your taste buds time to adjust, it also helps you with adjusting to the new feel of your dough. Whole wheat flour does not need quite as much liquid.
As an aside, if you are serious about making whole wheat bread I would suggest investing in a good wheat mill. Once a year we buy organic wheat kernels from a farm about a two hour drive from us. I store them in plastic bins with tight-fitting lids and grind the wheat as I need it.
The taste of fresh ground whole wheat is vastly superior to the whole wheat flour you buy in the store. To my taste buds now store-bought whole wheat tastes rancid. And it could very well be that it is slightly rancid because whole wheat flour does not keep. I only grind what I need. My mill can grind 5 cups of wheat in about five minutes so it’s not a bother to grind fresh every time. You could also grind it and keep it in the freezer to preserve the freshness.
I had a NutriMill for about ten years and used it several times a week until it died. Recently we replaced it with a Wonder Mill. I love this mill and highly recommend it. The NutriMill was good, but the Wonder Mill is just a little better. They are expensive, but the cost spread out over the many years you will use it is small. I just did a quick calculation in my head – a $400 machine used for ten years only costs $0.15/day!
Currently I use seven cups of whole wheat and two cups of white flour for three loaves. I’m considering raising the ratio again.
Once you have come this far you will no doubt start to tweak your recipe and method. I no longer knead for the fifteen to twenty minutes most recipes insist on. I guess I’m just too bored/distracted/busy/lazy to stand and knead my dough for that long. I now knead my dough for about three maybe four minutes if I’m feeling really ambitious and call it good. I think this picture will speak for itself…