Monday, January 19, 2015

Bread Baking

There's this book, Make the Bread, Buy the Butter.  The author did all the cost breakdowns and time involved for all sorts of food.  She determined, for example, that in terms of quality of food and time spent, you can make completely awesome and way better bread at home than in a store.  However, butter, while tasty, is a waste of time and good cream.

We love bread in this house.  But we also love healthier carbs.  Which means we are kind of bread snobs.  I don't recall the last time I bought a loaf of bread in the long rectangular shape that most of the world uses to make sandwiches.  We usually go for crusty bread.  And, friend, that gets expensive.  ($$$$$!)  

So once we settled into our new place and life was feeling manageable, we decided to make our own bread. 

Oh, I couldn't just leave it there and make it simple, could I?

Course not. 

Last spring, we got the dry blade container for our Vitamix, and were desperate to try grinding flour.  SO FUN.  I made a LOT of types of flour.  And yes, it makes small batches, but it's still fun.  I've been learning a lot about home ground flour.  

But baking with it?  Another story entirely.  

The first few batches of goods came out with an unpleasant grainy texture.  It turns out that when using home ground flour, you should really sift it first to get the excess bran out.  You can save the bran, if you want, but you want the finest, softest flour possible. 

Then I tried a no-knead bread.  I left it percolating for 12 hours.  It was... ok.  Not life changing.  So I started doing research. 

It could be that I might have used hard red wheat.  Which turns out to be the only type available at two stores I checked.  Can I find a soft white wheat berry?  Would that change anything?  

It could be that home ground flour seems quite dry.  Actually, of the recipes I've used, I find I usually have to add extra liquid here in Virginia.  Today's bread took as much as a ¼ cup extra water, and a generous splash of olive oil to really come together as a bread dough.  

It might be that a full wheat flour (as opposed to a half white, half wheat blend) doesn't do well in a no-knead recipe, or it might need a longer rise, or it might need more liquid.  I even saw recipes for soaking your flour- a technique that involves a 24 hour soak BEFORE you even start your bread recipe.  Ain't this girl got time for that.  

It might be that home ground flour just needs to be kneaded.  So today, in addition to all the extra liquid, I used my stand mixer to do the lion's share of the kneading.  I finished up the kneading with a few minutes of hand kneading, and could feel the dough was nice and elastic.  It's baking right now, so we shall see how it comes out.  

So the bread baking using homegrown flour is not the same animal as baking with store-bought flours.  It's a little bit of a puzzle.  I'll keep checking in.  

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