I'm on to my third or fourth experimental loaf. I am trying to create a homemade bread that can be baked in a loaf pan to provide us sandwich bread.
The benefits? Ideally, lower cost, higher nutrition, no wacky preservatives, knowing exactly what is in our bread, and a little tiny bit more self-sufficiency.
Yeah, we really aren't all about the easy around here. Did I mention I am also going through a home-ground flour phase?
So far I have learned:
1) Home ground flour must be sifted. I don't usually have a ton of bran left over, but sifting it seems to make a big difference. Maybe it incorporates more air? At any rate, since starting to sift, my loaves turned from whole wheat bricks into something much lighter.
2) Hard red wheat berries make a ferociously wheat loaf. I have started mixing oat flour in. I could not find other types of wheat berries in any of the local stores that carry bulk- I have two Whole Foods and a Yes! Market near me, but while they all have hard red wheat, none have any other type of wheat. So I tried adding about ¼ of oats to the grinder, and that mixture seems to give me a lovely light loaf.
3) I really need to add vital wheat gluten. The oat mixture comes out a bit crumbly, and gluten is that nice stretchy protein. So I added gluten yesterday, and it was very effective. I think I need to fine tune just how much gluten to add. With store-bought wheat flour, I just added a heaping soup spoon, but I think I need a little more method with the home ground.
4) Kneading seems to work better than no-knead. Maybe once I get this method nailed down, I can experiment with no-kneads again. The no-knead tasted ok, but it was very dense. And I really want a sandwich bread. Luckily, I have a Kitchenaid stand mixer, so I let that do most of the hard work and I just do the light kneading and shaping.
5) The Ikea loaf pans have a different quantity. They are longer than the average loaf pan, but about the same width. So I need to figure out how to upsize my recipe just a bit. Maybe triple it, and do a recipe and a half per pan?
Overall... the experiments are worthwhile. Yesterday, after getting the bread going, I was able to put a chicken and a tofu dish in the oven to bake. (That was a Cooking Light recipe with an orange sauce. Instead of a sauté, I did it as a bake and it came out really good. After baking, I had extra sauce that I poured around the cooked chicken and cooked tofu (in their separate dishes) so they are marinating in the juices. Meaning that salad, bowl, and sandwich fillings are ready to roll!)
Experiments continue. I think I'm getting close.