Since I've gotten into making my own bread, I've come to realize that I could probably make a lot of other things, too. Now it's become a challenge for me to see just what I can do. Soon I'm going to start a list of things I never want to buy again!
Here's an example of what I've been up to recently:
Pretzel dough! I made my first batch with white flour, but used the freshly ground stuff for my second batch.
So, when the recipe says to roll them until they are less than 1/2 inch thick…it means it.
If you don't, this is what happens after they rise. My second batch came out better. I made them thinner, so they still looked like pretzels after they had risen :-) I took some Velveeta cheese and melted it and thinned it down with milk to make some cheese dip. They were amazing!
I learned after my last batch that butter will spoil, so I shaped them to freeze them this time, to avoid that happening again!
Potato bread. I made it with real potatoes! It's become our new favorite :-)
So, here's the recipe I use for baking bread. Using freshly ground flour will make the loaf denser, so I compensate some by adding extra liquid and yeast. This is the recipe for using bread flour.
Two pound loaf:
1 1/2 cups buttermilk at 80˚ (1 TBL cultured buttermilk added for each 1/4 c water)
1/4 cup oil
1/4 cup honey
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
4 TBL wheat germ
4 1/4 cups flour (usually end up adding an additional 3-4 TBL more)
4 tsp wheat gluten
1 1/4 tsp yeast
I put the ingredients in the bread machine in that order and let it run the entire mix/knead cycle (about an hour and a half). Then I take it out and form it and let is rise for a little over an hour, and then bake it on 350˚ for half an hour. About halfway through the baking I lay a sheet of foil over it so the crust doesn't brown too much. I've found that for forming the dough, using a little oil rather than flour to make it not stick to the counter will help the dough not get too dry. In my experience, drier dough doesn't rise as well.
For making it with the mixer rather than bread machine, I mix the ingredients for about 10 minutes, let it rest for an hour and then punch it down before I shape it.
For the freshly ground flour, I use 1/3 cup oil and honey (if you use the same measuring cup for the honey that you used for the oil, the honey just falls right out). I'll add a little more baking soda and use a little over a tablespoon of yeast. I also leave out the wheat germ, since it hasn't been taken out of the flour.
In both cases, I will substitute about 1/2-3/4 cup of the flour for ground up flax. I just pour some into the 1 cup measurer and top it off with flour.
My cousin got married at the end of March, and she had asked me if I would take some pictures of the day. I took the pictures but, as is so often my wont, I failed to do anything with them for over a month. I finally decided I needed to get them to her, and so I made some time to touch them up and sent her a link to them.
Then I took my favorite ones from the day and did some more Photoshopping to them. I did some really crazy things to some of them, but for the most part tried to make them look good :-) It had been so long since I had taken the time to play in Photoshop. I really enjoyed getting back in to it!
Since I graduated (one year ago this weekend—where did the past year go?!) I have dedicated a major part of my life to learning to how bake bread. Well, maybe not a major part…especially considering I didn't really start until last September. I talked about it since I graduated, though, so I'll date it from there. And, I only make one loaf a week, but I have to always plan well ahead of time to give myself enough time at home, so a major part of my life does center around it. As you can see from my blog URL, I've become as interested in bread as I am in the Braves, so you know it's serious!
Anyway, to get to the point of my post, I've learned (after much experimenting and failing) what the dough needs to look like in order to get the loaf to rise properly. Moisture in the air, temperature, and humidity all play a role in how bread rises, but I've gotten to the point where I can whip out a pretty decent loaf regardless of those variables.
At least, I can whip out a pretty decent loaf when I use bread flour. Here's where I run into my newest challenge. I've been reading some on the history of flour, and I've learned that any flour bought in the grocery store isn't that great for you. Freshly ground flour is amazing for you, but it will go rancid pretty quickly (why our store flour has to have the germ and bran removed from it) and if you wait longer than 24 hours to use it you lose well over half of the nutrients in it.
Baking with freshly ground flour is pretty tricky, too. It is heavier than white flour (since it's straight up wheat) and so it won't rise as well. Also, the dough ends up stickier than dough made with bread flour. I had trained myself to look for the stickiness of the dough when checking to see if it's the right consistency, so I'm having to relearn what that looks like.
I've still got a lot to learn, as my loaves are still pretty short when all is said and done. They taste good, though, and are really healthy, so at least something good is coming from them! Once the dough is mixed and has risen some, I shape it and let it rise longer.
It bakes for about 30 minutes, and I cover it with foil about halfway through so the crust doesn't get too dark. After it comes out of the oven, I rub the top with butter to keep it soft and shiny, and then slice and we eat it!
My roommates have voted they like buttermilk bread the best, so that's all I've made in awhile. I need to try making plain bread with the freshly ground flour to see if that makes any difference. Once I got really ambitious and used real buttermilk left over after I made butter, but most of the time I just add cultured buttermilk to the water the recipe already calls for, add oil, honey, baking soda, salt, flax, flour, yeast, and wheat gluten, and mix it up.
One thing I have found that has shocked me is that since I've been using freshly ground flour my Spring allergies have been pretty nonexistent. For my entire life April has meant sneezing, itching eyes, a runny nose, and general miserableness. This April I sneezed twice, and my eye itched for a few minutes on the way home from work one day. I'll be curious to see if May holds the same story, but even if it knocks my allergy season in half it's totally worth it.
I'm sure I'll do many more bread posts in the future as I continue to try to prefect my methods. I'm trying to make pretzels right now, and if those work I'll post a picture of them!