This is my basic “bread making kit”. I’ll decant that large bag of flour into 1/2 gallon jars for storage. I tend to keep things in jars as they are just about “everything proof”. Often they are also free (so you will notice some of the jars and lids look remarkably like what is used for pasta sauce.)
The odd measuring spoon came with the bread maker. It has a tablespoon end, and the other end comes in what I think are 1/2 and whole teaspoons (that also have 1/2 full markings inside). I typically use my regular measuring spoons instead. The large spoon is used for scooping flour. To the right are the digital scale and a very light weight plastic bowl for measuring flour. From left to right, the middle row has a sugar bowl, a small jar with salt in it, a large jar with a ‘variety flour’ in it, and the jar of dried yeast.
The very large blue funnel (inside the measuring bowl) is a ‘canning funnel’. Sold at local hardware and cooking stores for cheap. Typically I’ll make “jars of bread” in advance. A one pint jar nicely holds one ‘loaf’ of bread dry ingredients. By setting up a half dozen jars, the whole process is very efficient.
Small spoon salt in each jar (1 tsp / 5 ml). 2 Large spoons sugar (1 Tablespoon / 15 ml each). Measure 8 1/2 ounces / 240 grams of flour, pour down the funnel into the jar. Lid on, to the shelf. Repeat. (Really I do all the salts, all the sugars, all the flours, then all the lids and store). When it’s time to ‘make a loaf’, it’s just dump the dry goods in the mixer (sugar and salt end up on top, as they are in the bottom of the jar). Mix water (3/4 cup / 180 ml) with yeast ( 1/2 to 1 tsp / 2.5-5 ml) and a bit of sugar ( 1/2 tsp / 2.5 ml). After it sits and hydrates for a few minutes, dump on top. (If you start the yeast soaking first, setting up the bread maker can just about take enough time ;-)
I’ve been working on making decent home made bread for a while. Lately, I ramped it up a bit more as the price of a crappy loaf of bread is now over $2 and a decent loaf runs up to $4. As I can make it at home for less than $1/2 a loaf, and it’s better, well….
But I’d always had a problem with the “crumb”. Crumb is a term of art in baking that talks about the texture of the bread, the stiffness and overall impression. I’d gone down a “sourdough” road for a few months, eventually got pretty good at it, but was still left with the basic problem that the crumb was rather stiff. In fact, even more so than my regular bread. That regular bread was good on the first day, even the second, but by the third or fourth would be getting a bit stale and prone to mold ( if I didn’t wrap it well, or was a bit too damp, or someone didn’t wash their hands before cutting the bread). That wasn’t much of a problem, as it rarely sat more than the second day. (Often, then, only because I’d bake at night when most folks were going to bed, so it was ready for breakfast).
My “issue” wasn’t with the bread, AS bread. It was with the toast. Having bread with a stiffer crumb is nice when you are having bread and butter, or jam sandwiches, or whatever. No, the problem is that when it is toasted, it becomes a bit stiff and the texture is just more rough than I like for morning toast.
After yet more experimenting (including a disastrous trial of Durham / Papadum flour that gives things a very odd taste…) I’ve finally found the solution: Potato Flour.
The basic loaf I make is usually made with 8 1/2 ounces of flour ( 240 grams for folks who are fraction challenged ;-) so what I did was to substitute 1/8 of that flour with potato flour ( one ounce or 30 grams). It was described as softening the crumb of bread, and it does. The result has a much smoother and softer texture. Not quite “Wonderbread Foam”, but a nice bread that makes ‘soft enough’ toast. ( I could use more potato flour if I wanted it even softer).
A similar trial with Amaranth flour didn’t soften the crumb very much, but it did give a very interesting tasty bread. Using up to 3 ounces (85 grams) of Amaranth flour still had a decent gluten build in the bread ( using Millet Flour it starts to get way too loose at 3 ounces, more like a batter). I suspect that Amaranth has it’s own protein gluey bits that might make it a good ingredient for ‘wheat free’ breads. I’ll be trying that on another day. Rather like a simple very light Rye bread (minus the caraway or other seasoning seed flavors) but better, less heavy. That flour clearly needs more experimentation, but that will be for later. As it was more flavored, and my goal was a ‘white fluffy’ bread, it was noted as having potential, but not for this experiment.
This is a basic bread recipe derived from one that came with my bread maker. I mix and first rise the dough in the machine, but never liked the over large square slices you get from the machine bucket. Picking out the little stirring rod from the bottom and sometimes just getting the loaf out of the pan can be a PITA too. So I put the dough into a traditional loaf pan for baking. Sometimes I’ll divide the dough in half and use miniature loaf pans. The larger pan I bake at 325 F to 350 F ( 163 C to 177 C ) . Small pans for 25 minutes, the larger one for 35 to 40 minutes.
I’ve tried just putting the dry yeast directly into the bread maker pan, as the directions for the bread maker said. Sometimes it works, sometimes not so much. After a lot of trials, I’ve ‘gone back to the old way’. Warm water goes into a cup with a bit of sugar and the dry yeast sprinkled on top. Let it sit for about 5 minutes, then stir the hydrating yeast granules into the water. (If you try to stir them in while still dry, you get glops of them on the spoon…) This recipe uses 3/4 cup (180 ml) of water. Lukewarm is “body temperature”. That means it does NOT feel warm… If the water feels warm, it is warmer than you are. You want the water where you have trouble deciding if it is warm, or not. Peripheral temperature is a bit lower than core temp, so just tiny bit of ‘yeah, it’s not cold…and maybe a touch warm’. If you have water that FEELS warm, it can be too warm for the yeast. I put 1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) of sugar into the water, stir, and then sprinkle on 1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) of yeast granules.
Let it sit aside while measuring the rest. 5 minutes is ‘enough’, but if you let it get going really well, it will be a bit foamy. I’ve used it barely rehydrated and it seems to work fine, so you don’t need to see a load of foam.
FWIW, I did a study once of ‘cost of a loaf’. THE major cost item was those small individual packets of “active dry yeast”. VERY pricy. Instead I go to COSTCO (or similar bulk discounter) and buy a 1 lb package of yeast. That’s typically sold MUCH cheaper. The problem is it takes a LONG time to use it all. You need to do something to keep the yeast alive for the year ( or more?) it takes to use it. I pour it into 1 cup (250 ml) jars and put them in the freezer. I’ve got some a couple of years old that still work fine. So I take one out of the freezer and move it to the fridge. Then when I need yeast, that’s the jar I use. Keeps months in the fridge. I don’t know how many as I use it up ;-) Adjust the jar size you use to your typical usage rate. 4 ounce jars would likely be better for most folks.
Doing that, the major cost item became flour, a much more reasonable thing…
OK, we’ve got our yeast going in the water, and we’ve got the mixed flours measured.
In the bottom of the mixer I put about a Tablespoon (15 ml) of “oil”. Mostly I like Palm Oil (that is a great solid shortening in general). Lately I’ve been using Coconut Oil. It gives a very nice flavor and is very healthful. It’s solid at cool room temperature, and melts at just a bit above that. I’ve also used butter, but don’t like it as much. Plain old “vegetable oil” works, but something is better with the solid fats. It can be left out entirely if desired and you get a less ‘moist’ and more ‘french bread’ like crumb.
FWIW, coconut oil has a nice taste all on it’s own. After greasing the pan, I’ll just lick it off the fingers… (then WASH again before touching the dough – or anything else…) With a bit of salt sprinkled on, it’s even better ;-) (I’m pretty sure a decent butter substitute could be made from salted coconut oil with just enough palm oil added to keep it solid at warm room temperature). In any case, it’s is MUCH tastier than regular old shortening or bland old vegetable oil.
Next I dump in the flour. That way the granular things, like salt and sugar, are not in a position to act like abrasives on the bottom right off the bat. Put them on top. Pour on the yeast solution (that dissolves some of the granular parts). Set the machine on ‘rise’ and push start. In 1:20 it’s ready to ‘punch down’ and put in the pan.
Typically I’ll ‘grease up’ with some coconut oil for this step to keep the dough from sticking to me too much. I coat the pan, too. The dough can be turned out onto a floured surface, or just directly folded in the hands. I like to stretch the top toward the bottom and push it up into the middle. Repeat. That makes a smooth top. I’ll ‘wallow’ it around in the pan to oil the top if it starts to be sticky on the fingers. Once shaped, into the pan (smoothest side up) and let rest / rise in a warm place. ( I warm the oven to about 104 F / 40 C and it usually takes about 20 to 40 minutes to rise – I’m not that precise on the temp and time, so it varies… When over the top of the pan, it’s ready to bake).
The ingredient ratio here gives a somewhat wet loose dough. Not a lot of ‘second kneading’ involved and a very fluffy bread. As the amount of atmospheric water absorbed into flour varies, if the dough is too loose, turn it out onto a pile of flour (just a couple of Tbs / 30 ml). Turn and fold. The dough will become less sticky and easier to handle. If the dough is too loose, it will overflow the top of the loaf pan on rising and ‘flop’ down the sides. If too stiff, it doesn’t rise as well and is a tougher crumb and more dense bread. When soft and pliable, but not sticking to your hands, it makes a very nice pizza crust. (Had some last night!) Just break off about 1/4 of the loaf of dough, make a ball, let it rest few minutes, and on a floured surface gently start squashing the middle with your finger tips. Working it out to a ring / circle. Let rise about 20 minutes, top, bake at 400 F to 450 F for about 12 to 15 minutes (depending on topping load ;-)
With only one or two ounces of millet flour, the bread gets a very nice added flavor, but can also be a bit loose, so you may need to cut back the water a little, or do that flour on a surface thing… At 3 ounces it’s starting to be a batter, but can make an OK flat bread ;-)
While a lot of folks get all fussy about preheating the oven, with my electric oven it warms quickly and without too much of a radiative heating problem, so I just turn it on and start counting the time when it hits 300 F. For pizza, I’ll preheat the oven.
Take the pan out when done. Mostly I just wait for the “smell of bread” to become noticeable. It’s a distinctive moment in baking and is fairly accurate. I also watch for color and time. I like the cooler temp of 325 F for a light brown. I’ve seen folks saying to use 375F and even 400F. Makes too dark a crust for my tastes. Time varies with the pan size, so if you make a full sized loaf, cook longer. I’ve also let the dough rise as a ’round’ on a cookie sheet and that works well too (but the wrong shape for toast… which is the goal of this effort…)
When done, let it rest for about 20 minutes in the pan, then it’s easier to get out. Then let it cool on a rack for another hour or so. Enjoy!