These days just about everything we could want to eat is available pre-made in the store. That’s not a bad thing, with hectic schedules being the norm rather than the exception. However, sometimes we can reap the message that certain homemade foods are either too hard to make or simply not worth the effort and store bought is the way to go.
I’ve started making bread. I haven’t done it to replace the stuff we get at the store, but in addition to. A friend recently came to me and said, “I’ve always wanted to try that. Is it hard?” That’s a tough question to answer because the definition of hard varies from person to person. I would say no, not hard, but it is time consuming and takes practice. The result, however, is well worth it, even if you only try it once. I fully encourage you to give it a shot. There are so many recipes available both in cookbooks and for free online.
1. Make sure you knead the dough enough. Not kneading enough can lead to flatter bread. A properly kneaded dough will be smooth and will stretch.
2. Make sure you let the bread rise enough. Generally there are two rises when you make bread. You can tell that it is done with a rise if you make a small indent with your finger and the indent stays there. Usually this is about 45 minutes to an hour for each rise, a bit longer if it is cold in your house. Also, there are a couple of different methods to letting a bread rise, such as simply letting it sit on the counter, or putting it in an oven that is off with a pan of hot water under the dough on the bottom rack. Try one way, and then another next time to find which works best for you.
3. A bread is done baking if it sounds hollow when you tap on it. Strange, I know, but true.
4. Whole wheat flour will not be as tall and fluffy as store bought bread unless you add certain conditioners to it. What conditioners and how much depends on the recipe. Personally, I don’t mind my bread being a little less tall.
5. If your bread doesn’t turn out as big or fluffy as you expected, don’t panic. A bread that turns out a little denser is still delicious! Don’t let it discourage you from trying again.
I hope you decide to give bread making a try. If nothing else, you can say that you’ve done it. If you do try it, I hope my tips work for you.
*A little note about the bread you see in the picture: It is from a Shaker Daily Loaf recipe that I found in an older cookbook that my mother-in-law gave to us. Instead of all-purpose flour, I used white whole wheat flour and did not add any sort of conditioners. Before I let it rise, I cut the dough down the middle and put it into two greased and floured loaf pans. I let it rise in the oven (turned off), and placed a small pot of hot water underneath it on the bottom rack, adding new hot water every now and then. I didn’t punch it down, but instead tucked the ends under (first the short ends, then the long ones, and then reshaping slightly, followed by the second rise). Didn’t follow all that? No big deal. Best to follow the instructions as written the first time, anyway.
Also, if you want to have some step-by-step instructions (along with photos) of a bread recipe that Heather has used, you can see her post “How To Make Homemade Bread“. Good luck and have fun!