I can't remember when I didn't know how to make bread. My mother always baked bread. She learned from my grand-mother and I from her. I don't remember doing it as a child. I suppose it was sometime after I got married.
My husband and I farm and have grown wheat for years, it seemed only logical to start grinding and using my own wheat for baking. Not to mention that it makes a much more nutritional loaf. Last winter I went about researching and finding a grinder. I purchased some wheat berries from the store and began using it so that in July when our wheat was harvested I would be ready to go.
I purchased a wondermill and while it does a fantastic job of making flour, I have found that since switching to our wheat and grinding my own flour my loaves have gotten dry, even flat. They don't raise up as well as I would have liked.
So, for this winter, I'm going back to the basics.
Step by step.
To refresh what I have forgotten and to perhaps learn a little more, all in effort to making a better loaf of bread. I have people occasionally ask my advice on bread baking that I thought I would share my thoughts and what I've learned with you.
For those of you who are experienced bread bakers. Please feel free to add any of your tips that you feel might help others.
Today we will start with Yeast. I like to purchase my yeast in bulk.
I can purchase a twin pack from Sams Club for around $5.00
Not only cause its cheaper but when you bake as much bread as I do opening all those little foil packets can get annoying. However, they are great for the occasional bread baking person.
In order to maintain freshness..You can store it in the fridge or freezer. I store mine in a quart size mason jar.
If you are uncertain if your yeast is still good, stir it into 1/4 cup of warm water and add a pinch of sweetener. This is called proofing. The yeast should foam within 10 minutes. If it doesn't, its no good.
To dissolve active dry yeast, sprinkle it over your liquid, usually lukewarm water and stir. The liquid should be no hotter then 115 degrees. It should feel warm to touch.
Now when making yeast breads you want to be sure none of your ingredients, including eggs, butter, flour, milk, etc are cold. Cold will inhibit the action of the yeast
and your dough won't rise. The one thing I forget frequently is the egg. Eggs need to be at room temperature.
A lot of the recipes that I make have a lot of grains in them. They require you to "Soak" the grains or sometimes create a sponge.
The sponge will contain your liquid, yeast, grains and some flour. This is a squash bread sponge. It has squash, milk, sugar, yeast, corn meal and the wheat flour.
It needs to sit to soften the particles of grains so you get a better rise. The particles of flour absorb moisture in the sponge and you will end up using less flour later and should end up with a moisture loaf. This is the step I've been working on as I've found my loaves of bread drying out quickly after just a day or two in the bread box.
cover with plastic wrap and let your sponge rest for 30 minutes or so.
Next, we will go over incorporating the rest of your flour into the sponge, kneading and shaping your loaves.