Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Bread Quest: Or I Changed My Header

There is a panic in the air. Food prices are up. Food shortages have lead to rationing at church food storage centers and at food warehouses like Costco. Grain mill purchases are up and on back order. And now the economy seems to be bottoming out. Of course, I am no authority on all this. I don't know how much of it is hype or how much of it is self perpetuating panic. I do know that its finally been time to build up our food storage and learn to bake my own bread. If only because it was one of my new year's resolutions and the year is speeding by.

Not just bread, but whole wheat (or mostly whole wheat) bread. The kind you make from flour you grind yourself. We've never stored wheat, because I didn't want to buy something and not know how to use it or not be using it to rotate through it. But, now I think I am ready. It's not that I haven't made bread before. I have. It's just not great stuff that we want to have as our mainstay for toast and sandwich making. I've put it off, wanting the perfect recipe. One that is light, quick and easy to execute, using just a few inexpensive ingredients. So many wheat recipes have extra "stuff". Vital wheat gluten, Vitamin C tablets, Lecithin. Stuff I would need to store in addition in order to be able to make bread out of all that wheat. Ideally, I'd like a recipe that required no yeast even. One based on a reusable starter like the pioneer women would have used.

There is a recipe for just that in the Deseret Recipes cookbook published by the church. It is called Everlasting Yeast. I tried it for our Pioneer Days bread using the wheat bread recipe in the same book. I even did the kneading by hand. A friend, Nadine, makes wonderful bread from that recipe, and it turned out pretty good using the starter, although not as good as hers. I like knowing I have this way of bread baking should I ever need to bake bread with a limited or diminishing yeast supply. But, maintaining a starter doesn't fit my current lifestyle, so I decided to pass on using it as my main bread recipe.

I also tried a recipe demonstrated at simplylivingsmart.com. Because it is FAST. As in bread ready to bake in 45 minutes, including wheat grinding time. I didn't have the highly promoted equipment described, but it still turned out pretty good. And was fast. But, it seemed to lack something to me.

I've also learned a lot from and tried the recipes of two friends. But, still hadn't found the recipe that fit me. I finally found "the one". The Light Wheat recipe from this book:

Because Peter Reinhart is a bread making master and knows what he is talking about. I got this book for my dh for Christmas and he has had a lot of fun learning the art of artisan bread making from it. The french bread, raisin bread, pugliese and sticky bun recipes have all been amazing. Even though the light wheat recipe does not follow the slow ferment method that is the focus of the book, it turned out exactly the way that I wanted. Not heavy, good flavor, tender crust, soft and not crumbly. Perfect for sandwiches. I love that it uses room temperature water, as getting the temp right to not kill yeast has been a challenge in my past. And I used all purpose flour instead of bread flour without any problem. No gluten flour, vitamin c tablets or heating stuff on the stove. Nice and simple. I double it and make 3 loaves instead of 2. I did find that using the exact ingredients made a dough too dry. So now I hold out putting in all the flour at the first and add just enough at the end. I aim to have the dough just slightly sticky in the bottom of the bowl, remembering that it gets drier with kneading. Then I knead it till it gets all stretchy, about 6-8 minutes in my kitchen aid. Our favorite sandwhich bread recipe in the book is anadama bread. It has a wonderful flavor from cornmeal and molasses. But, it is an overnighter and slow riser, so I'm sticking to the light wheat as our main bread.

I worried that I wouldn't have time to be making all of our bread. But, despite our crazy fall schedule I haven't had to buy bread since before school started! So, I just placed our first big order for wheat: 450 lbs. Its all red wheat, but I'm hoping to get the remainder of our wheat as white wheat after the harvest next summer. Now, I just need to order a wheat grinder! Any suggestions?


  1. Way to go! I just started storing wheat and got a wheat grinder this year. It's called a Wonder Mill, and I really like it.

  2. The smell of freshly baked bread is in my brain now. I am officially inspired. I need that recipe!! :) I am very picky about my bread.

  3. Can you send me those recipes? They sound great!!! I just tried a new one that wasn't that great. I am still in the search for "the one".

  4. You just spoke my homemade bread insecurities! I kill yeast. I can't knead like I'm supposed to. How are you supposed to know exactly the right temperature of the water? These are all excuses of why I have not become a bread making mama. You inspired me to dust off the wheat grinder, though. I guess practice makes perfect right?

  5. Good for you. I too have never bought wheat because I didn't want to buy something I didn't know how to use. You are an inspiration!

    (ps, I LOVE your header photo-so cute with little Cyrus in the middle!)

  6. I wouldn't mind a nice hot heal sopping with creamy butter right now. We have a Mill and Mix, without the mixer portion. It seems to be a good grinder. What they call a stone grinder as it has two shop grinder type wheels that you can adjust the fineness of the grind. I don't think they are made any more, but I did find one on the Internet on Craig's list in Idaho for $225. It has the mixer too.

  7. It's been fun to catch up on your family. I wish I were there to try some of your bread. Yum!

  8. My only suggestion is get one that works with electricity and also by handcranking, or just a handcranked one although if you're using it a lot I don't think I'd get just a handcranked. If you get one that is just electric it won't help you in case of emergency situations with no power.
    Great family pics! I've been trying to figure out where you guys live for the longest time- Connecticut? I've just been wondering how close we are since I live in MA.