I have been wanting to write this post for a long time now, but never quite managed to get around to it, some other delicious recipe always crept in and I have been constantly pushing this post further and further down my to-do list. But, today, I am finally going to tell you all about my homemade breads, why I make homemade bread and how I get beautiful and tasty loaves.
My husband and I have been making homemade bread for years. It was my husband who really introduced me to bread making and who taught me many of the things that I know today. We began making our own bread for several different reasons, but the primary reason has always been that we enjoy the process of making our own bread and really, there is nothing better than homemade bread fresh out of the oven. Right? But, we also began making our bread because it was cheaper and we always felt that our breads were of equal or superior quality to what we found at the supermarket. Now, living on our farm, we continue to bake our own bread because we like to, but also because we need to. We live far from any supermarket and although we do have a bakery about 15 minutes from our farm and they make good breads, the variety is limited, and they don’t make a lot of the breads that we like to eat on a daily basis! Plus, any breads of really good quality can cost quite a lot and making bread at home, I can make a loaf for very cheap:)
Additionally, I want to share with all of you some of my bread making tips and experiences, because there is a lot of information on the internet about bread making, and sometimes I feel that this information is geared a little bit too much to people who only want to use expensive flours and make complex sourdough loaves. So today, I want to share with you a little bit about how I manage to get super tasty loaves, using cheap flours.
I have never been someone to buy super expensive flours for my bread making. I like to mix whole wheat and rye flours, sometimes wheat germ and some seeds, but I have never felt it necessary to spend an arm-and-a-leg on my flours. In the USA there are many flour options and you can spend hours researching for the perfect flours. In Brazil, it is the opposite. There are a limited amount of flours available and, although you can probably buy some fancier flours in some supermarkets, the majority of supermarkets here carry white flour and probably some whole wheat flour, but not much else. So, although I anyway always bought the simpler flours, here in Brazil I don’t have much choice. White flour here is just plain white flour, there is no bleached or unbleached flour, there is no regular flour or bread flour. White flour is white flour. And, if I am not mistaken it is all bleached. Many breadmakers stress that you must use unbleached white flour and preferably bread flour. I have never had any problems using the regular white flour that I find here in Brazil. And, contrary to what a lot of people say about buying top quality expensive flours, I actually buy the cheapest flour at the supermarket. Some of our friends recommended it and it works beautifully.
Going on to whole wheat and rye flours. Again, my choices are limited here. My husband and I do all of our shopping for flours and grains in an area in São Paulo where they only sell these types of products. If I was going to find super specialty flours, I would find it here. All of the stores sell an insane amount of nuts, seeds, flours, grains….anything you can imagine. Guess what, I don’t find stoneground whole wheat flour or ten different types of rye flour. Usually, there is one type of whole wheat flour and that is the one I buy. Nothing special, just normal whole wheat flour.
So, for any of you people out there getting overwhelmed by the specialty flours and the many people telling you to use stoneground this or that flour. Forget it, buy some simple white flour, regular whole wheat or rye flour, and don’t give it too much thought. I have come to learn that, although expensive flours might make a difference for the breads, it is the way that you make your breads that is most important. Focus on the process!
I make all of our bread at home, we rarely buy, and this means that making complex loaves isn’t always ideal. Usually what I do is set aside one weekend to make about 10 loaves of bread. I then freeze everything and in about 4 to 6 weeks I will have a huge bread making weekend again. What I like to do on my bread making weekend is plan to make about 6 quick and simple loaves (I call these my everyday loaves) and about 4 sourdough loaves. We like sourdough loaves a lot, but these are not loaves that we can eat everyday! I always love my bread making weekends and contrary to what most people think, it does not take-up a lot of my time.
Most people think that making bread takes a lot of time. Well, I am here to tell you that it does NOT! The trick with bread making is that you need to plan. Usually what I do is make a schedule for the weekend. I write down exactly at what time I need to do everything for my recipes and as much as I can I join everything together. By doing this I know when I need to be in the house and when I have time to go out and do things around the farm! Planning is the key to easy bread making.
The primary loaf that I make is a quick and simple bread. It takes about 7 hours from start to finish and only requires about 1 hour of real hands on attention. I love this loaf because there is a lot of room to make adjustments. Depending on my mood, I will sometimes just make a 100% white loaf, or I will do 40% whole wheat or I will do 30% whole wheat and 10% rye, or I will even add linseed, sesame seed or sunflower seeds to the recipe. No matter what adjustments I make, the loaf always turns out super tasty and is a perfect everyday loaf. This is the loaf that I used to really perfect and improve my breadmaking techniques and skills and it has paid off. I have been constantly making this load for about a year now and I have managed to really fine tune it. But, it has also given me an amazing springboard for more complex and richer breads!
This is the perfect loaf for beginners. There is little room for error and even if the bread doesn’t turn out 100% it will probably still be edible and very tasty.
So, without saying too much more, as I have rambled quite a bit already, I will leave you with my white bread recipe taken from the wonderful recipe book by Ken Forkish Flour Water Salt Yeast.
These are some of my recommended changes to the recipe if you are feeling adventurous:
- 60% white flour; 40% whole wheat flour
- 35% white flour; 75% whole wheat flour
- 60% white flour; 30% whole wheat flour; 10% rye flour
- 90% white flour; 100g wheat germ
- Normal recipe but add 50g of seeds of your choice