So who else here makes their own bread, by hand or with a bread machine? I bought a bread machine in August last year. It's the Lakeland Compact, which is an excellent size if you're making bread for one or two people, or if you just eat a really small amount of bread. Of course, many larger bread machines have an option to make a smaller loaf, but I didn't have the worktop space for those, and I'm very happy with the machine I have. We went on a bit of a bread-making spree when I first got it, unsurprisingly, but you do need to practise in order to get the basic recipes down. I also love making bread as a present for friends. It's a low-key enough present that you can just do it randomly, I even make it for my support workers (I'm disabled), and it costs very little time and effort to make. But it's always appreciated, and the smell and feel of a fresh-baked loaf is amazing. Speaking of disability, a bread machine is fantastic if you are disabled, or just plain short on time (busy job, young children, whatever). It only takes a few minutes to throw the ingredients in, and the timer function means that you can do it before bed and wake up to the incredible smell of your lovely new bread. You do need to rescue it from the machine fairly soon after it's finished, though, otherwise it ends up with a really thick crust.
The recipe book that came with wanted far too much sugar and yeast, as I recall. Brilliant Breadmaking for your Machine is a great book, and gives quantities for three sizes of loaves for almost every recipe. That definitely helped.
I discovered sourdough a few weeks in, and have been making sourdough ever since. There's a lot of mystique about sourdough, and there really doesn't need to be. Although possibly I am doing it all wrong! But it is definitely different to my yeasted breads, it works, it tastes amazing - when I went back to a basic yeasted loaf once, I was really disappointed - and it is noticeably far more sustaining. I will happily breakfast on one slice of sourdough and feel full all morning, where before I needed two slices of yeasted bread and might still get peckish. Also sourdough is meant to be incredibly good for stabilising blood sugar. White sourdough actually scores better than wholewheat yeasted bread in this respect, so wholewheat sourdough must be better still.
I followed the sourdough recipe from that book. I don't have the book handy just now, but it involved flour, water, yeast (apparently the yeast is heresy, but never mind, it was only used once), mixing it all up, covering it with a hanky and an elastic band, and sticking it on the worktop for a week, stirring it twice a day. Once the starter was established, it's really easy. I keep it in the fridge, and fish it out at least half an hour before I want to make bread. If I don't have the time to do that, I add half an hour to the timer. Once it's sat out for a bit, I give it a good stir and then measure it out to put into the bread pan. (The Pyrex Kitchen Labs 250ml glass beaker is great for making bread, as it has 5ml increments and clear markings which don't wash off.) Then I add half a cup of flour, half a cup of water, stir them in, put the hanky back on the container (or occasionally shift it to a new container and fresh hanky), and leave it out while the bread bakes. When the bread is done, I put the sourdough back in the fridge, and that's it. It must add about one or two minutes to the whole process, and it is very much worth it. It seems to prefer the gluten-free setting, probably because that involves a longer rise and less kneading.
I'm interested in making my bread as healthy and tasty as possible. I eat one or two slices a day. Things I've tried/found so far:
* The recipe book says half a tablespoon of sugar for a loaf this size, but with sourdough at least, I find a whole tablespoon gives a much better rise. Hopefully it doesn't really make a different nutritionally by the time it's spread out over a whole loaf. I like to use syrups, such as agave or date syrup.
* Pure wholewheat bread comes out rather craggy and dry, which apparently is normal with bread machines. My partner likes it, but I prefer it with more moistness. I've found that doing half and half brown flour and wholewheat is a much better balance, and brown flour isn't that far off wholewheat anyway. Another thing that really helps is to use barley flour for about 10% of the flour. Barley is meant to be ridiculously healthy, especially in terms of what it does for your blood sugar.
* Walnuts are lovely in bread, full of good fats and so forth, taste fab, and give it a bit of a purple tinge. It makes a good everyday bread, good with either sweet or savoury.
* Saffron bread is amazing. It's a sweeter bread, you wouldn't want it with soup, and quite often I make it as a white bread, so I don't make it as often, but it's a popular one for a gift, especially with walnuts in it. It works fine as sourdough.
* If you're adding extra ingredients that are quite fine, such as sesame seeds or rolled oats, count them as part of the flour. If they're chunky, such as nuts, don't count them as part of the flour.
* Toasted sunflower seeds are great. Sesame seeds are very nice too. I like poppy seeds in the bread, they add an interesting flavour, but my partner hates the way they get stuck in his teeth. I've not done much with pumpkin seeds yet, and I personally dislike flaxseeds, so I can't speak for what those are like.
* You need to adjust how much water you use based on whether it's white, wholewheat, or somewhere in the middle. For my small loaf and using 150ml sourdough starter, I use 90ml water for white bread, 100ml for brown bread, and 110ml for wholewheat or mostly wholewheat.
* There are some measuring spoon sets out there with 3/4tsp, and for this size loaf at least, that's really useful.
* Rye bread is lovely, and doesn't have to be dark and heavy. I replace 1/3 of the flour with wholegrain rye flour (this is after the sourdough is in, so for a yeasted bread perhaps it's more like 1/4?) and then put in about 1/3 white flour and 1/3 brown or wholewheat, as I don't like my rye bread too heavy. 3/4tsp caraway seeds are nice in there too.
* I tried kamut flour early on, so I probably never got it fine-tuned in terms of liquid and such. It produces a more yellow-tinged bread, rather a nice flavour, but it's a really pricey flour. I should get the odd packet of it, it's nice to play with and not that expensive if I'm only using it occasionally.
* Sorghum flour sucks up moisture like you've never seen! Seriously, if I hadn't been sure that I'd added the water, I'd have thought that there was no water in that bread. It's the only loaf I ever made that was completely unusable. I ended up using the sorghum for the odd batch of biscuits (erm, small cookies to Americans) where I add liquid by how the dough feels. I hear coconut flour has the same effect. I have coconut flour in the cupboard and no idea what to do with it.
* Oats, does anyone have experience with oats? I've just started playing with them again. I get Scott's rolled oats, and only had about 15g left. I stuck those in a loaf with wholewheat sourdough starter (you can feed your starter pretty much anything) and the rest as brown flour, and it came out lovely, though not noticeably oaty. How much oats can you put in without causing problems with texture and such? Oats are meant to be wildly healthy too, though not if they've been horribly processed. I'd really like to see how oaty I can make this.
What other grains are fun to play with? Has anyone successfully made a gluten-free loaf? My partner's ex is gluten-free on and off, and she says it's pretty much impossible. Plus I hear you don't have a hope unless there are eggs in there, and I'm vegan. But it'd be nice to have something up my sleeve in case I ever need to feed someone gluten-free.
What about pulses? That recipe book I mentioned has a fabulous Indian spiced bread, involving half a tin of chick peas (garbanzo beans) and a tablespoon of curry paste of your choice. I'm a wimp about chillies, I used korma. It's great, though it tends to collapse on top, and it's a yeasted bread which I have no idea how to convert into sourdough. I'm curious to see what else you can do with beans, they're good healthy things. Useful for replacing fat, but then bread is hardly high in fat to begin with.
Oh yes, my basic sourdough recipe, in case anyone is curious. This makes a 1lb loaf.
*150ml sourdough starter, brought out of the fridge 30 min or more earlier
* 100ml water
* 1 tablespoon margarine, butter or oil
* 255g brown flour
* 3/4 tsp salt
* 1 tbsp syrup (e.g. agave, date syrup) or sugar
Bake on the gluten-free setting. Stir 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup water into the remaining sourdough starter, cover the container with a hanky and an elastic band, leave out while the bread is baking and then sling it back in the fridge.
If you have a Panasonic, I believe you are meant to put the ingredients in there in reverse order.
Ooh, what about brazil nuts? I am wondering what it would be like, in terms of both nutrition and taste, if I smuggled a fair bit of nuts and seeds into my bread. Sesame seeds or ground almonds could go in instead of some of the flour, and various seeds and nuts can be added on top of that. I assume I'd end up with a slightly higher fat and protein content, and a small amount of the various nutrients you get from those things. It just struck me that one brazil nut provides you with enough selenium for the day. Not that I massively like brazil nuts, but if they were broken up in bread they might be nice.
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