Category Archives: Bread 101

Bread 101: the tools

Bread 101

These are the tools I use to make bread.  I didn’t photograph the Kitchenaid, but I don’t use that for normal sandwich bread.

#1: Breadmaker: mine is a Breadman, and it’s probably 4+ years old.  When I first started making bread I did the entire process in the breadmaker. Since we don’t like the hard crust and the hole in the bottom of each loaf, I’ve switched to a new method.  I throw all the ingredients in the breadmaker, let it do it’s thing on the dough cycle for about an hour, then plop the dough into my own bread pan and let it rise a bit more while the oven preheats.  As soon as the oven is heated I put the bread pan in the oven.

#2: Vitamix: We use this several times a day around our house – smoothies, soups, salsa and for grinding wheat.  To use a VitaMix as a wheat grinder you do need to buy the additional dry canister.  You might choose to make only white bread or have  a different type of wheat grinder.  This is what I use.  You could buy whole wheat flour, too.  But I don’t like store bought whole wheat flour at all.

#3: Bread keeper: This one is just from Target, I believe, and it’s lasted us about 3 years so far.

#4 Bread pan: A normal bread pan is about 5×8 or 5×9 inches.  Those loaves didn’t fit in my bread keeper!  So I bought a special pan that is about 12×4.5 inches.  I love it.  I found a similar bread pan here.

#5  Wheat gluten: If you’re making bread with whole wheat, you will need wheat gluten.  This will help your bread rise.   I use 1 Tablespoon per cup of whole wheat flour.

#6 Dough Enhancer: when I started making bread I noticed that when I cut into it, I would often lose a lot to crumbing, and even the slices I cut felt not quite right.  Dough enhancer to the rescue.  1Tablespoon per loaf does the trick and makes the bread smooth and so it doesn’t crumb.

#7 Electric knife: We got this for our wedding and used it just several times a year for Big Meat, usually at holidays.  When I started making homemade bread I hated how the slices were uneven – thin on top, fat on the bottom – you know what I’m talking about, right?  I started looking into heavy duty slicers like you see in the grocery stores for meats, cheeses and breads.  Then I had a lightbulb moment and tried the electric knife.  Perfect slices every time.  Yeah!  I also love that the bread doesn’t get squished down when it’s being cut like I tend to do to loaves when using a serrated bread knife.

Not pictured:

Bread flour: Bread flour has more protein and gluten than all purpose flour.  It rises better than all purpose and also gives bread a better chew, if that makes sense.  Depending on the bread, you might not even be able to tell what flour was used, but generally all purpose flour can make breads more tough. I have a five gallon bucket of bread flour in the pantry (next to my 5 gallon bucket of all purpose flour!).  You might want to use all bread flour and not grind any whole wheat, or you might want to start out with half and half.  Whatever is fine and the recipe doesn’t change depending on the type of flour you use.

Yeast: I already posted on that here.

KitchenAid: or other good quality stand mixer.  This will make bread mixing and kneading a lot easier, especially if you don’t have a bread maker. Some recipes I don’t use the bread maker for at all (french bread, foccacia, etc.) – I only use the stand mixer for mixing and kneading those.

Any questions? Anything else you’re wondering about that you want me to post on?

Bread 101: yeast

yeast

I’m teaching my good friend, Shanelle, about bread making, and if you’re interested in learning, maybe you’ll be able to pick something up, as well. There will probably be a bunch of posts in the next little bit with more details about yeast breads. Really, if there is one thing I could teach everyone, it would be NOT to be scared of yeast breads! They’re fun to make, and when you do it at home, you can make them yummier, healthier, and for way less money than you can buy at the store.

To make yeast bread you need yeast. When Shanelle was here I showed her my big thing of yeast and she said “you don’t buy the little packets?” NO. WAY. And here is why:

yeast

yeast

yeastSee the little packets?  $3.05 per ounce. Those are for people who might be trying out yeast bread baking, or only making one recipe in a blue moon.  If you bake more than several times a year, steer clear of the little packets.

The small jars are your next option.  A much better price at $1.85 per ounce.  But that small jar wouldn’t last me very long at all.  Check out the brick of yeast: 23 cents per ounce.  A HUGE difference from the packets – $2.82 cheaper per OUNCE.

The great thing about yeast is that if you put it in a cool dry place, it will keep for a very long time – I’ve read that it will keep for more than 5 years, but I’ve never had it around that long to test.  When I buy a large brick of yeast, I’ll put about 1/3 of it in a zip loc in my fridge, and keep the rest in a zip loc in the freezer.  When my fridge zip loc runs out, I’ll just pour more in.  Main point here: don’t think that by buying the brick of yeast you’ll end up losing money by throwing it away one day because it’s old.  Keep it in the fridge or freezer, and make bread even just once in awhile, and you’ll be good to go.

Here’s a big thing about bread machines and yeast (I usually make our sandwich bread in a bread machine, but bake it in the oven): you do NOT need to buy bread machine yeast.  But you DO need to use the yeast at room temperature for it to work properly, if you buy the rapid rise yeast.  In fact, when you’re using a bread machine, all your ingredients should be at least at room temp to work well.

yeast

Here’s the thing I just barely learned about yeasts.  I have been using rapid rise forever.  Many recipes tell you to proof the yeast as the first step in your recipe. Proofing yeast means adding it to warm water, often with a bit of sugar or salt.  When I use rapid rise, this is unnecessary.  A couple weeks ago I was running low on yeast and bought new…I wasn’t paying attention to the bag and came home with active dry yeast.  I could tell as soon as I opened the package that it looked different – see the small balls as opposed to the rapid rise that looks like tiny seeds or grains of sand?  Well I used the ADY (active dry yeast) the same was as I had been using rapid rise and it didn’t work AT ALL!  Lesson learned.  Active Dry Yeast MUST be proofed – added to a small bit of warm water (no sugar or salt necessary) to kind of melt before it is added to a recipe.

That’s about all I can think of for a starter guide to yeasts.  If you’ve got any questions, let me know in the comments!