I'm talking about bread made from freshly milled whole grains.
Feeding your family the way nature intended.
There are some basic "rules" for making yeast breads and these are just a few that have helped me in my bread-baking-endeavors. Yes, yeast breads typically have a "rise" time, but the end result is sooo worth the wait! Also, there can be a little bit of a learning curve, so be patient, for you will not regret your efforts.
Follow these bread making tips
to get you going:
Flour is the first place to start. I only use freshly milled whole grain flours. What does that mean? Well, I have a grain mill and I buy whole wheat berries and other grains and mill them in my own kitchen. Yes, I mill my own flour and so can you. All you need is a grain mill and some grain.
Freshly milled whole grains are packed with tons of nutrients and are so absolutely necessary for the body. If you do not mill your own flour yet, simply use unbleached white flour and substitute about a fourth with whole wheat flour.
In order to stay on the subject of bread making tips, I won't cover the nutritional details here, but you can learn more on the following posts & pages:
Click here to check out which grain mill is right for you.
The amount of liquid used determines the amount of flour needed. Another words, start with your liquids (water, oil, etc.) in your bowl first, add your sweetener, salt, gluten and lecithin then add your flour and yeast on top.
Add just enough flour until the dough cleans the sides of the mixer bowl completely. The bread dough should be slightly sticky. Adding too much flour will create a compact dense loaf; what I call brick bread. It is always better to error on the side of too sticky than too dry a dough; for you can always add more flour, but it's tough to add more liquid.
Your liquid should be warmed for the yeast to activate. It should be somewhere in the 110-115 degree range (baby-bottle warm). If the liquid is too hot it will kill your yeast; if too cold then the rise-time will take longer. I recommend having an instant read thermometer on hand for easy testing.
- Water - Most recipes call for water, but other liquids will work as well. Water will contribute to a crispier crust.
- Milk or Buttermilk - You can substitute either for some or all of the water, just be sure to warm it as described above. Milk or buttermilk will create a more tender, softer texture.
Most any healthy fat will do: Coconut oil (my first choice), virgin or expeller-pressed (non-coconut flavor), extra virgin olive oil, melted butter or grapeseed oil.
I do not recommend refined canola, corn, vegetable (soybean) or sunflower oil, unless it is organic and cold-pressed. (See the Ingredients page for more details.)
For yeast breads you will need at least a smidgen of sweetener for the yeast to "eat". Other than that you don't really need a sweetener. You can use pretty much any type of sweetener in your bread, but I buy organic and prefer the following:
- Honey - Honey is a great sweetener. It has lots of nutrition. I recommend only using raw honey; and buying local is even better. Using local raw honey can help with some sinus allergies because the bees use the pollen from your area.
- Sucanat - Sucanat, which stands for sugar-cane-natural is dehydrated cane juice with the molasses still in it. So, it does have a stronger molasses flavor. Because it is unrefined sugar it still maintains it few trace minerals which include: iron, calcium, vitamin B6, potassium and chromium, therefore the body metabolizes it better. You can substitute it 1:1 for refined white sugar, which by the way has absolutely no nutritional value as well as being bleached.
- Raw Cane Sugar - Dehydrated cane juice is its other name. More processed than the Sucanat, but still a better choice to refined, bleached white sugar. I usually use a reduced amount in most of my recipes.
- Yeast - Instant or dry active yeast - My preference is instant yeast because you don't have to proof it first. You know, mix it with warm water and wait for it to bubble. Instant yeast, you just throw it in and get to mixing. I like simple.
- Salt - Salt is used to flavor and brings out the other flavors in your bread as well as controls the action of the yeast. It slows the rise-time, allowing dough to develop its flavors. It also strengthens the gluten,
thus creating a better texture. Salt can kill your yeast, so it's better to add your liquids, salt, sweetener, gluten and half the flour and the yeast on top. I use Real Salt Natural Sea Salt brand. It is completely unprocessed and maintains all its nutrients and trace minerals, which aids in not raising the blood pressure.
- Gluten - Also known as Vital Wheat Gluten. Gluten is an optional ingredient used to help your breads rise lighter and fluffier. Whole wheat has gluten in it naturally, but sometimes you may need a little help getting your bread to rise better.
A little goes a long way, so a teaspoon or so per four cups of flour is usually sufficient. Sometimes, however, when the humidity is a little higher you might need a little bit more, but not to exceed two teaspoons per loaf. Commercial white flour is basically gluten and starch; so, adding too much gluten is like adding white flour to your recipe and will change the ratio of flour to fiber. Note: Gluten is totally optional.
- Lecithin - Lecithin is also naturally found in wheat; I always recommend adding extra. Lecithin is an emulsifier, which helps create a softer loaf and extend the bread's shelf-life. Lecithin can come from sunflowers and soybeans (however, I do not recommend the use of the soy form); I only use non-GMO sunflower lecithin or use Rice Bran Extract as a lecithin alternative. Lecithin is an optional ingredient.
- Eggs - Eggs add flavor, nutrients and strength to your bread. Because eggs are naturally rich in fat and lecithin, they help make the dough have a softer, smoother texture and more tender crust. Also, eggs are a leavening agent, therefore, they assist in the rising of the bread.
Kneading the dough is an important aspect of yeast bread baking. In order for yeast breads to get tall and fluffy the gluten strands in the wheat need to straighten out, which contributes to the rising process. In a mixer with a dough hook, I use the Bosch Universal Plus Mixer, knead the dough for 6-8 minutes; by hand will take a little longer, about 10 minutes. Be sure to knead the dough long enough. The dough can be kneaded too much, so keep with the directions of your recipe. To test if the dough is sufficiently kneaded, with oil on your hands, cut off a golf ball size piece of dough, knead it with your fingers a few times, then gently stretch the dough to make a thin flat piece. You should be able to hold the piece up and see light through it; if the dough breaks easily then more kneading may be required or the dough is too dry; work in a little more liquid. Your dough may also come out a little "shaggy" like mine; that's OK. You just don't want it stiff or dry; it will not rise well and be heavy. Again, it may need more liquid.
Use olive oil on your hands and your work surface. Simply spread a thin layer of olive oil on the surface to knead and shape your dough. Best not to use flour unless your dough is extra sticky because the added flour will make your bread heavy, dense and dry.
Preparing Your Dough:
- Cutting - Again, with olive oil on your hands and work surface, turn out dough and knead a few times by hand. Using a dough cutter or sharp knife, cut dough into portions. Bread dough does not like to be torn, so cut the dough instead.
- Weighing - It is wise to weigh your dough for your specific pan. Different size pans require different amounts of dough; not to mention if you are baking multiple loaves at one time they all need to weigh the same so they will cook evenly. I use a digital kitchen scale for best results. To calibrate your scale, place the pan you will use on top, press the start button, this will bring the weight to zero. Place a portion of dough in the pan till it reads the necessary amount:
Pan 9" x 5" = 1 lb. 12 oz. dough (closest to sandwich size)
Pan 8-1/2" x 4-1/2" = 1 lb. 10 oz. dough
Pan 8" x 4" = 1 lb. dough
Note: For stuffed breads use 2 oz. less dough per pan. Be sure to grease your pan ahead of time; I use butter or coconut oil.
Rolling your dough
Using a rolling pin or your hands press the dough into a simple rectangle about an inch or so thick and as wide as your bread pan. No need to be precise, just even across the rectangle.
Shaping the dough
Starting rolling up your dough like a sleeping bag; pulling back gently with each curl of the dough. This creates surface-tension which will help your dough rise better. Pinch the seam, tuck under the ends and place your beautiful dough in the bread pan. Cover with plastic wrap to rise or a light damp dish towel. I prefer plastic wrap because is traps the heat and moisture better than a towel does.
Just a quick note about bread pans. Yeast breads need pans with tall sides to support their weight. Silicone coated aluminized steel (USA brand) or other heavy gauge steel, stainless steel, stoneware, silicone or glass are the pans of choice. Bread pans come in many sizes, so choose the size that will best fit your needs. My preference is the 9" x 5" USA Stainless Steel Bread Pans. This size is perfect for sandwich bread and the make is of heavy gauge aluminized steel with a unique silicone coating, PTFE and PFOA free. Love the USA Pans! Click on the link to order.
Yeast dough usually needs to rise at least once, but not always. Simply roll, shape and place in pan. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp light towel and allow loaf to rise; rise until doubled. Following are some rising options:
- Stove Top or Counter Top - Place covered pans on a cooling rack and leave on the stove or counter top. The cooling rack aids in air circulation for better rising. Not recommended to rise dough filled pans directly on granite, etc. type surfaces; they are naturally cool which will result in a slower rise and many times only the top of the dough will rise leaving the bottom dense and heavy. Make sure it is a draft-free space.
- Oven - Without turning on the oven, place the covered pan in your oven with a pan of boiling water in the bottom or just the oven light on; close the door. The draft-free, warm, moist environment allows the dough to rise - "stretch" better. I do not recommend turning the oven on, then off and rising that way. This tends to be too hot and can deflate your dough.
- Refrigerator - Yes it can be done; you can rise your bread in the refrigerator for a slow rise (for double rise recipes). Again, place plastic covered bowl in refrigerator; when ready, punch down dough, shape, place in bread pan, cover and allow to rise at room temperature before baking.
- Double Rise - Some recipes call for two rise times, one in the bowl and one in the pan. To rise in the bowl, simply turn out dough onto an oiled surface, knead a few times, form into a ball, place in a bowl large enough for dough to double in size, cover with plastic wrap or damp towel and allow to rise until double - about 30 minutes to an hour or more. Remove cover, punch down dough with your fist, turn out dough again on an oiled surface and shape as desired. Note: If using the Bosch Universal Plus Mixer no need to remove from bowl; simply place both covers on bowl and allow dough to rise till double. When time is up, pulse a few times using the manual switch setting. Turn out dough and shape as desired.
It is best to preheat your oven to the proper recipe temperature. Most loaf breads bake at 350 degrees for approximately 30-40 minutes. If you are using darker pans cut the temp back to 325 degrees. Loaf yeast breads are done when the internal temp reaches 190 degrees. Use your instant read thermometer sticking the probe in the center of the loaf. Remove from oven and place on a cooling rack. Cool for 5 minutes in the pan. Remove loaf from pan and continue cooling on rack. If you leave the loaf in the pan too long after baking it will become soggy; so, get that bread out of there. For a softer crust drape a damp towel over the top of the loaf.