Make your own bread
Anyone who’s ever had it will agree: there’s nothing quite like fresh-out-of-the-oven homebaked bread. Just the smell is heavenly. While there are many good breads available these days without all the preservatives and additives that used to plague the bakery aisle, they are usually quite expensive. Making your own bread means you can have the best bread at a fraction of the price.
I should point out here that I’m not talking about hand-kneaded artisan bread or sourdough, which would be a whole story of its own. This is about making everyday bread for toast and sandwiches the easiest way possible.
The invention of the domestic bread machine has revolutionised the way people make bread at home. If you have a good machine, it really is dead easy. Not that doing it the traditional way is all that hard. It’s just time-consuming and perhaps a bit tough on arthritic hands and wrists, though many people find the kneading and rolling relaxing, almost Zen-like, and the end result very satisfying.
Arguably the best aspect of making bread with a machine is the ability to set the timer so it starts making your bread at 4am while you slumber contentedly until you are woken a few hours later by that unmistakable, exhilarating aroma. Fresh, warm bread for breakfast toast awaits you. Also, the newer machines are more energy-efficient than the average oven, so you are making an environmental saving, too.
The key to making really good bread is to use the best flour and the variety available today is amazing. Choose your preference from spelt flour, wholemeal, wholegrain, organic, rye, high-fibre white, rice flour … the list goes on.
The only other things you need for great bread are yeast and water, but you can also add dried fruits, banana, roasted garlic cloves, olives, pumpkin seeds, whole soybeans, herbs, spices … again, it’s an endless list.
You don’t have to use a bread improver; the need for one will depend on the flour you use and how long you plan to keep your bread before eating it all. If you have a big family and can polish off a daily loaf of regular wholemeal bread, you won’t need to use improver. If you do want to use an improver, it’s probably best to buy one from your healthfood shop as some have artificial ingredients.
You may want to start with one of the many organic bread mixes on the market, which are generally ready measured and contain natural improvers. Some are made from tapioca and rice flours and therefore gluten-free, yet still taste like normal bread.
There are also mixes that can go straight into a loaf tin in the oven and mixes for easy-to-make flat breads. These are all good options when you first start your bread making or if you want really easy bread that works every time.
Once you really get into it, though, you’ll probably get the urge to be more adventurous and try some variations you mix up yourself. You’ll probably even want to give the traditional method a go for the occasional dinner party. Who knows, you may even want to progress to the art of making sourdough.
For frugal bread-making, buy your flour in bulk at bulk food stores and some good delis. Some health food shops that carry organic and spelt fours and mixes will supply in bulk.
There are any number of recipes on the internet and in cookbooks, and bread machines usually come with a book of recipes. Here are a few excellent websites for recipes (including some specifically for breadmakers) and information on organic bread ingredients:
- If you are baking bread in the oven, a small tray of water at the bottom of the oven will give a perfect golden crust.
- Fresh yeast tastes better than dried but is harder to get and the baking process takes longer.
- Out-of-date yeast equals dud bread. Make sure your yeast is in date and stored properly.
- Use your bread machine to make pizza dough — a basic dough with olive oil, coarse sea salt and rosemary is delicious.
Bread represents comfort and warmth. Did you know that bread also makes a delicious savoury alternative to wedding cake? It’s true! Find out about the savoury options to use as wedding cake ideas or for entertaining.
Make your own bread
If you want to be sure that this most basic of food staples is a good as it can be for flavour and health, making your own is the way to go.