Saturday, March 17, 2012

Bread Making

I love walking past the bakery in the early morning, smelling those wonderful fresh-baked bread aromas. It is carb heaven! But bakery bread is expensive, supermarket bread is limp and unexciting, and I didn't know how to DIY...  until recently.

I'm happy to say I've hit my straps with this breadmaking business. I wouldn't say I'm a master baker (far from it!) but I'm turning out reliably edible loaves and rolls. As my mate reminded me yesterday, a bread-making apprenticeship takes a full three years, so getting decent bread after a few weeks 'aint bad.

Here's why I bake my own bread:

1) It's cheap! I haven't done a detailed price comparison, but the good bread we used to buy is about $5 a loaf, and now I am turning out a replacement for about $1.

2) It's quick. Sure, it takes time to rise, but that doesn't need supervision. I probably spend around five minutes of my actual time making the bread from start to finish. Since I used to make a trip to the shops once a week just to top up our bread, this is actually saving me time. (This only works because I'm home a lot. If I worked away from home I think it would be much easier to buy.)

3) It's flexible. Burgers for dinner? Make rolls... and why not make kid sized ones for the littlies and some chunky ones for mum and dad? Peanut doesn't like sesame seeds? No worries, only seed half the loaf. And don't get me started on the stuff you can add TO the bread. (Seriously, don't, we'd be here for hours.)

4) It's healthy. I know what's in it, and what's not.

Speaking of what's in it, I thought I would share my recipe here, now that I've tweaked it into submission:

4 cups of bakers flour
1.5 teaspoons of yeast
1.5 teaspoons of salt
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 tablespoon of sugar
1 to 2 cups of warm water.

Adding the water is the tricky bit, it's flour and weather dependent. It took a while to learn how the dough was supposed to look.

I make my bread in a KitchenAid mixer, then oven bake. One massive downside to moving house so often is having to learn the peculiarities of a new oven. (My oven three houses ago turned out PERFECT pork crackling, but I haven't been able to make it properly since. I yearn for that oven every single time I make a Sunday roast. Clearly my life is a miasma of hardship.) My current oven is blissfully ignorant of the expected convention of the dial temperature correlating with actual interior cooking temperature. It is a petulant thing, full of hot spots and cold spots and damn it, the more I write about it the more I want to take to it with a baseball bat. But it can make bread.  

And now here's a bit of encouragement - if you are new to this bread making business and you get the first few quite wrong, keep on trying. Don't be discouraged if your first couple are a bit mushy or could be mistaken for door-stops. It won't take long before you get the hang of it.

I think the next step for me is to keep an eye out for some decent bread tins, so I can make nicer loaves, and more than one at a time.

Now, gentle reader, here is my question for the day - If you make bread, how much do you knead yours? Gently and quickly, or do you beat it into submission like I want to beat my oven?


  1. Interestingly enough, we were talking about buying a bread maker oven doo-daa this morning as I can't have wheat (yarda yarda) so were starting to look at alternatives...... In our oven, I can't seem to even get chicken nuggets right, let alone have the guts to attempt bread!!! I'd love to know if anyone has/ has used a bread oven, or secret "recipes" :D

    Love from,
    The most useless of people in the kitchen. :)

  2. Sounds delicious! That sentence you wrote starting with "My current oven" and finishing with "baseball bat" ...? I could have said all that. I feel your pain.

    I'm tempted to try your recipe but I wonder how many grams of yeast is in 1.5 teaspoons. If I could use a 7g or 8g sachet it would be perfect.

  3. I meant to also say that I make so many doorstops with doughy centres that my breadmaking is limited to pizza bases - love it! 10 mins kneading, unspecified time rising, it never seems to go wrong.

    My problem is not letting the base get too warm and floppy to transfer to the pizza stone on the giant spatula-thing without it folding over and making one great calzone of ingredients and doubled-over bread. More flour makes no difference. Topping a half-frozen base quickly is the only solution I've found ...? any ideas?

  4. Way way back last month when I used packet yeast instead of the clearly superior tub yeast (why have just one packet go off when you can waste an entire tub, I ask you?) people who measured their yeast in teaspoon were incredibly annoying. So I feel your pain, and I apologize.

    According to a teaspoon and a half of instant yeast is 4.25 grams, so there should be enough in a packet to just measure it out. Fiddly though!

    As for transference of pizza bases, have you tried flouring the blue hell out of your spatula, so the pizza base can just slide? I'm talking ALOT of flour. It shouldn't have too much effect on the cooking and you can just dust it off the cooked pizza base at the end. I'd be interested to know how you go if you try it... I just make mine on a metal baking tray, but I'd love a proper stone one day.

  5. Seriously start! I want a "Bread Recipes with the Accidental Housewife" section!

    How's hand kneading? I'm wanting to get stuck into the bread making arena soon.

  6. I knead mine until it 'feel' okay....and I guess the more you make you get to know....I recall somewhere around 10 minutes, ? but that seems a long time....the first knead is a long one, and the second after it has risen is always a short one....
    I make honey and oat bread mostly, keeps the kids from eating cereal all the time, and its lovely on a cold morning....I dream of being a super housewife and being up at Dawns crack to make the bread...but alas, I am a night time for the next day kinda bread maker....

  7. I knead mine until pinching the dough between a floured index finger and thumb feels the same as pinching my earlobe (which I do at the same time with the other hand). It can take a while, depending on the recipe, so I usually put on some upbeat music and knead to the rhythm of the song! It's a workout, mood lifter, and money saver all in one!