Friday, March 27, 2009

The Bread Experiment

I'm going to have a little experiment. I'm going to see if I can make bread for the family every week instead of buying a loaf each week at the grocery store. Why go to the trouble? Well, there are lots of good reasons, actually. For one thing, when you make your own bread, you get to control what goes into it. The other day, Jon happened to take a closer look at the ingredients on our current favorite bread, and discovered it had high fructose corn syrup in it - among other things. Well, just look for a brand that doesn't have that, you say? Sure! If you can find one. (Yes, I am sure there are some, but that's not my point).

Also, it's a little cheaper to make your own bread. But, the main reasons for me are that it tastes better, and it's fun! There's nothing like the feel of warm dough as you knead it and shape it - and the smell of baking bread wafting through the house is heavenly! Of course there's one other bonus - if you do it right, it just tastes better than store bought bread. And just think - Owen will be growing up on homemade bread! How many kids can say that these days?

Now, I have never made just plain old, everyday bread before. I have made rustic breads, pizza doughs, and quick breads (although those don't really count because they are a completely different process). So I will need to experiment with different recipes for a while until I find some family favorites.

Today, I chose to go with the Wheat Bread recipe in the "New Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook". You can't go wrong with Better Homes and Gardens when you want something basic. There's a reason why that book is in everybody's kitchen.

The recipe said you could either shape the dough into a loaf, or roll it jelly roll style before putting it in the loaf pan. Since it makes two loaves, I decided to roll one and shape the other, to see if it made any difference.

Then, after letting them have their second rise in the pans, I baked them and cooled them on racks. Jon got home just as they were cool enough to slice. As you can see, several slices were consumed before I had the presence of mind to take a picture of my finished bread.

It turned out very tasty. A bit small. I don't know if maybe I didn't get the temperature of the water quite right before adding it to the yeast/flour mixture, or if it's just because it has some whole wheat flour in it, which has a tendency not to fluff up as well. Next time I will use the candy thermometer instead of eyeballing it and testing the temp with my finger, just to make sure. As for rolling vs. shaping, the only thing I can tell you right now is that the shaped one seemed to conform to the pan better. The rolled one rose upwards, but didn't expand outwards enough to touch the sides of the pan. I haven't cut into both yet, so I can't tell you if there is any difference on the inside.

Despite being a little smaller than I expected, the bread sure is good! Dense, but not heavy. Moist, but not soggy. Very nice flavor overall.

I made Owen some grilled cheese with it for dinner. He enjoyed it until his teething pain got the better of him. Poor little guy! (I ate the rest.)

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