Monday, February 11, 2013

Adventures in Bread Baking

Awhile back, when I first tried Great Harvest's Honey Whole-Wheat sandwich bread, I absolutely fell in love. But the only two local options were at least 30 minutes away from our home, which presented a pretty big problem. Who is going to drive 30 minutes for bread? (Okay, I would, and I have, but I try not to spend time in my car if I can avoid it.)

Luckily, for a long time, Great Harvest had a stand at our local farmers' market, so we could buy our bread within walking distance. Sadly, that all changed recently, and no more walks to get bread. Also one of the two bakeries "near" us closed, so we're down to one option, 45 minutes away, closed on Sundays. We tried to buy regular wheat bread again (there are several pretty non-processed options out there), but the flavor just didn't compare.

So then I got to thinking--maybe I need a bread maker. I even researched options before stumbling onto several recipes online that don't require any machines or fancy mixers. I used one bowl, a few measuring devices, a wooden spoon, a board, and loaf pans to make this bread. It took awhile, but mostly because there's a lot of waiting for the dough to rise, and you know I used that time for other fun stuff. Like laundry.

Waiting for the dough to rise (I read that it rises faster in warm areas, so I stuck it next to the crock pot).

For this first attempt, I used a recipe from, Simple Whole Wheat Bread. I liked the look of the ingredients (all real food), and I thought it seemed simple enough. Step by step, my results seemed successful along the way. At one point, though, when I was kneading the bread, the recipe says, "Flour a flat surface and knead with whole wheat flour until not real sticky - just pulling away from the counter, but still sticky to touch. This may take an additional 2 to 4 cups of whole wheat flour." What?! I made my best guess and probably added at least 3 cups of flour to the dough to make it sorta-not-but-still-kinda sticky. Perhaps it wasn't sticky enough? Perhaps too sticky? Perhaps sticky but not sticking to the counter properly? 

The only other tough part (aside from being patient) (and aside from determining appropriate stickiness) was figuring out how to divide the dough evenly into three parts. I realize now, of course, in retrospect, that I could have weighed each part. Also, the dough didn't want to rise once I divided it into the loaf pans and promptly deflated as I was about to put it in the oven. Not sure what happened there.

Still, I'd say it's pretty tough to make bread without making your house smell amazing. The loaves are definitely too short for sandwiches, but the bread tastes absolutely delicious. We may or may not have already eaten half a loaf. 

Well, if you had told me a few years ago that soon enough I would be writing an entire blog post about bread--especially making my own bread--I would have called you crazy. And perhaps I'm the crazy one. Let's not go there. I just want you to know that making bread from scratch isn't all that difficult, and even if it doesn't go perfectly you still get delicious, inexpensive, healthy bread that fills your house with glorious aromas. Much better than a 30-minute drive to buy a five dollar loaf, huh?

Have you ever made your own bread? Any tips for my rising problem? And what should I do with these too-short-for-sandwiches loaves (besides making French toast, which is already on the agenda)?

Also, feel free to link up recipes and/or stories of bread making disasters. Those are always fun.

Happy Tuesday!


  1. Good for you! Homemade bread does make the house smell heavenly. One tip I have for you is that it might be easier to start with a white loaf of bread rather than wheat. Wheat bread doesn't rise as well, due to not having as much gluten. Once you get the hang of kneading, shaping, letting loaves rise, etc. with white flour then you can switch back to wheat. If you'd rather stick with wheat, I would suggest trying King Arthur's white wheat flour (a more forgiving flour) or adding gluten to your wheat bread recipe. See this FAQ ( for some other tips. Keep at it... I love to make my own bread; there's nothing more satisfying!

  2. i have never made homemade bread but really really want to. looks amazing!

  3. Okay, I got seriously obsessed with making bread over the last couple of years. I've got a kenwood mixer with a dough hook for combining ingredients and kneading. What I've found is whole wheat bread is more difficult to make rise. Try using whole meal spelt flour, it behaves a bit more like white flour...really yummy in cakes as well.

    Otherwise try this no-knead recipe. It's less work, and tasty!

    Actually check out the whole Artisan Bread in Five book it's amazing.

  4. Hmm... this round of bread was delicious. I think you're on you way to convincing me that we need a standing mixer.