So much has been written about bread that I haven’t a lot to add except to say that I was appalled when the low-carb diet craze demonized bread. Bread? The staff of life? Now we know that bread made from whole grains and baked with loving hands at home is not bad for one’s health unless you are one of the 1% of the population that has Celiac disease. Actually, recent nutritional studies have found that bread is a very valuable food and that the use of whole grains and other add-ins such as fruit and nuts only adds to that nutritional worth. Thank Goodness.
“Man does not live by bread alone”–but oh, how good bread is! Good bread can be the center point of every meal,. How did it happen that so many have sworn it off and gone “gluten-free” or “no carb”? Many will tell you that the wheat that is grown today is different than that of our grandparent’s or that something else has changed in the soil or climate. I’m not absolutely sure about that, but I don’t think so. Perhaps store-bought bread has too many additives and preservatives to make it agreeable to our bodies, or perhaps it is just a trend in the on-going quest for perfect bodies and immortality that plagues this generation. But I believe that good, homemade bread is essential to a happy, healthy life.
Notice the words, good and homemade. Bread is so easy to make now that there is really no reason not to make your own. It may sound like heresy to some, but I have two bread makers that I use but I only use the “dough” setting. It is so easy that I hesitate to really tell anyone except for my premise that good bread is essential. Put the ingredients of your recipe in the bread maker in the order that the manual tells you and turn the machine on the dough setting, Approximately 1-1/2 hours later, your dough has been mixed, kneaded and gone through the first rising. Take it out and punch it down and shape it into whatever form you are baking, be it loaves, rolls, baguettes, ovals and rounds, pretzels or any other form. Let rise a second time in its pan (covered) and bake. Voila! Delicious, homemade bread.
Another great thing about making your own yeast dough is that you control what goes into your bread or rolls–rather you control what DOESN’T go into it! I am trying to eat healthier all the time and whole grains are a large part of a healthy diet, Without the preservatives and dough conditioners found in commercial products, some alterations may be necessary. I use a couple of teaspoons of gluten flour (sometimes sold as vital gluten) in my completely whole grain recipes. It really helps the strength of the dough so that it can rise higher. Without it, the texture of the whole grain can actually cut the strands of four keeping it from rising as high as white flour breads.
Our ancestors never doubted the value of bread. It has been around for thousands of years. I’m not sure how the first man figured out to grind the grains they found growing wild and mixing the result with water and baking it in the sun on a flat stone but historians tell us that that’s how it all probably began. It used to be a formidable task–even as recently as our grandmothers’ day who baked bread for a week for a family–usually on Saturday. Today we can use our heavy-duty mixers or bread makers (on the “dough” setting) to mix and knead and (in the case of the bread maker) raise the bread in a nice, warm environment
It took me several years to learn to make good yeast bread. I was probably intimidated a little by my mom who won blue ribbons for her bread when she was just a teen and always made it look simple, but never really taught me how. She was not one to measure or write down directions and so my first loaves as a bride turned out like bricks and I didn’t know why. I finally asked her to show me, step by step, how she did it and talk me through how she knew when the water was the right temperature so as not to kill the yeast (which I had evidently been doing to produce those “bricks”), how to tell when the dough was kneaded just right–and also how to tell when it was done. Now I can bake a pretty mean loaf and the bread machine takes all the guess work out of temperature control. The main thing is to test your yeast or “proof” it by dissolving it in warm water with a pinch of sugar and waiting for 5 minutes. It should get foamy and bubble up. If not go buy some new yeast. I store mine in the freezer.
Here’s a great recipe to start you out:
Whole Wheat Bran Rolls
1 pkg. active dry yeast
3/4 cup warm water
1/4 cup orange juice
1 tsp. lemon juice
2 cups white whole wheat flour (King Arthur is recommended)–or regular whole wheat flour
1 3/4 cups white flour
4 tsp. gluten flour (vital gluten)
1/2 cup whole bran
1/4 cup brown sugar (packed)
1 1/2 tsp. salt
3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1/8 cup wheat germ (don’t put into bread maker, see recipe)
1 egg yolk, coxed with 1 Tbsp water (don’t put in bread maker, see recipe)
Put ingredients into the vegetable-sprayed container of a bread machine in the following order: water, juices, oil, whole egg, flours, bran, sugar, salt and yeast. Set machine to dough setting, When machine signals done, turn dough out onto lightly floured board. Knead lightly for 1 minute. Cover with a towel or inverted bowl and let rest for 10 minutes. Divide into 12 sections (for large rolls) or 24 (for smaller rolls). Roll into balls. Flatten each ball with a rolling pin; then shape into a smooth ball by tucking edges together. Place in a greased baking pan are enough to hold rolls separated by 1 inch. (May take 2 pans). Cover with sprayed plastic wrap, sprayed side down. Cover that with a clean kitchen towel tucking it in under pan, Place in oven that has been heated to 170 degrees and then turned off before placing pans. Or put in a very warm place in kitchen. Let rise until double (about 1 hour). Mix together water and egg yolk with a fork. Brush egg mixture over rolls and sprinkle with wheat germ. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes. Do not bake on rack above or below any other dish or pan in oven,