Cheap Bread (Improved March 9, 2013)

You can make your own bread and get a good upper body workout. I had been managing to buy the $3 whole wheat bread I like for $2.00 a loaf on sale most of the time. (Not organic, not stone ground.)
I filled a shelf in the freezer whenever that happened. However, the cost of wheat is raising the price of a loaf of bread to something more like what it's actually worth.

Scroll down for No-Knead Easy Crusty Artisan Bread

Even using the very best local organic hard winter wheat stone ground flour, it costs about $1.60 for a loaf to make myself. Then I get something like a $6 health food store loaf. I work for thirty minutes to get the dough for three small or two large loaves started its first rising. Then the rest of the four or so hours I just have to be around to check on it and do the next stages, which take a couple of minutes.

If you haven't made bread before, you might start by finding a bread machine at a yard sale and making it that way first. (Make sure you get the manual!) After I wore out two bread machines from using them weekly, I started to make it by hand. What I found out that I'd failed to learn back in the seventies is that you have to knead whole wheat dough for at least 15 minutes. That's good, hard work!

Also, I found I really had to use a little white (unbleached) flour or it was just too heavy and crumbly. Whole wheat bread that hasn't been kneaded enough tastes like nice moist muffins when it's fresh and warm. Once it cools you can't even slice it, it's so crumbly.

Obviously this is not for gluten sensitive people. As far as I know it's quite difficult to make good yeast bread with spelt flour.

Here's the recipe and method I'm using these days.

Equipment:
  1. Large heavy ceramic or glass bowl
  2. Thermometer (from the yogurt-maker) optional
  3. Two 4"x9" loaf pans
  4. Electric beaters
  5. Wooden spoon
  6. Large cutting board

Ingredients:
2 cup hard unbleached flour
5+cups whole wheat flour (Red Fife hard winter wheat is best)
2 teaspoons traditional dry yeast
1 tsp sugar
2 3/4 cups warm water (just out of the hot tap)
2 tsp salt
3/8 cup butter
1/4 cup molasses (if it's blackstrap, make half of it honey)

My best discovery has been three small, straight-sided pans (4"x8"x3.5" high). If they evaporated, I'd run right out and buy three more. Whole wheat flour, especially stone-ground, needs all the help it can get to rise high. The other thing is to knead it for fifteen minutes, really stretching it a lot.

Begin:
  • Put the bay's-bath-warm water in the big bowl with the teaspoon of sugar.
  • Sprinkle the yeast over it and wait no more than 10 minutes.
While waiting:
  • Measure the flour into separate containers
  • Melt the butter and mix the molasses/honey and salt in
Mixing:
  • When the 10 minutes are up, and the yeast is a beige scum on the water, mix the molasses, melted butter, and salt into it.
  • Drop in the unbleached flour and one cup of the whole wheat. Beat for exactly two minutes with the electric beaters. This gets the gluten worked up. You can mix it with a spoon 200 times, but it's not quite the same.
  • Add one more cup of the whole wheat flour and beat briefly.
  • Use a table knife to mix in more flour. When it's just barely manageable, turn it out onto a well-floured board.
Kneading:
  • Wash your hands and the bowl, dry the bowl and grease it with butter. Put it aside.
  • Knead the dough for fifteen minutes. First keep folding flour into the dough until it's not too sticky to handle. Then use the heels of your hands to roll the dough into a fat rope. Then pick it up, letting it stretch down and whip it into a knot. Repeat until the time's up. Stretching the dough over and over makes the gluten elastic so the bread isn't crumbly and the texture of the bread will be fine. It's better not to use up all the flour than to make the dough too dry. The dough will be smooth and elastic. You might need a bit more or less flour. Six cups makes a more tender dough, but still a bit sticky. "Make the dough really soft.. to the point where it just pulls away from the bowl... then knead with lots of flour on the board and your hands... lots less trouble this way..." (A great tip from David, a ship's cook).
Rising:
  • Make a ball and roll it around in the buttered bowl so it's all greased. Cover the bowl with a tea towel. Pre-heat the oven for thirty seconds to one minute and turn it off. Leave the oven light on throughout the risings.
  • Place the covered bowl in the oven for an hour on a hot day, an hour and a half in winter. You want the dough to have doubled in size. It's warm and smells great and feels alive!
  • Punch the dough down, make a ball again. Put it in the oven for half as long as it took to double the first time, check to see that it's doubled in size.
  • Grease the loaf pans with shortening or butter (oil soaks in too much).
  • Cut the dough in half (or three if you found small pans).
 

Forming the loaves:

  • Flatten a section of dough into a disk. Start at one side and carefully roll it tightly into a cylinder. If you do it loosely a large air pocket can form when the loaf rises.
  • With the sides of your hands, flatten the ends as if sealing them off and fold the flat bits under, giving your loaf four corners.
  • Put the loaves seams down in the pans. Cover them with the towel and raise the dough as long as the second rising took. Watch it carefully because if the loaves get too puffy they'll hang over the sides and fall in the middle. They should just barely double. They'll rise a bit more on the counter while the oven is pre-heating, and a bit more while baking.
Baking:
  • Take the loaves out and pre-heat the oven to 350.
  • Bake 35 minutes. Tapping the bottom of a loaf will sound hollow.
  • Cool before slicing.

 No-Knead Easy Crusty Artisan Bread

This is dense, chewy bread, much like a bagel.

1 tsp. traditional dry yeast
1/3 cup lukewarm water
1 1/4 cups water
2 tsp. salt
3 1/2 cups of flour

 

Dissolve yeast in the small amount of lukewarm water and the salt in the large amount.


Put flour into a mixing bowl.
Make a hollow in the flour and pour in both cups of liquid.

With a table knife quickly stir the liquid in the middle, letting the flour slowly fall in at the edge of the swirling mixture. Knead barely enough to mix in the last of the flour.

Cover the bowl tightly with cling plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 8 hours. 12 or 24 is fine, too.

Divide into two loaves. Cover loaves with a tea towel on a cornmeal-sprinkled plate or a pizza peel for an hour or less. (It won't have risen fully – the loves will expand while baking.)

Put a pan of water on the lower rack in the oven. Preheat oven (and ceramic baking slab, if you have one) to 500˝F.

Spray loaves with water and transfer to slab (or cornmeal-sprinkled cookie sheet).

Time 10 minutes. Then turn heat down to 350˝F, spray loaves again. Time for 15 minutes.

Spray loaves again and time for final 5 minutes.

To keep the crust crisp and chewy, don't wrap in plastic even after they're cooled.

The loaves pictured are dense German rye: 1 1/2 cups hard whole wheat, 1 cup rye, 1 cup hard unbleached flour. If you use all white bread flour, you'll have crusty French loaves – make them long!


 

I also took a shot of the local spelt flour I use in my sweet quick breads. I wouldn't try making yeast bread with it.

Try making pizza dough from scratch with this low cheese, high vegetable white pizza recipe.

 

10in10DietBreadmaking.pdf 10in10DietBreadmaking.pdf
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