I’m no organic bread expert, but I’m adept enough that I used to make all our bread from scratch. Over the last year I’ve been too busy even for bread making, but I’ve been trying to get back into the swing of it, because all those little bread bags make me nuts.
Also, there’s a lot of bread ingredient shenanigans going on. I’ve been reading bread packages at the store and there’s stuff like added colors, added flavors, high fructose corn syrup, Monoglycerides and diglycerides (which may not be vegetarian depending on the source), PLUS half the so called natural breads at the store only contain about 20-30% organic content – lame.
Benefits of homemade organic bread…
- It’s not that tough and gives your arms a good workout.
- Cuts down on packaging like all those annoying bread bags and bread tabs.
- You’ll know what’s in your bread and can add healthy ingredient additions.
- Saves you money – even if you make organic and factor in the time involved – so long as you buy supplies in bulk.
- It’s fun. My son made his first very own batch of yeast rolls a couple weeks ago and he usually isn’t big on cooking, but he had fun shaping the dough and asked to make more.
- It tastes SO much better than store bought.
Cons of homemade organic bread…
It does take some time. I usually make bread while working. I start it, work, knead, work, bake and so on. Bread making doesn’t require too much time overall but you will need to schedule breaks from whatever you’re doing to deal with the bread.
Not as long lasting as store bought. This is actually sort of a pro. Store bought bread has added preservatives to make it last longer. Homemade usually doesn’t so it can get stale and old tasting fast. Really though, homemade bread tastes so good it doesn’t usually have a chance to go bad.
It’s not as soft as store bought. Homemade bread is more bulky and less light and fluffy. Although there are ways around this like you can knead to death (I’m talking 30 mins+) um no. Also if your loaf is too dense you may not be letting it rise long enough. Don’t time it, just wait for it to double in size. Or you may be adding too much flour, your yeast may be too old or your flour may not have enough gluten.
A lot can go wrong. Bread isn’t that hard I swear, but it’s hard enough that stuff can go wrong once in a while so be prepared to accept it and move on – cooking is an adventure. I’ve made some really terrible bread over the last 10 years but also some awesome bread. Luckily you learn as you go.
If you want help I suggest you check out The Bread Baker’s Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread which in my opinion is the only bread book you’ll ever need and it’s gorgeous! The bread genius who wrote it, Peter Reinhart, also has many other cool bread baking books but it’s silly to own too many.
A couple of things…
I don’t own a food processor or bread machine because why own extra stuff? I do everything by hand or with a blender (i.e. grinding flax and such). If you have bread making questions I can try to answer it in the comments but keep in mind that I know ZERO about bread machines. Here’s a bread machine guide.
If your recipe calls for a food processor I’m pretty sure you can do whatever is needed by hand. It’s fine to adapt bread recipes.
My roommate Dave says the bread recipe below is, “The best bread I’ve ever had.” My son Cedar likes whole wheat bread best, but he also liked this bread.
Make homemade organic honey oat bread – a simple starter bread recipe
Gather up ingredients: (makes 2 loaves)
- 2 tablespoons yeast
- About 1/3 cup of organic honey
- 1 and 1/4 cups of warm water (wrist warm – such as you’d test milk for a baby)
- 1 cup organic milk
- 2 teaspoons salt or sea salt
- 2 tablespoons olive oil – any kind works. I’ve used light and not so light, it’s all good. You can also use veggie oil, I just don’t buy it hence using olive oil.
- 2 and 1/2 cups organic whole wheat flour – I usually buy organic flour in bulk or I get Bob’s Red Mill brand whole wheat organic flour.
- About 4 cups unbleached organic white flour – I always get this in bulk. If none of your stores carry white organic flour in bulk I suggest Bob’s Red Mill organic flour – yes, Bob’s again. I like Bob’s because they’re an independent organic company and for me they’re local. QAI certifies them which is questionable, but overall I like this company.
- 2 tablespoons organic flaxseed meal or grind your own meal in the blender from whole flaxseed. Learn more about healthy flax. This is optional BTW. If you don’t have flax on hand this bread will still be great.
- 1 cup organic no frills oats. I get mine in bulk. Oats can be confusing if you’re new to using them. You may see steel cut oats or ground oats at the store, but that’s NOT what you want. You want whole organic oats. Here’s an example Bob’s Red Mill, Organic Rolled Oats but you should buy them in bulk to cut down on packaging and cost.
Make your bread!
- Put 1/2 cup of warm water in a large bowl. Sprinkle yeast over the water. Add 1 teaspoon of honey to the water. Let this stand for about 5 minutes (until soft and bubbly looking).
- Add the following to the yeast mixture – remaining warm water and honey, warm milk, salt and olive oil. Mix.
- Add all the wheat flour, your flax and 2 cups of white flour. Mix with your hands or a huge wooden spoon for about five minutes. It should be pretty darn hard to mix at the end.
- Add the oats and 1 more cup of white flour. Mix til oats are incorporated into the dough.
- Flour a surface, turn your dough out and knead like mad for about 10-20 minutes – adding a bit more flour to combat the stickiness if needed. I’ll be honest I get bored quickly and knead on the low side, but your bread will be better if you knead longer. If you need help kneading, check out this nice bread kneading tutorial.
- When bread is well kneaded it’ll feel springy, smooth and not at all sticky. At this point form your dough into one nice smooth ball.
- Place ball o’ dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover the bowl with a cloth and let it rise until doubled in size. Mine usually takes about an hour and a half. In a warmer house it could be only an hour. DO NOT time it though, just wait til it’s doubled, then…
- Get one of the kids to punch that dough down!
- Divide dough into two equal pieces. Shape into loaves and place in lightly oiled bread pans. Bread pans should be approximately 4′ x 8′. You can also form these into two little round loaves if you like. Cover your dough with a cloth and let it rise again until doubled. This rising session will likely take less time than the first did.
- Once the dough is doubled, turn on the oven to 350 degrees and pop the bread in there.
- Bake for about 30-40 minutes or until the bread is lightly browned and sounds hollow when you lightly tap it. Ovens vary temp wise so pay attention to yours and plan accordingly.
- Use oven mitts to turn your loaves out of the pans and let them cool on wire racks.
- Eat! This bread is awesome when fresh and warm.
To save bread:
I keep one loaf on the counter and one in the fridge, wrapped in foil or a reusable wrap, for toasted bread stuff. If your family eats a lot of bread don’t put a loaf in the fridge, as it dries the bread out. You can freeze homemade bread, but I think it ruins the taste.
NOTES & TIPS:
- I never preheat my oven, although most bakers would faint to hear me say that. I just hate wasting the energy. This one is your call. Preheat, don’t preheat, it’s up to you. My bread turns out fine without preheating so…
- One step I’m always forgetting is to grease my bread pans. This is a problem because bread is nicer, and easier to cut when cooled on a rack. Make sure you grease and then lightlly flour your bread pans!
- The crust of this bread will be slightly crusty. If you want a soft crust, glaze the bread loaf top with a little organic milk or butter before putting it in the oven to bake. You can also sprinkle the top (before baking and after glazing) with some light grains, like wheat germ for a grainy crust.
If you make this bread let me know what you think in the comments. If you adapt it, tell me what you did to make it your own.
Image #1©ulleo via Pixabay / Image #2©Hans via Pixabay / Images #3-4©Jennifer Chait