Monday, January 26, 2009

Bread 101

Freshly Baked Loaf of White Bread

Well, since we have had Muffin Monday and Soup Saturday here at Mountain Harvest Basket recently, I thought it was time for "Bread Baking Sunday". Well, so much for continuing with the fun alliteration...oh well, maybe "Sandwich Loaf Sunday"...

I have baked bread before "from scratch", but always with the aid of a bread machine to do the mixing and kneading etc. I would usually take the dough out of the machine before the baking cycle, and shape and bake it in my oven since I don't like the way my bread machine baked bread turns out. Funny shapes and hard crusts come out of that bread machine, but it does make mixing the dough an easy task. However, easy does not always give a good homemade product. So this time I decided to try my hand at mixing, kneading etc all by hand. I really want to be able to make great tasting, healthy and less expensive fresh breads for myself and my family.

So I started with this recipe I got from Farmgirl Susan from her great blogs Farmgirl Fare and A Year in Bread. She calls this bread Farmhouse White. I have tried several of her other recipes over the past year and have always been pleased with the results.

Since Farmgirl Susan's recipe for Farmhouse White bread makes 3 loaves of sandwich style bread, I decided that for this first bread making experiment I would only make one loaf just in case I really screwed up and it didn't turn out. I didn't want to waste 3 times the ingredients my first time up at bat.

I followed her instructions carefully and I was very pleased with the results of my first time making and baking a loaf of bread completely from scratch. Of course, her loaves of bread look so much better than mine do. Mine wasn't as tall and fluffy looking as hers were. She gives some hints on which loaf pans to use to get that tallness, and my pan was not exactly the right size. This does give me a good data point from which to progress with future baking projects.

I was very pleased with the taste and texture of this bread. It was moist yet not soggy. It was elastic enough to make a good sandwich without falling apart as my previous breads had. It tasted great, perhaps a bit salty for me (since I don't use salt in much of anything), and the crust turned out a beautiful light golden brown.

I will make this bread again. I will find better loaf pans. I will experiment with different kneading techniques and play with the ingredients.

Someday I want to make whole grain breads and crusty artisan loaves as well as this basic white sandwich style bread. I had a fun time baking on a cold and rainy Sunday. I just might enjoy this as a new hobby. I'll see how it goes.

Any suggestions from you all on which bread baking book I should buy that will tell me the basic methods and also have other recipes for me to try?

© Copyright 2009 Mountain Harvest Basket


frugalmom said...

Hoe did you know that I was looking for a new bread recipe to try?

Did you end up using the weight measurements? As opposed to the cups? I have heard and read that that makes for a great loaf of bread.....

I am going to try this out this week. Thanks for the great links. I hope mine turns out looking as great as yours.

Farmer Jen said...

Hi Marcee,
I used the measuring cups method, although I do have a small kitchen scale I could have used. I am just more familiar withe measuring cup method. Perhaps that is why my loaf looked so much different than Susan's. Or maybe it was my kneading technique, the type of flour I used, the rainy weather, the bowl I could get very complicated if I over-think it. I'll just play with it some more and see what happens. Ha!

Please let me know how your bread baking turns out.

Farmer Jen said...

Oh Marcee!
Thank you for the bread compliment! That made my day.

Hardware Bob said...


there's absolutely nothing like warm, homemade bread. My experience is that patience is not often practiced when baking homemade bread.

When the timer goes off, one must immediately cut a thick slab and juggle the still steaming morsel between both hands, flipping it gingerly back and fourth to avoid getting seriously burned.

The first bite usually burns your lips and tongue just a little. It's slightly sweet,and has a wonderful soft, meaty texture.

Your tongue by now is going absolutely crazy with delight as each taste bud is exploding into smitherenes. You quickly rustle through the kitchen cabinets looking frantically for some peanut butter and jelly. Maybe just some real butter. Yes!!, right where I left it. Snarfing is quite common when baking homemade bread.

There's still a slight yeast scent hovering in the kitchen, the released flavor from the roasted sesame seeds is beyond perfection, the thin crunchy crust is heavenly. I am drooling profusely just imagining it.

Great photos, there's none left is there?

Farmer Jen said...

Hi Bob,
I was actually more patient than you suggest, and while it smelled really good while the bread was baking, it wasn't as sensuous and passionate as your words describe. There was no burning hot bread or flipping going on. I waited for the bread to settle and cool a bit before cutting into it. I had the organic butter out of the fridge and warming on the kitchen counter for about 2 hours before the bread was done. I was ready. No PB&J yet, just butter. I did use a couple of slices to make a burger bun and also a ham sandwich. Worked well. Tasted good.

There will probably be a slice or two left for you and also for Jack to taste. I will make more soon.

Barbee' said...

Looks good and smells good! Bet'cha didn't know I could smell it all the way over to my house!

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

lol! Hardware Bob's fresh bread tribute! :D

Your bread does look beautiful and very delicious. Just imagining a slice with butter makes my mouth water. I so miss making bread and cooking in my kitchen, but it will be a couple more months until I am able to do that again :(

Did FarmGirl Fare have tips on baking bread at high altitude. Modt recipes only cover up to 3,500feet, sometimes 5,000 ft elevation, but never 7,000 feet and higher.

Baking bread at elevation is very tricky and has it's own set or problems.


Farmgirl_dk: said...

What a beautiful loaf of bread. I love Farmgirl Fare and A Year in Bread, though I did try a beer bread recipe from her sight almost a year ago that didn't turn out at all. I love recipe recommendations, though, so this one is one I will definitely try. I'm kind of on a baking binge right now and bread is such an incredible comfort food to me.

I had to laugh when you said something in one of your comments about overthinking things. This is SO one of my horrible personality quirks...I overthink almost EVERYTHING. So much so that, at times, certain projects don't get done (or even started) because I've twisted myself up into such a knot from all the open questions I've created for myself. :-)

Farmer Jen said...

Hi Barbee,
Thanks for the bread compliments. It did smell really good while it was baking. I love that.

Hi Lisa,
Yes, Bob definitely has a way with words once he gets revved up like that.

I didn't see any high altitude tips on Farmgirl Fare or on A Year in Bread, but then again, I didn't look for any. My home is at about 3100 ft elevation, so I haven't had to make any baking adjustments. I only have to worry about that when I am canning. Farmgirl Susan of Farmgirl Fare lives in Missouri I think, so I doubt she would worry about high elevations there.

Hi Danni,
I tried her beer bread once or twice and it seemed to turn out OK, but then I really didn't have anything to compare it to at the time.

Yes, I can overthink things sometimes. In my former life as part of the high tech career world, we used to call this phenomenon "paralysis by analysis". It still applies to me sometimes. Yet another thing that you and I have in common!