The smell of fresh bread baking at home is intoxicating. Making it for your small food business will make your customers very happy and improve your bottom line. What could be better than that? If you bake your own bread at home it is one of the cheapest and tastiest ways to save money.
Oh no…you say! That takes too much time and I am not a bread baker. People often think bread baking is an art form or a science and too hard to learn. This is not true. Let me show you how easy and simple it can be. You just need the right tools which you may already have in your kitchen or should have.
The inspiration for this post comes from one of my absolute favorite places to hang out.
When my husband and I discuss where we want to go and hang out in the Boulder area it invariably ends up being the Jamestown Mercantile located about 20 minutes outside of Boulder in the foothills. We started going to the Merc as it is called by the locals when we lived in Jamestown. This little restaurant and bar has live music on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. You can also see many of the talented locals playing on Monday for open mike night. Jamestown is a small town populated with mostly artists and musicians so open mike night is a treat. The food at the Jamestown Merc is mostly made from scratch with high quality ingredients and lots of talent and love. If you do not get there early on Thursdays they are likely to run out of the special dinner they are serving. The beer is cold and the wine list is surprisingly good. Desserts are made from scratch.
My favorite thing about the Jamestown Merc is the people. The locals who come there are always entertaining and interesting. Let me tell you about Jovan. This young man is a talented cook working at the Merc and also a talented musician who plays on Mondays. I believe the locals call Monday at the Merc “Open Jovan” instead of open mike. He is usually at the Merc even if he is not working. His lovely girlfriend Jesse at his side and a smile on his face. I often talk about food with him and am delighted by his enthusiasm for cooking. This post is for Jovan since he is getting started making bread. He is good at bread making and has really excelled at making scratch pizza dough for Friday night pizza night.
Here is a picture of my hubby hurrying into the Merc on a cold winter day.
This post is also for everyone else who reads this blog and had not ventured down the path of bread making or have tried and not gotten the results they expected.
Here are some pointers that will ensure your loaves are perfect each time. These are not steps I find most home cooks take. These are tools and tricks of professionals that should be employed at home for ease and consistency.
1. Instant read thermometer also called an internal read thermometer. Let me assure you a good instant read thermometer will become your favorite tool in the kitchen. As a chef, one is always in my sleeve pocket and frankly I feel a bit naked without it. I have 2 at home and carry one in my briefcase. Yes, this is to ensure food is at proper temperature for the health department and to make sure people do not get sick from improperly cooked or held food but it is also to make sure food is perfectly cooked. Perfect each time. Consistency is king in a professional kitchen and you can achieve consistently great results with these tips and bake like a professional. Check this page out for more info on internal read thermometers.
2. Buy an oven thermometer or if you already have one use it. A correctly calibrated oven is a rarity in a home kitchen as well as many professional kitchens. Get one and check the temperature of your oven every time you bake. You will be surprised at how your oven may be off by up to 25 degrees or more.
3. You must weigh your ingredients instead of measuring. Using a scale and weighing your ingredients is another technique used by professional chefs that is not often used at home. It is very easy and much quicker to use a scale than to measure. Check out this site for conversions from measuring to metic. The Metric Kitchen. Convert all your baking recipes to metric and you will be baking like a professional. If you measure your results will be off most of the time, guaranteed. I can also guarantee that your results will become consistently perfect with a scale. It really is that easy.
4. Make sure your ingredients are fresh. Good flour and fresh yeast are very important in bread making.
If you use these tools and follow the recipe you will consistently produce a great loaf of bread. I will not post the measurements on this recipe because I need everyone who tries it to weigh their ingredients. Your bread will come out of the oven with a crisp and slightly chewy exterior, perfect crumb and complex flavor. I may even venture to say you will never buy another loaf of bread again.
Whole Wheat Loaf Bread
The recipe will make two loaves.
770 grams of all-purpose flour
80 grams of whole wheat flour (not whole wheat pastry flour)
10 grams of wheat bran (not wheat germ)
690 grams or 24 oz of water at room temperature
15 grams of honey or agave nectar
16 grams of salt or 2 1/2 tsp
2 grams or 1/2 tsp yeast
Olive oil for oiling the bowl.
Start your dough the night before you will be baking it. I usually end my evening by mixing together my bread for the next day.
Weigh your flours and wheat bran out and put in a large bowl. Add salt and yeast. Mix together.
Add water and honey or agave nectar.
Mix together well. When the dough comes together spray your hands with non-stick spray and knead it a few times to make sure all of the dry ingredients are mixed well into the wet. I usually knead the douh in the bowl about 5-10 times. This should only take about 1 minute.
Drizzle a small amount of oil around your dough and move the dough around the bowl to distribute the oil.
Cover your bowl with plastic wrap. Many bread recipes call for covering your bowl with a damp towel. Do not do this. Cover your bowl with plastic wrap. Then you can cover the plastic wrapped bowl with a dry towel if your kitchen tends to get a cold at night. I always do this since I live in Colorado and my kitchen is chilly at night.
Let dough ferment for at least 10 and up to 24 hours. I like the flavor of wheat bread with a 10-12 hour ferment. The flavor is complex but not too strong.
After the bread has fermented for your desired time uncover your dough. It will look bubbly and wet. This is good. You want it to look that way.
Put about 1/4 cup flour on a clean table or large cutting board. Spread the flour out lightly.
Divide your dough into two pieces. Loosely form a ball and roll it to coat in flour. This is called a gluten cloak and will insulate the dough and help with the second rise.
Form your loaves and place them in 2 loaf pans sprayed lightly with non-stick spray. Spray the inside of a large plastic bag (a plastic bread bag works well for this application and is available at most grocery stores) with non-stick spay and put the loaf pan inside. Blow into the bag to inflate it and tie it closed with a bag tie or rubber band. This will protect the dough from drying and will allow for room for the dough to expand. You can also cover it with plastic wrap sprayed with non-stick spray. This method will not allow the loaf to rise much over the loaf pan but will work as well. In this picture I have used a large loaf pan so I could cover it with plastic wrap and still have rising room.
Let dough rise until doubled. I cannot estimate the time this will take as the temperature of your kitchen will dictate the rising time. My kitchen is usually colder than most in the morning so this step can take up to 2 hours. If your kitchen is warm it can take as little as 45 minutes. Do not put the dough on your stove top as it will get too hot.
Adjust your oven racks to the middle of the oven put an empty pan on the bottom of the oven. Pre-heat your oven to 450 degrees. Make sure your oven is at the correct temperature. Check it with your oven thermometer. Before you put your bread in the oven pour 1-2 cups of water in the pan at the bottom of your oven. Be careful and use oven mitts as steam will immediately rise up from the hot pan. The steam will help develop a crispy and chewy crust.
Put your bread in the oven and bake for approximately 30-40 minutes. To make sure your bread is done use your instant read thermometer. The bread will be perfectly baked at between 190-210 degrees.
Remove from oven and let rest for 5 minutes. Turn the loaf out of the pan with a kitchen towel protecting your hand.
Let cool for at least 1 hour on a rack. The flavor developes during this time and your bread will not be as flavorful if you cut it too soon. It will also lose steam and dry out quicker if you do not let it cool completely before cutting. I know…this is hard to do when the bread looks and smells so lovely but have a little self-control and you will be delighted with the results.