The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

mbecktel's blog

mbecktel's picture

My history with bread seems to hold steady. The focaccia did not turn out as planned. I milled the flour, mixed it and let it rise. It was a beautiful rise. \The instructions then said to punch down and pat out onto an oiled baking sheet. Did this, and dimpled the top, sprinked on parmesean cheese and a bit of sea salt. Nice looking out of the oven, but TOUGH!

Bob gamely ate some with olive oil and herbs with me. The cement in the gut feeling came back. Not for him. He loves bread in any way shape and form.

Okay, I apparently have trouble with massive amounts of insoluable fiber. As said earlier, I have found whole grain bread to be dry and bitter, so oatmeal was the fiber of choice. No probls with that, but this whole grain stuff...whew

the reason I chose the Nutrigrain mill was that it had a fine setting. Well, fine is still pretty gritty. And tho I did drink lots of water that day, that is not the answer to the problem. I guess I need to work up to it, so for now, I will bake with unbleached white flour, and add some e fresh ground wheat, eventually working up to substantial amounts.

To be honest, I really want to master the yeast thing first. I can give a rip about the jjello thing (gosh my 'puter won't even let me type the word!) but I am so frustrated about the bread baking thing. At least I am in the right place, eh?

Oh, and the dogs love the focaccia.

mbecktel's picture

Okay, the say confession is good for the soul. I confess there are two foods that for some reason confound me. One is Jello. For love or money I can't make Jello. It's either unset, runny, hard as a rock, separating, or won't come out of the mold. Mom soon learned not to ask me ever to make it.

The other is yeast bread. Boy am I embarassed to write that on a forum like this. I have truly tried, at my mother's elbow, to learn. She made the best Slovak egg bread and nut rolls at the drop of the hat. And when I was working with her, I could too, but on my own, watch out! Hard as a rock, layered, collapsed, or ovepuffed and empty in the middle, you name it and I've produced it.

Of course I am letting myself in for a big project, trying to learn the right way to do it, with the additional variable of freshly milled flour. Me, who thinks most whole wheat bread I have ever tasted is bitter and dry. Well, ya gotta jump into the middle, I say. I got my new Nutrimill

 My new Nutrimill

                                  My Nutrimill

It was an adventure researching and buying it. However, there doesn't seem to be a lot out there on baking with it. One site says to allow extra time after mixing to let the bran absorb the liquid, but my main source doesn't. Also many recipes seem to be for a "Zo" breadmaking machine, whici is out of the budget right now. I did inherit a bread machine which my mother never used that can do 100% whole wheat bread, so I tried that.

I used the recipe in the machine book for 100% whole wheat and put it through its paces. this is my first loaf:

My first loaf

                                                       My first loaf

It came out pretty well. Nice even crumb, was fairly moist and didn't taste bitter. On the other hand, it was pretty dense, and much browner than i anticipated. My husband thought it was okay, and he is the bread muncher of the family. The half piece I had sat on my gut like a piece of cement. Am I not drinking enough water? Do I have to give in to conventional wisdom and use half unbleached white flour to lighten it up? We'll have to experiment.

Right now I mixed up a batch of focaccia dough in the machine and am letting it rise. This was an interesting recipe as it had a lot of flavorings in the dough. Will provide a picture of it if it turns out well in the next post.

Today, got an interesing post in the Mercola newsletter ( He pulls in all kinds of health (mainly anti-mainstream) articles then comments on them. I am not ready to buy everything he says, but there are some things you can find that are worth exploring. The one article I found striking was on Genetically Modified Food. It seems that when fed GM food, test animals are developing reproductive and digestive problems. It is a long URL so follow this tiny one: He also provides a link to the Institute of Responsible Technology. That is an interesting site to look around: (

Well, gotta go play with my focaccia. Will let you all know how things turn out!


mbecktel's picture

Well, I finally did it. For a long while now, I have been growing highly suspect of the foods around us. It just seemed like there was too much convenience, and many of us just didn't seem to be getting any healthier. Then I saw the movie The Future of Food (it's on Netflix) and that got me going on frankenfoods, you know, genetically modified foods that hold farmers ransom and put genes of different things where they are not supposed to be. My mother just died of ischemic bowels, which means the arteries to her digestive system were totally blocked. It is the same as a heart attack, but kills your intestines (painfully - like angina of the gut). She had been eating healthy by conventional standards since she beat lymphoma 20 some years ago. My dad died of prostate cancer, even though he never passed up a plate of spaghetti or tomato sauce on anything. So much for the lycopene connection. And my younger sister died of cancer three years ago at age 49, and it started in her lung, spread to her brain, then suddenly after being biopsied, found it spread everywhere, even though the original cancer was supposed to be slow spreading. Yes, she did smoke, but never had a smoker's cough (I sure did when I smoked) and could run up two flights of stairs and not be winded. She ate healthy foods all the time.

With a background like this, I started to delve into the not-so-mainstream literature for all those hints I had been picking up on what is and is not healthy according to conventional wisdom powered by the agribusiness and pharmasutical factions, and what science was unearthing. This is a fascinating journey. My bible is Real Food by Nina Planck (

White bread and refined sugar are the antichrist, and refined salt is no saint either. Seems that industry likes to reduce everything to its base elements, take the parts and sell them at a premium, then replace some of the things lost by artificial means and tout them as good for you. And when it is not, and despite your best efforts you have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, anemia, and fat, there are PILLS for that. (don't say much of anything about the side effects tho...)

On the other side of the coin, there are those who say to go back to the natural. I have already witnessed the miracles that homeopathics can do (but there's no money in them so it appears the FDA is being paid to find ways to supress them and other natural cures and healthy things). I have learned a lot, and so I am embarking on a journey back to REAL FOOD.

I have purchased a Nutrimill and grains from a place called BreadBeckers ( They also have a co-op that periodically delivers nearby. I am going to make my own bread becasue I hate commercial whole wheat bread - it tastes dry and bitter to me. I am hoping that this forum will help me develop the talent to make interesting and delicious breads that are healthy for us.

I also have discovered they have started a CSA farm nearby (that's Community Sustainable Agriculture). (for more info see The way is works is you buy a share of the farm for a season. And you live and die with the fate of the farm. They are successful? You get loads of fresh healthily grown veggies and eggs every week. Bad weather? Growing problems? You also share the hardships. And then we found out our farm was going to divide grass fed cattle. The bottom line is that we can get totally naturally raised beef, high in omega three and other goodies, for about $2.50/lb. Can't beat it! And our farmer made a connections so we only have to invest in half a half, so we can realistically store it (and afford it).

Raw milk is another pursuit. ( We have some leads on some, tho it is sold only for animal consumption in Florida (sort of a wink,wink, nudge,nudge, knowhwatImean affair). We may have to settle for vat pasturized, but non-homogenized.

And coconut oil. ( I am amazed how nice virgin coconut oil tastes. Am sampling several sources.

Sounds like I am going back to my hippie days (no I never lived on a commune or even went vegetarian), but I intend to see if I can make healthy choices according to this new/old wisdom, and then see if I really do feel better, lose weight, and overall become a better person. We'll keep you posted

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