The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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Timbo's picture
Timbo

Hello

Hello All,

    My wife & I have decided to start eating healthier and want to start making our own bread. We are looking at bread machines and grinders and are kind of confused. Any recommendations would be greatly appreciated. It is us and two teenagers and we would like to replace all store bought breads with homemade. Any and all advise would be greatly appreciated.

 

Thanks in advance for your time and help!!

Yerffej's picture
Yerffej

Welcome and here is the advice you asked for.  For now, forget about machines and mills and instead click on the link above that says "Lessons".  You will be on your way.

Jeff

Timbo's picture
Timbo

I appreciate the reply. I have a lot to learn and I am glad there are so many here to help.

DavidEF's picture
DavidEF

I second the advice Jeff gave. Save the fancy equipment for later. I will also add that bread that is long fermented can be better for you, even with the same ingredients, because of the processes that occur in the dough. That doesn't necessarily always mean sourdough, but I think sourdough is a fun and delicious way of achieving that.Just make sure you start with quality ingredients, like unbleached bread flour.

Also, there are lots of very complex and challenging ways of making bread, and lots of interesting (or not so interesting) ingredients that can be used to make bread. I suggest that you start with an easy recipe that calls for only flour, water, yeast and salt. You can get plenty of flavor and great texture, whether you want it to be soft for sandwiches, or rustic and a little chewy like artisan bread, using only those ingredients. By starting with those, you can concentrate on perfecting techniques that will allow you to consistently make bread exactly the way you want it.Then, you can move on to other trials.

Use the search box in the upper right of the page, to find just about anything you want to know about bread and related topics. There is a huge wealth of knowledge here. You are welcome to ask questions, but most of your answers can probably be found with a quick search.

Timbo's picture
Timbo

I appreciate it, I have already been poking around.

aptk's picture
aptk

I'm new here also, and some of the recipes I find really intimidating, but I have found lots of easy recipes too. The Italian Peasant Bread - Fast Focaccia is terrific, and you can add your families favorite toppings. It's quick and very easy. Have fun, and I hope you enjoy the site as much as I do.

Timbo's picture
Timbo

I appreciate it. Sounds like a good one to start with. I will let you know how it turns out.

GYG's picture
GYG

Saludos Timbo!

We are also kind of new on the baking stuff, almost two years of home baking. We also wanted to eat better and healthier, that was the first reason to bake and cook at home. The best advise or recommendation we can give you is practice, practice and practice. Some times the result would be great, some other not, don't discourage yourself. 

Also one good thing to do is read, read: http://www.farmgirlfare.com/2005/07/ten-tips-for-better-bread.html

Good luck and have a happy baking time!!

GyG

Timbo's picture
Timbo

I appreciate the link, it will come in handy I'm sure.

BBQinMaineiac's picture
BBQinMaineiac

Welcome! Good advice so far.

Read and practice. Accept failures, they make great bread crumbs or croutons. Learn, ask questions and move on and the bread will get better.

One doesn't need fancy equipment to start.

Here's a good loaf to start with. It will be somewhat similar to what your family is probably eating now but better. It's easy to make and would be a good transition to homemade bread. http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/king-arthurs-classic-white-sandwich-bread-recipe

If you find yourself making a lot of bread a quality mixer is worth it's weight in gold, and the information about mixers is already easy to find on the site. The mixer I would suggest is not the one that most folks in the US know, but it's expensive. It will also last for decades. It'll also grind grain and so much more. When it's time  for the information, look it up, for now the loaf suggested doesn't need any fancy gear.

FWIW, the reasons you want to begin making your own bread is precisely why I decided to begin making ours again. In over 6 months we haven't bought any bread other than hot dog buns.

Timbo's picture
Timbo

I like easy so I will be trying this one.

richkaimd's picture
richkaimd

I may be in the minority here but I sure wish I'd taken less time to discover the difference between a bread baker's text book (meaning a book written for a course in bread baking) and a bread cook book.  A text book takes the reader/student from the very beginning through an orderly series of chapters which are intended to leave him/her with a solid foundation of the fundamentals.  While I own and admire all of the books recommended above, not a single one of them holds a candle, in my eyes, to a good text book for its teaching of basics.  Here are two:  Hamelman's Bread and DiMuzio's Bread Baking.  While I know some who like the former over the latter, to me, I wish I'd read the DiMuzio text when I started bread baking over 40 years ago (not that it was around then.)  The Hamelman is far too dense, in my eyes, for a beginner.  If you're interested, you can probably find them in a public library.  Both books are available used on-line.  Try Alibris or Powell's Books.

Timbo's picture
Timbo

I'll look into it. I have found from experience that the more information you get the easier it is to decide your best path forward.

 

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

spring for expensive equipment like mixers, bread machines etc. later, after you decide what you want bake at home.  All of bread product sounds like a lot but it isn't daunting at all.  But, you won't be making baguettes, boules, miches, croissants, puff pastry, cinnamon rolls or what some folks call 'artisan bread' in a bread machine no matter how good or expensive.

I think it is wise to learn how to make some basic breads by hand without equipment so that you can learn the feel of the dough, learn to know when bread is proofed to 85% and ready for the oven, how to knead,  do slap and folds and stretch and folds, learn bakers math and %, get a SD culture going for SD breads, how to bake in Dutch ovens or on parchment on a stone or under a cloche, how to shape various breads from baguettes, boules, batards or any number of other shapes.

Once you have the basics down, it won't take very long when you are making all your own baked goods and learning quickly.  You can then move in any direction you wish and really start experimenting based on real experience and bread knowledge of what works for you and your family.  It is such a fun home hobby - nothing like work .... thankfully!  Hopefully it will always be fun and personally rewarding for you.  You will soon be hooked and may not need much of the expensive equipment that you think you do if not making huge batchs of dough for a large family and may need much more of less expensive stuff instead.   There is plenty of time to discover what you really need, the best way to get it and be confident that you are doing the right thing and making informed decisions.

Im all for

Welcome and Happy Baking!

Timbo's picture
Timbo

I have a lot to learn, thanks for the advice.

 

proth5's picture
proth5

My first piece of advice is actually in the form of a question - Other than eating healthier, what are your goals for bread baking?  There is a vast continuum of goals - from just wanting to produce the sandwich loaves consumed on a daily basis to wanting to have a hobby where you explore all the various kinds of flour based products that can be made and produce them in your own house.  And everything in between.  Most bakers on this forum tend towards the latter (and, that includes me.)

Decide how much time you want or have to devote yourself to baking bread and make realistic goals.  The equipment required for baking goes not much further than a bowl, a plastic scraper, an oven and some half sheet pans or loaf pans. I have mixed 10 pounds of dough with little effort and no more than these tools. But there is the "time" factor.  Although the mixing/shaping/baking of bread takes not too much "active" time - there is the issue of time for bread to ferment (rise) and proof.  This is elapsed time that must be worked into a daily schedule.  Is there a shortage of time for you?  Is that why you are considering a bread machine?

Many of the suggestions you have been given are very good for getting into the general process/hobby of baking bread. But you need to understand what you want out of this and do what is right for you.

If you are really considering bread baking as a passion/hobby, I'll add one more thought.  Take a class - find a neighbor who bakes and ask him/her to teach you.  There are classes all over the country at various levels.  The internet is a great resource, but nothing beats having someone standing with you telling you that now the dough is ready - it is a very hands on hobby and sometimes one experience is worth all the internet postings in the world.

If it were me, I would start with baking and leave milling for later (and yes, I do home milling).  Don't worry about home milling until you feel like you can make the commitment to baking. Yes, there are advantages to fresh milled flour.  But if you aren't an experienced baker, you can buy good quality flours and get up to speed on that before dealing with the question of fresh ground.

I'll try to check back.  If you really want to do bread machine baking, I have some experience with that and can make some recommendations.  Again, your goals and budget have to come into play here, so a more specific question will help us help you.

Timbo's picture
Timbo

Proth5,

    Excellent questions. I will respond to each paragraph below.

 

1st Paragraph: I am actually looking to do both, bake sandwich loaves and bake breads as a hobby. We had a bread machine when we first got married and loved it but something happened over the years and we stopped doing it. I think that was because we never learned how to other then to dump everything in the machine and hit the go button. So I/we really do want to learn how to do it from scratch.

2nd Paragraph: So time, to a certain extent will be an issue for me and that is why I want the bread machine. There will be days when I won't have more than enough time to throw everything in the machine and hit the go button. What I really want is to make bread and bake it in the oven but the timing is something I will have to figure out as I work an 8 to 10 hour day and have two teens playing sports and in marching band so it will vary day to day. Once I can determine the timing and other things like that which are required I think I will be able to do much more baking on my own which is my ultimate goal but I want the machine for those lazy days and those with little time as we are really trying to get all things processed out of our lives.

3rd Paragraph: Understood

4th Paragraph: I have already started, I can't believe I didn't think about that.

5th Paragraph: I don't have a problem with waiting on the milling but if you can recommend any good sources for purchasing flour it would be appreciated. If it matters I am in the Charlotte, NC area.

6th Paragraph: I do intend to get a machine so any recommendations would be appreciated. Don't really have a budget in mind but from what I have seen I am thinking somewhere in the $200.00 to $300.00 range. That said, if spending a little more goes a long way I would like to know.

And finally I want you to know that I really appreciate the time you have taken to ask very well crafted and logical  questions. It has already been extremely helpful in guiding me in the right direction on getting started as I have a "lot" to learn. I am starting with making lists of the things I need to do to get to the point of making my first loaf of bread.

Thank You, Thank You, Thank You

proth5's picture
proth5

I have a Zojirushi Virtuoso bread machine - I have found it to be versatile and fun to use.  It has custom programmable cycles, so you can make things sort of like cinnamon buns - you can also make cakes and jams.  It has a sourdough cycle, but their idea of sourdough gives me the willies and I haven't used that cycle.  I bought it from Pleasant Hill Grain and I would recommend doing that because I have heard of other people who have had problems with this machine and I know that the people at Pleasant Hill Grain will work with you until it is right.  I have been happy with this machine.  I have developed a couple of recipes for it and you can see those in my blog on these pages.

If I were buying a bread machine today, I would give serious consideration to the Breville http://www.brevilleusa.com/cooking/bread-makers.html.  This machine has one feature that I covet and that is that the paddles fold down and don't make big holes in the bottom of the loaf - it also is programmable, etc.

There are numbers of people who will advise you to buy a second hand machine from a resale store.  Frankly, you seem to have the budget for a top of the line machine and well, I says, sometimes we just want something new and shiny and fun.  Also, while there are claims that there are piles of these machines just waiting to be re-bought - I've seen nary a one. I also think that some of these newer machines are better for doing the more creative bread machine baking. 

When you are looking to mill, there are a lot of other considerations (see the topic "Deciding on a mill" which is still pretty active) - but unless you are quite dedicated to hand milling (my preferred means of milling), Pleasant Hill Grain will again be your friend.  I'm not affiliated, just a very satisfied customer.

I don't know about your area, because I live on the front range of the Rockies, but I can purchase King Arthur Flour in the supermarket.  I like King Arthur for reasons both rational (tight specs on the flour) and irrational (employee owned company, friends there), but I did cheat on them with Central Milling flour and was happy with that.  I've also used Gold Medal flour when King Arthur was not available.  No - the whole wheat does not taste as good as fresh ground - but it's good to get your feet wet with the commercial stuff. If you want stone ground, I've always been happy with Bob's Red Mill - they ship everywhere (and are also employee owned.)

These recommendations aside, all you need to get started is what I mentioned in my earlier post.  If you want to get fancy - add a good baking stone and a cast iron pan for steaming and a peel.  Nothing more required.

I can have crazy, busy summers (and I have no air conditioning) so the bread machine is great for simple loaves when time is tight.  If you look at my recipes, I have used some of the techniques from more classic bread baking to make them a little better than common bread maker fare.  But I'm just as happy that the weather is getting cooler and yard work/work/canning season is coming to an end - gives me a chance to get back to free style baking :>)

Have fun!