Homemade bread! Finally!

My husband and I love to make foods from scratch. We think they taste better than the store-bought alternatives, and we enjoy the process of cooking them. We’ve mastered pizza crust, marinara sauce, Alfredo sauce, and chicken stock, to name a few. But we’ve never baked our own bread.

This past weekend we discovered a fabulous little bakery with the absolute best fresh bread I’ve ever eaten in my life. It inspired us to try baking bread on our own. It was surprisingly easy!

I followed the recipe for whole wheat bread that came with my stand mixer. We had all of the ingredients on hand except for dry milk, so I ran out and picked some up.

My husband, always the risk-taking cook, was curious to see how it would turn out if we shaped it into a boule and baked it directly on our pizza stone. I’m a cautious cook, especially when I’m trying something new, so I wanted to follow the recipe exactly by shaping it into a loaf and baking it in a loaf pan. We decided to make one of each and see which is tastier!

It was going great … and then I went to check on it about 5 minutes before it was supposed to come out of the oven. It was already overdone! Doh. I blame my oven and its crazy 50-degrees-hotter-than-what-it’s-set-on temperature.

It’s also denser than I’d like, which means I didn’t let it rise long enough. Hopefully I’ll get better at baking fluffy, soft sandwich bread with more practice. It still tastes pretty good even if it’s not so pretty, and it would definitely go well with a nice hearty bowl of stew. Not so sure about using it for sandwiches, though.

Like most of the foods we make at home, I’m not convinced that homemade bread is actually cheaper than the deeply discounted, mass-produced store-bought bread that we buy (does anyone have any numbers on that?!). But it sure did make the house smell good!

I also feel good knowing exactly what’s in this bread (mostly just whole wheat flour, dry milk, and yeast), as opposed to the long list of unpronounceable chemicals and preservatives in the store-bought bread ingredients list.

We don’t eat a ton of bread each week, so it would be totally doable for us to start making two loaves every two weeks and freezing one for the following week. I’m going to try it out! Yay for homemade food!

Any tips from bread-making experts would be greatly appreciated! What kind of shelf life can I expect from the bread that I don’t freeze?


5 thoughts on “Homemade bread! Finally!

  1. tiffanie

    how exciting :) I bought a bread machine off ebay not too long ago…should be here in the next few days and I’ll try making my own homemade bread. i love homemade bread….! now i’m hungry…

  2. Mary

    Hey, I just wanted to jump in and give you some bread tips.

    First off – if your bread is too heavy, you’re right, more rising might be helpful. Also, make sure you start the yeast out at the right temp. Another thing that was helpful to me was knowing that for soft, light, sandwich appropriate bread, the dough should be very dry. A good sandwich bread is difficult to get all of the flour into by hand (although I’m sure it’s different with a stand mixer, the principals are the same) You should be adding your flour toward the end and feel like ‘there’s no way this dough will take any more flour, but I still have to get another cup in somehow!” Just that tip made my bread a billion times better for my purposes. Also, you said you used mostly whole wheat flour. In my experience, a 50 50 or so blend of unbleached bread flour and wheat flour will make for a much lighter bread than all wheat flour. Experiment with ratios, but I almost never use 100 percent whole wheat flour in anything – it’s just too heavy, especially for sandwich bread.

    As far as storage, here are my tips:
    How long the bread will last depends, of course, entirely on your recipe. However, I can usually get at least 4-6 days if the bread is sealed in a freezer ziplock bag (just nice because of the heavier seal) and kept on the counter. Don’t refrigerate unless you have to (i.e. cheese breads or something) – it makes the bread go stale faster.

    You can freeze baked bread, and many of my friends do. Just bag it, freeze it, and then set it out on the counter to thaw, and within a couple of hours, it’s fine. I would recommend you slice before freezing, it makes it easier to get a piece or two quickly when you need to and defrost in the microwave. Another tip, is if it’s sliced, you can pull a couple of pieces out and throw them in the toaster. It defrosts and toasts in one long toaster cycle.

    However, if you can afford the time, rather than bake, then freeze, what I like to do is freeze, then bake. If you’re making a traditional rise punch rise bread, make your dough, punch it down and separate it into loaves, then bag the loaf shaped dough and freeze it as quickly as possible. When you need bread, pull a loaf out and throw it into a loaf pan early in the morning. It will thaw, then rise. Once it’s risen as much as the recipe says it should, throw it into the oven. This way, you have warm fresh baked bread to serve with dinner whenever you want.

    Anyway, I hope this helps. Good luck! Making bread is one of my favorite things to do in the kitchen, especially this time of year. If you want a good starting point for sandwich bread, I have a great recipe for Honey Wheat Bread. Let me know if you want it.


  3. Karen

    Those are some great tips! Thanks so much! I’ll play with the ratios for whole wheat and white flours in the future … I used all whole wheat this time just because the recipe called for it and I had a big bag leftover from a failed attempt at making our own dog treats. (For the record, the dog liked them, they just molded too quickly).

    I don’t think I’ll have any trouble getting extra flour in (the stand mixer makes it pretty easy), but I did stop short of putting in the amount of flour that the recipe called for because it looked like it had enough. I’ll pack it in more next time!

    We did slice it before freezing this time, but in the future I’ll try sealing up one of the loaves and leaving it on the counter for convenience. The problem is, we live in a particularly humid climate, so our bread tends to go really quickly. If I figure out that it’s not lasting long enough for us to eat it, I’ll just start freezing it. I’d rather go through the defrost process than eat the preservatives or waste bread every week.

    Thanks again for the tips! Very helpful.

  4. Amy

    Just wanted to add that I make homemade bread all the time…and I love using all wheat flour. I use organic white whole wheat. If you add a little gluten flour with your recipe it will rise well. And I have had better results if I add just enough flour that it pulls away from the edge of my kitchen aid mixer. So it is slightly sticky but not so much that it sticks to my hands profusely. It makes VERY soft and yummy loaves every time!

  5. Kristen@TheFrugalGirl

    Like Amy, I’d say to be careful not to add TOO much flour. If your dough is too stiff, the yeast will have trouble lifting it.

    I’d also recommend the 50/50 mixture of white and whole wheat, esp. if you are a beginning baker.

    Part of what helps dough to rise is proper gluten development, so if you mix and knead it well, it will rise better. Gluten makes the dough stretchy, so that it can support the bubbles that the yeast makes.

    I post about baking each Wednesday on my blog, so if you want more yeast bread help, come and visit me. I have a recipe for whole wheat bread on my blog too.

    You are so right that practice makes perfect when it comes to yeast baking, so hang in there!
    .-= Kristen@TheFrugalGirl´s last blog ..Grocery Spend and Menu Plan (for real this time!) =-.

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