On becoming a baker

If you follow my Facebook or Twitter feeds, you’ve probably seen mention of my newest obsession – baking bread.

I went to a bread baking class back in April (thanks to my lovely friend Jane, who gave me her seat in the class!) – I think I have mentioned it here before…

And since then I have been on a path to learn how to bake my own bread at home. I started out with the supplies I already had on hand at home and have been slowly stepping up the game with more and more of the items recommended in my class.

Last week, after saving my pocket money, I splurged on the purchase of this little puppy:

IMG_0033I am soooo excited.

The mill allows me to grind my own wheat and make my own, fresh, flour each time I want to bake.  This is so much more healthy for us and captures all of the goodness of the wheat germ and kernel without stripping away the vitamins and nutrients that most “modern” processed flour lacks.IMG_0404

Since I’ve had my gastric bypass surgery, I haven’t been able to eat much “real” bread.  Which, hasn’t been too terrible except when it comes to making sandwiches or hamburgers, etc.  But I am striving for balance in my life – not exclusion. I want to be able to enjoy food as close to the natural state as possible and not deny myself anything (within moderation, of course!)

Finding this method of making bread has been such a wonderful experience.  I have been learning how to prepare healthy, nourishing food for my family – and loving every single minute of it.

I’ve been baking bread off and on for years. Mathilda, my bread machine, has been in and out of my kitchen more times than I can count. I’d get on a bread baking kick and then, when no one ate the bread (it was hard and tasteless) I would toss her back out into the storage area of the garage or basement until I remembered her and brought her back in again.

But this is different.  This is GOOD bread.

Good in so many ways.

It’s light, airy, and so flavorful. So much more flavorful than store-bought breads, too.

And my surgically-altered digestive system loves it, too. Which is good and bad. I have to be careful and remember moderation but I am so happy I can enjoy some bread in my diet again.

I am learning, though, that the baking of bread is as much art as it is science.

Bread can be temperamental.

  • It likes warm environments, it doesn’t like cold (not even cold air conditioning!)
  • It likes some attention (kneading) but not too much
  • The little yeasty creatures like sweetness and warmth but too much of either causes them to just over-extend themselves and they die.
    (and your bread crashes)
  • It doesn’t like to be “plopped” into the oven (my bread fell :-0)
  • Yeast and salt don’t get along. Yet you need both to make bread.
  • It does like warm places to rise… and you can’t let it get too carried away rising or it looses its energy and will fall in the oven. (that’s happened, too)
  • I have also learned that bread in Mathilda is much tougher than bread I mix in my KitchenAid (yet to be named) mixer. Maybe it’s the kneading it gets?
  • And there is a delicate balance of too much yeast and too little; too much gluten and too little; too little rise and a bit too much.

It’s all very Zen.

When you get it right, it’s just oh, so good. 

(and the mistakes are pretty tasty, too, even if they may not be as pretty)

I’m baking two loaves about every other day.


Today I did an experiment and did one loaf in Mathilda and two others in the loaf pans in the oven. That’s when I learned that Mathilda is a bit tough on the bread.  I much prefer the loaf pans in the oven. More tender crumb, for sure.

I’m going to keep experimenting and fiddling with the recipes I have. I’m having so much fun trying things out and learning from my experiments.

And I absolutely LOVE the smell of bread baking. Makes my house (and me) happy.

If you’ve never baked a homemade loaf of bread before, I encourage you to give it a try.

It’s not as hard as you think.

Or as time consuming.

And the results are so, so worth it.

I’ll share the recipe with you (below) just in case you are tempted to give it a try. I would encourage you to … it’s sooo good.

And, if you decide that you want to explore the world of grinding your own grains, I would suggest you check out The Bread Beckers website. That is where I’ve been getting my materials (and education!) and they ship worldwide, I believe.

There’s also a great video if you are interested in watching.  I will warn you, though, that it is four hours long. It’s their complete “Getting Started” class that they offer in their facility (and stream online) – it’s well worth the time investment, but I took it in small “bites” over the course of a weekend.

Here’s the recipe… let me know if you try it!

Slightly Sweet but Very Simple Whole Wheat Bread

2 cups warm water
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup honey
3 1/2 tsp instant yeast
1 egg (optional)
5 cups freshly milled flour (or “regular” flour)
2 tsp salt
1-2 Tbsp lecithin*
1/2 tsp gluten*

  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine water, oil & honey.
  2. Add 3 cups of flour, salt, lecithin, and gluten.
  3. Mix thoroughly.
  4. Add the remaining 2 cups of flour and the yeast.
  5. Knead until smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes)
  6. Cover with a tea towel and let rise until double (about 30 min)
  7. Split into two and shape into loaves. Place in greased pans and let rise again (15-20 min) until doubled.
  8. Bake at 350 F for about 30 minutes.
  9. Makes two 1 1/2 pound loaves.

You can also use this to make rolls, buns, etc. It is a very good basic recipe.

*Lecithin is an optional additive which helps to stabilize the dough and makes it have a softer crumb and a better rise. I can’t tell a HUGE difference between using it and not using it, so if you can’t find it don’t not make the bread for that reason.

*Gluten is the substance that naturally occurs in wheat. Adding a little extra gives the bread a little better rise. Again, not something you can’t live without, but it does make the bread a little fluffier if you add it. I’ve found Gluten in the grocery store. I had to buy the Lecithin from Bread Beckers.

This recipe came from Bread Beckers. They have a great recipe book. You can get it free if you purchase a mill or mixer or you can buy it from their website. (if you are interested – I’m certainly not in any way telling you to do this and I’m definitely not compensated!!)




5 thoughts on “On becoming a baker

  1. That is way too cool. The only breads I’ve ever baked are things like cranberry orange tea loaf and banana nut but your wheat recipe looks easy and delicious. Have fun playing with your new toy.


  2. I started baking bread about thirty years ago when wholewheat bread was rare in the shops here, and love everything about the process! Delighted to find another enthusiast :). I prefer the oven too, though a bread maker is handy sometimes.


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