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Feb 10, 2008 08:22 PM

Store bought bread vs. bread machine bread

The subject title was simplified to convey the basic concept of the question ...

I have been buying bread at Trader Joe's (bread made from sprouted wheat berries and various other sprouted ingredients as well as their "flourless" bread) as well as Alvarado Street Bakery brand bread at traditional supermarkets (whose ingredients are many and also consist of sprouted grains and don't contain any partially hydrogenated oils or cheap sugars). I mention this because I have made a few loaves of Honey Whole Wheat bread mix from the Hodgson Mills (a brand that offers products made with only a few and high quality ingredients) consisting of stone ground whole wheat flour, whole grain white wheat flour, unbleached and enriched flour, dried honey, vital wheat gluten, soy flour, salt, and vitamin C. (I also add water and canola oil.)

The bread machine made bread tastes fresh, of course, but it doesn't seem to have the fuller taste that some of these more exotic breads have that I buy that are made from many ingredients ranging from sprouted wheat berries, rye flour, millet, and various other exotic ingredients I can't recall - even some of the sweeteners are items I wouldn't have, like dates.

I like the idea of making bread fresh, but when I see how many ingredients I'd have to have on hand to duplicate these kinds of breads, the use of a bread machine becomes something other than a "convenient" tool for someone who doesn't cook for many, and who doesn't go through bread that often.

When I heat and/or toast the store bought bread it almost tastes like it was freshly made.
The Alvarado Street Bakery bread doesn't last long at room temperature before it starts turning moldy. I've stopped buying most of the other bread, even Arnold due to some additional ingredients they use, although they do use better ingredients than most of the other less expensive name brand breads.

But even some of these breads that use many ingredients made from whole grains just have 2 to 3 grams of fiber. The composition of the bread would lead me to think the breads are very high in fiber, but not so.

Ezekial breads are very high in fiber and use very exotic ingredients, and for me to duplicate that wouldn't be easy.

How do other bread machine users deal with the challenge of keeping alot of ingredients (different kinds of flour) on hand if their bread machine is not used often? Do you also only use the machine infrequently and get the more exotic breads I've mentioned at the store?
(The cost of the high quality breads at stores like Trader Joe's isn't that high. It is more expensive than the lesser quality store brand breads sold at traditional supermarkets, but less than the premium quality breads sold there, such as Alvarado. The Hodgson Mills bread mix, is sold normally at about the same price ($2.50 for producing a 1.5 pound loaf bread) as these breads are at Trader Joe's, though they did just raise the price of their sprouted grain breads from $2.99 to $3.49 very recently.

I've come to believe that a store bought bread of very high quality, even though not freshly made (such as at a bakery) and sitting on a shelf for days, can give the user the experience of a "better" bread than a bread machine made bread that has used fewer ingredients. (I'm still game for experimenting!! I'd be willing to keep on hand whole wheat flour, wheat gluten, millet, and rye flour.)

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  1. I won't be much help in your quest because I bake bread in a primitive manner. No electrical or mechanical mixing devices are used to prepare the dough. Our double ovens are electrical devices.

    Of late I've been baking rye bread using both high gluten unbleached wheat flour and rye flour with caraway seeds. These 2 flours require more liquid than does all-purpose flour. The mixed dough is allowed to ferment for 18 hours. The dough is then shaped by hand and allowed a second rise for about 2 hours.

    I have found a store that sells both flours at very reasonable prices because the flour is not packaged in 5 or 10 pound bags.

    It is so much more stress relieving to get one's hands in the dough than allowing the dough to be under control of a machine.

    1 Reply
    1. re: ChiliDude

      Agreed on all points. I can't imagine giving up the space that a bread machine requires, even if I wanted to use one. But I don't; all the bread I've tasted from bread machines (a few friends have them) has been more or less bland and underwhelming.

      I also use the 18-hour ferment and 2-3 hour rise. Usually with the Lahey no-knead recipe. But you can vary the recipe to your liking. Use rye or whole wheat or other flours, add herbs or other flavors, etc. Even a plain white loaf has superior flavor because of the long ferment. And the amount of hands-on time is so little that I just don't understand needing a machine to do it for me.

    2. Fresh ingredients, fresh flour, enough "seasoning" (i.e. salt), better ovens, ...

      all that can make a huge difference between store bought breads vs. home bakes breads.

      (not that I'm an expert ...)

      1. With good store bought bread costing anywhere from $2.50 to over $3.00 making bread at home with my bread machine is definitely the better deal for us in all respects-nutrition, cost, quality and longevity. We're empty nesters so for us a loaf goes a long way as well. The highest grade flour I can buy in my local market is a 5 lb. bag of King Arthur whole wheat. It's $3.45 a bag- usually cheaper than a freshly baked whole wheat loaf from the store bakery, which is very good- and I get many loaves out of one bag of flour. From the bulk section of my store I mix up a bag of flax seed, wheat berries, sesame and sunflower seeds, millet and that costs me about $4 lb. About 1/4 cup of that and a cup of quick oats goes into the loaf. Honey is my sweetener (I traded a tent for 5 gals of honey with a beekeeper years ago). I mail order my yeast at less than $6 lb including postage as opposed to $6 for a 4 oz jar at the grocery store. It lasts about a year. I add dry milk powder that I buy in bulk. Probably the most expensive single ingredient I use is vital wheat gluten which gives the loaf added spring but is actually optional. I end up with a loaf that has lots of fiber, lots of taste. It has no preservatives and lasts longer in my bread box than a store bought loaf. If we don't eat it fast enough it dries out before it molds at which point it gets turned into bread crumbs or tossed in the freezer for bread pudding, stuffing or croutons. I occasionally do other add-ins as well: my own sprouted seeds, herbs, cheese, dried tomatoes, dried fruits, whatever takes my fancy or goes with what I want to serve.

        I use my bread machine (Zojirushi) predominantly for kneading. I don't like the way bread machines bake bread but they definitely knead dough better than I can plus while the dough is kneading and rising in the machine I can be doing other stuff. The Zo is an investment but having had other machines burn up or wear out in under a year at $75 a pop, the Zo has been the more economical investment. I bake the bread in my oven on a stone with a pan of water to help develop the crust. Others may find that baking the bread in the machine is fine. My other reason for prefering machine kneading is that as I get older *sigh* my fingers are becoming stiff and slightly arthritic. It saves me a lot of discomfort.

        My other discovery is that if I store my homemade loaf in a standard plastic grocery bag instead of plastic wrap, a paper bag, a baggie, or those expensive specialty bread storage bags, it actually keeps better and retains the home baked quality longer. Go figure.

        Overall, I prefer the ability to control the ingredients that go into my bread and there's no doubt that I can produce a higher quality, longer keeping, more economical loaf at home than what I can buy off the shelf.

        1. This is a big topic at my house. I have just gotten a used bread machine and have been experimenting. So far I have not goten the quality that I expect from the artisanal breads I buy - but as morwen pointed out one bag of flour casts less than a loaf of bread.

          I buy almost all of my ingredients bulk at the local co-op so the cost is low and I can get small amounts to ensure ingredients I use less of stay fresh. I have tried several types and am mostly satisfied with the quality.

          My husband though is not so happy - he is a real bread fanatic and is not happy to wait while I experiment to find the best ratio of flours, liquids and gluten etc. So - the jury's still out here but it's certainly fun tasting each new effort.

          1. We've finally plunked for the Zojirushi bread machine, and are very impressed so far. It has taken some experimenting to get a 100% whole wheat bread we're happy with. Initial efforts were too dry, so I subbed honey for sugar and upped the water gradually to reach my perfect recipe. Now I'm working on a variation adding multigrain cereal (Red River, but it could be any hot cereal mix).

            To answer your basic question, the only way to keep a variety of specialty flours around if you only use them every few months is to keep them in the refrigerator or freezer, because the oils in the whole grains will go rancid too quickly at room temp. I've thrown out far too many bags of flour/grains in my time, so I now put everything, unless I'm really, really sure I'm going to use it up soon, into the freezer.

            Although maybe the answer to your question was actually in my first paragraph -- try exploring the various 7-grain, 9-grain, 12-grain cereal combos out there to easily add interest to your breads. (Again, keep them in the freezer, but they won't take up much room.) And try the King Arthur White Whole Wheat flour for your basic flour -- whole wheat with a lighter texture, less gritty bran.

            5 Replies
            1. re: Karen_Schaffer

              Good suggestion about exploring the various multigrain cereal I see sold in markets. They are on the pricey side though, although if using them sparingly, that might give the illusion of cost effectiveness.

              I have enjoyed the breads at Trader Joe's as well as Alvarado Street Bakery because of all the many healthy ingredients, and when they are warmed or toasted in a toaster oven, they taste so much better than traditional breads, even Arnold's. It's like the difference between fresh vs. store bought, at least on this level.

              I can't see having all those ingredients on hand that I see in some of these breads, but some of the suggestions on this board might get me motivated to experiment. The Hodgson Mills bread mix just used a few basic ingredients and it tasted far blander than these other breads.

              One poster mentioned the basics of bread on this board just consisting of just a few ingredients. Although bread can be made with simplicity, I like the idea of getting in various other ingredients for health insurance, and I have heard that the advantage of sprouted grains is that it makes the bread more alkaline, easier for the body to digest.

              Morwen mentioned using dry milk powder. That offers a convenient way to add dairy. I might try rice or almond milk and see what happens.

              I had posted on this subject to see if other people who had used their bread machines were able to make bread as good tasting as the more expensive store bought breads. Seems like a compromise might be to use the machine for kneading and the rise and letting the oven do the rest.

              I don't feel confident enough nor patient enough to knead and trust that my effort will produce the required rise in the dough during baking. For now, I'm going the convenient route by letting the bread machine automate the process.

              My first out of the machine baking will probably be for rolls, pizza dough, and bagels.

              1. re: FelafelBoy

                Just to be clear, I mean the kind of cereal that you cook into porridge, not the ready-to-eat stuff (and not the 'instant' oatmeal either). I don't think it's that expensive. At Whole Foods and others of that ilk you can sometimes buy it in bulk, for an even better price.

                1. re: Karen_Schaffer

                  Yes, thanks for caring to clarify. I did think of the kind of multigrain mixture you were referring to. I have seen plastic packages of them in the organic section of my supermarket as well as in the cereal (oatmeal/grains) aisle of Whole Foods. The package sizes are about 16 to 22oz. I think, and I do recall that the price of this was in the $2 to $3.75 range. I still don't think that's inexpensive. The cost is for the convenience of having all those high quality ingredients already mixed up for the consumer. Your suggestion is a good one, of using it for both the bread and as a hot cereal (I normally make my own cereal out of oats, rye flakes, various kinds of bran, millet, ground flax seeds, and a few other ingredients). The Whole Foods near me doesn't sell in their bulk section some of the grains posters have referred to, and even the original vegetarian health food store in the metro area I live in has cut back in its bulk bin selections, too.

                  I do like the idea of buying the whole wheat white flour to compliment the whole wheat flour, in that it is of a lighter consistency. I have also seen sold in stores, "bread flour", which I take to mean that it doesn't require additional gluten in the mix to create the elasticity that comes by adding gluten to "normal" flour to be used for the purpose of making bread.

              2. re: Karen_Schaffer

                Karen Schaffer, can you give me the rec for the bread machine 100% whole wheat bread that you finally perfected? That's exactly what I am looking for.
                Thanks in advance!

                1. re: chelleyd01

                  Here's what we like. This is using a Zojirushi machine.

                  4 tbsp honey
                  1 5/8 c water
                  4 c King Arthur White Whole Wheat flour
                  3 tbsp wheat gluten
                  1 1/2 tbsp dried milk
                  1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
                  4 tbsp flax seed meal
                  1 1/2 tsp yeast

                  It makes a nice, tall loaf of bread that's moist and easy to slice. Hope it works for you too!