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Oct 20, 2009 10:11 AM

Homemade Bread

To those who make their own bread at home (specifically whole wheat): I am entertaining of beginning to make my own bread at home each week instead of buying it from the store. Those of you who have made this transition, either temporarily or permanently, what were the taste comparisons near the beginning of the week and by the end of the week? Do you find one option particularly more cost effective? What have you found to be the best way to keep your bread fresh?

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  1. It would help if you can narrow things down more: would you be making crusty peasant-style loaves or a softer, snadwich bread type? Either can be whole wheat. There are lots of variables but I find the ingredients cost me about a fourth of what I'd pay for a national brand in a supermarket. I can't tell you what the fuel cost is. I don't bake bread in hot weather because I don't want the stove on 425+ for an hour. Of course it's best the first day, when it's cooled long enough to slice. I keep the remaining sliced bread in a Rubbermaid container in the refrigerator. A few minutes in the toaster oven does a pretty good job of reviving it. If I knew it wouldn't be used within a week, I'd freeze some of it. You can get the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day book, which will allow you to bake smaller loaves more often.

    2 Replies
    1. re: greygarious

      I really recommend you take a look at Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day -- check for it at your library if you want to "test" it first. I was always intimidated by bread baking and certainly couldn't imagine getting the timing just right. But now that I'm using this book, I bake fresh bread several times a week easily. I'm still working up to using it to replace all of the sandwich bread for the kids' lunches, but I'm getting there.

      The great thing about this is mixing up a batch of dough for 4 or more loaves at once -- let it rise, then it waits in the fridge until you're ready to rest and bake.

      I'm sure experienced bread bakers can bake as often without it, but it changed me into a bread baker -- which has saved us money as well as given us delicious fresh bread.

      1. re: eamcd

        Here's a link to an extensive article about the ArtisanInFive method (along with several recipes). I do some variation of this bread all the time and bought the book to expand my choices. Enjoy the adventure of bread making at home!

      French Foodie, I learned basic bread making from my Great Grandmother, a Brooklyn, NY baker/owner, from a very early age and it's still a wonderful & challenging weekly part of my baking routine. I love, love, love baking bread. Some loaves will be a cost savings, some won't. By the freshest flours and yeasts you can find. Remember what you put in your bread (nuts, raisins, spices, seeds) should also be the freshest ingred. you can find. The link I'm sharing above is a fabulous, handy guidepost for breadmakers of all skill levels. Practice makes perfect and the tasting along the way is a fun joyful treat. Good luck with your bread making!

      3 Replies
      1. re: HillJ

        Thanks for the thoughts.

        Greygarious: I currently am looking at sandwich type bread although I am sure that I will dabble in more.

        HillJ: Thanks for the website. It looks great.

        Well I guess I am off to continue researching and then stocking up on ingredients (including some new yeast) later this week.

        1. re: HillJ

          I second this. I consider The Fresh Loaf my main online resource for bread baking. Floyd has a lot of great tutorial for beginners, too. They get a lot of pro bakers at that blog as well, so you can ask all sorts of detailed questions.

          For whole wheat baking, I recommend the King Arthur Whole Grain Baking book. Every recipe in the book has at least half whole grains, and they give great advice on how to overcome the common problems of heaviness and bitterness when baking with whole grains. I successfully made a very light, tall loaf of wheat sandwich bread from that book.

          In cool weather, I keep my bread in a sealed plastic bag on the counter, but have to put it in the fridge in warm months or it will get moldy. Refrigeration speeds staling, so it's best to revive refrigerated bread with a light toasting. I live alone, so if I make more than one loaf, I freeze the rest. Frozen bread can be easily brought back to "just like fresh" by wrapping in foil and reheating in the oven for about half an hour.

          The best part is that the slightly stale ends of homemade bread can be turned into homemade croutons and bread crumbs.

          Have fun baking!

          1. re: LisaPA

            Bread stones are also a worthwhile investment for reviving chilled bread. I never freeze dough or freeze baked breads tho. I don't care for what ice does to it. I do proof a week's worth of dough at a time and break off enough each time I bake. I also use leftovers for breadcrumbs and other recipes.

        2. From my experience, I would say that if you plan to bake your entire bread supply and plan to bake only once a week, you will need to freeze your loaves. All bread will stale as the starch gels lose moisture and crystalize. Some dough additives--like sugar, which holds water--will slow the staling process, but not for the whole week. And bread that has risen slowly and sourdough bread usually have a longer shelf life than bread made by the "direct method." So if you don't want to freeze the finished loaf, consider refrigerating the dough to retard it so that you can bake several times a week with only one session of mixing. You could also try par-baking the loaves and then finishing them just before serving. (I've read about par-baking, but never done it.) However, keep in mind that stale bread is still edible, and there are many good uses for it--from French toast and panzanella to bread pudding. Alternatively, you can slice your loaf and make zwieback or rusks with it. But you wouldn't use that for sandwiches! Good luck.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Father Kitchen

            i didn't know that the uncooked dough could be retarded for several days in the refrigerator. i was thinking maybe a day max. That would make baking multiple loaves per week significantly easier. Thanks again for all of the thoughts and the advice. This weekend can't come soon enough.

            1. re: French Foodie

              The good Father provides an important tip regarding "retarding" the dough. If you're into the bread baking idea, you'll find that the most fun is experimenting with things like retarding dough for different periods of time. Retarding adds complexity to the flavor of your breads through the fermentation process. I went to culinary school for culinary arts and bread baking was a major part of the program. We bread starters that were over 20 years old which in fact seems long but is nothing compared to some old European bakeries.

          2. As others have said, homemade bread doesn't keep that long. I find I need to bake at least twice a week for bread for sandwiches Mon-Fri. With sandwich bread, I keep it in a tupperware container because the crusts are already soft but you want to make sure the bread is completely cool before storing. Anything airtight will do. I do half whole wheat because all is too dense for my family and I use white whole wheat. It is more cost effective, tastes better but is time consuming. I try to make the dough myself but if I'm busy, I'll make the dough in the breadmaker, take it out and bake in the oven. Making it by hand means you have to be around the house for a few hours.

            3 Replies
            1. re: chowser

              Actually, using less yeast and letting it rise more slowly (even in the fridge), means you don't have to be around the house the whole time it's rising. You can start one night, toss it in the fridge and shape and bake it the next night. Or do the first rise one night, shape and refrigerate the next night, and bake the third night.

              1. re: LisaPA

                Concur. To the OP, as you get to know your yeast doughs you'll learn the feel and routine of bread baking.

                1. re: LisaPA

                  With the sandwich bread recipe I use, there are more interim steps than with regular rustic breads. When I'm busy, it's just easier to throw it in the bread maker, come home and shape and bake. With dinner bread, when I'm making rustic bread, I plan ahead better but then, we don't have home made rustic bread every night for dinner so I make it when I have time. Having lunch bread every day takes too much work if I did the three day process for every loaf.

              2. Oh, you'll be so happy baking your own bread! Our daily bread is 50% whole-wheat, and it keeps well on the counter for two days (one in summer). (I'm sure it would last longer, but I'm cautious.) Whatever bread is left, goes into the fridge for breakfast toast or sandwiches on toast. I always have one loaf in the freezer for emergencies. It's been cut in half, and the halves frozen separately. I can thaw a half loaf on the counter overnight, and it's like fresh bread. You can also slice the loaf before freezing, then remove one slice at a time. It thaws in no time at all.

                Good luck!