Baking Bread 101 - Lesson 1
Whether you have been baking bread for years or just starting out, these tips will help you get a perfect loaf, every time, no matter what recipe you are using. These are skills I have learned that took my bread making to a whole new level of improvement, and provided me with a great end product that is a healthier for my family.
Before the industrial age, bread was a healthy staple in most homes. But in the last few generations we have lost the knowledge of how to make delicious and healthy food that is good for us in our own homes.
These skills aren't all that hard to learn, but they just were not passed down to me from previous generations. But if I learned to do them, I'm sure you can do it too!
What I have found is that most recipes and "experts" focus on all the wrong things which is why my bread never turned out very good and never turned out consistently. Looking back at some very old books, I could see a different pattern than what we see today when it comes to recipes. When looking at these recipes it would seem as though there were so many missing instructions and I was confused. For one thing, there seemed to be an assumption that people already knew generally how to bake bread. I found this to be true with my own grandmother, who often times made amazing dishes without a recipe... it was all in her head and no matter how hard I tried, I could never recreate her dishes.
Years ago, it was common for mothers and grandmothers to pass down these skills to the next generation. Our culture has changed so dramatically and one of the downsides is that these skills are rarely passed down anymore. The common techniques that were learned then, now seem hard to come by.
Bread making is a skill... not just a recipe. I have learned, finally, that you can't just use a recipe to make bread. It takes certain techniques to master making consistent home-made bread. Not just by following a recipe. I'll explain more about that in a minute.
First a bit of background information:
Back in 2009, When my daughter was diagnosed with a rare neurological disease, I went in to full research mode. One of the things I learned about was how much our health is dependent on what we are feeding our bodies and the amount of nutrient-dense foods we are eating. Food without additives or chemical processing is hard to come by these days which makes it hard to avoiding foods that drag our health down.
By studying, I found that unhealthy grain products are a major health hazard in our world today. Specifically, commercially processed grain products are at the center of this issue. For centuries grain products were the center of healthy eating, but our modern processes are robbing us of the life sustaining power of grains.
With this knowledge I decided I needed to remove store-bought bread from my home. I dove into making my first bread and it smelled so amazing and I was so excited about the whole experience. But I quickly became disappointed when I found it was more like a brick than the slice-able bread I had envisioned.
After several more tries I gave up for a few years. But then I found someone who shared with me the traditional ways of making bread. What she taught me was how to "read the dough" not "read the recipe".
The reason for this is that everyone's kitchen is different. And even my kitchen is different at different seasons and perhaps even different times of the day. Things such as room temperature and humidity all make a difference in bread making. So if you are following a recipe exactly and using the very best grains, you still may end up with a bread that just isn't something you want to eat.