I have a few basic guidelines for scratch versus store bought, and they are as follows:
- Is it significantly cheaper to make it at home? (at least $15 savings per hour of hands-on time?)
- Is there a notable health difference?
- Is there a notable taste difference?
- Is it enjoyable to make?
If I can't say yes to at least one, preferably 2 or 3, of those guidelines, I skip the guilt, look for coupons, and buy it at the store. Bread, however, fits pretty much all of those guidelines (for me, anyway!).
For us, the whole-grain bread we had been buying at the store was around $3 per loaf. The ingredients for a loaf of bread is about $0.50. And, since it only takes about 15 minutes of hands-on time per 2 loaves, that's a savings of $20 per hands-on hour (2.50 per loaf x 2 loaves at a time = $5 /15 minutes = $20/hour).
There's a significant health difference, as it's 100% whole-wheat, and I know for sure that there is no soy oil used in the bread.
We love the taste. A lot.
And I enjoy making it!
So, bread is a from-scratch item at our house, pretty much all the time. I've had a few people ask me about my bread recipe, and I've kept tweaking it enough that I was hesitant to share until I was happy with it. However, I finally arrived at a recipe I love! The bread that I made this week was the softest loaf to ever come out of my oven.
So, whether you're thinking about making all your own bread at home, or are just interested in trying a loaf every now and then, I hope you enjoy!
100% Whole Wheat Bread (makes 2 loaves)
2 cups plus 5 T of hot water
2 rounded T evaporated fat-free milk
1/4 c canola oil
1/4 c raw sugar (turbinado)
1/4 c pure honey
2 t sea salt
6 cups whole wheat flour (See notes for more on flour)
4 heaping T of Vital Wheat Gluten (available at Walmart, in the flour area)
4 teaspoons yeast
*2 T whole flax seed (optional, but we love it, and it's oh-so-healthy!)
I use my kitchen-aid mixer for this recipe. If you use a bread maker to make the dough, you will want to cut the recipe in half, and I would recommend baking it in the oven and just using the dough cycle. If you don't have a stand mixer with a dough hook, you could also knead it by hand (at least, you could if you are stronger than I am).
If you're not familiar with Vital Wheat Gluten, the kind I get looks like this:
|*Check it out on Amazon|
It really helps the texture of a whole wheat bread, and also adds protein. Great stuff!
Flour. The type of flour used in bread will make a HUGE difference in the end consistency. Ultimately, I really, really would like to get a small grain mill and make my own flour. Until then, I have used Wheat Montana's Bronze Chief 100% whole wheat flour. It makes the softest bread. They also have another line of flour, Prairie Gold. The difference in flours is explained on their Amazon page:
The difference between 'Bronze Chief', (Hard red Spring Wheat and Prairie Gold (hard White Spring Wheat). Nutritionally both the Hard Red Spring, Hard White Spring, and Hard Red Winter varieties that we grow are the same (15-16% protein and 9-10% moisture). Basically the difference is in the end product: Bread made with Hard Red Wheat is darker and denser (more of a brown traditional look). Items made with Hard White Wheat "look a little more like white bread". They bake up a beautiful golden color and do not possess the stronger taste associated with the traditional whole wheat breads. Chemical Free. GMO Free.
Add the ingredients in the order listed, and mix until everything is just mixed together. Let dough rest for 10-15 minutes.
While your dough is resting, turn your oven on "Warm," or whatever the lowest setting is for a few minutes. You don't want it to be super hot, but it should be nice and warm. Do remember, though, to turn the oven off before actually putting towel-covered dough in there.
Knead on speed 2 for about 4 minutes. Sometimes I finish the kneading by hand. Lightly oil your bowl (I spray the bowl with olive oil), set your dough in it, cover with a towel, and set in your warm oven for about 40 minutes, or until it's about doubled in size, like this:
At that point, use a sharp knife to cut the dough in half. Flatten it out a bit, then roll it up into a loaf, tucking the ends under and pinching the seam. Put both loaves into oiled loaf pans, cover with a towel, and put them back in the oven to rise.
Let them rise 40 minutes to an hour, until they are about doubled in size.
Then bake them at 350* for about 20 minutes. You will know they are done when you tap lightly on the top and it sounds hollow.
Slice and enjoy it while it's warm!
Final note: This bread has no preservatives in it, so for best results, store in the fridge. We usually microwave a slice for about 8-10 seconds before eating, and it tastes just like it's out of the oven all over again!
*This is my referral link.