I have decided that this year I am going to challenge myself to improve my bread-making skills. I have always liked the idea of baking bread on a regular basis. My results have been mixed: some winners, some losers, and a whole lot of mediocre.
Quick breads have always worked well for me, and in the last couple of years I have had success with artisan breads using the no-knead method described in Jim Lahey’s My Bread. Where I struggle is with everyday breads used for toast and sandwiches. This is where I will focus my efforts, at least initially. I also intend to focus on whole grain breads since bread is the primary way I get whole grains into our diets.
To help ensure success, I purchased a couple of products designed to improve breads: King Arthur Flour’s Whole Grain Bread Improver and their Baker’s Special Dry Milk (why yes, I have drunk the KAF Kool Aid).
One of my biggest “issues” with homemade bread is the texture. It just isn’t the same as store-bought bread. It is hard for me to explain what is different, it just isn’t as smooth and soft, and it doesn’t toast the same. I don’t know if the texture I get is just the way it is with homemade bread, or if it is something I can strive to improve.
For my first challenge bread, I turned to King Arthur Flour’s book Whole Grain Baking. I made the “100% Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread”, which they describe as “the Holy Grail of 100 percent whole wheat breads”. This book is great because they give a lot of tips for successful baking, such as letting the dough rest before kneading to allow the whole wheat flour to absorb more of the liquid.
So how did it turn out? At first blush, this bread has the best texture of any sandwich bread I have ever made, but it still toasts a bit differently than store-bought bread. It has a nice amount of moistness and has stayed fairly fresh for several days now. It tastes good toasted and spread with my orange fig jam. One minor complaint is that it has a bit too much of a “whole wheat” flavor, for lack of a better way to describe it. A blurb in the book discusses the use of orange juice in their recipes to help temper the “tannic flavor” of the whole wheat. I didn’t have any orange juice, so I left it out.
What’s next? I want to try the “100% Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread” again with orange juice to see how it changes the flavor. After seeing all the wonderful loaves of white bread made recently by the Tuesdays with Dorie folks, I would like to try that recipe as well. Lola’s Kitchen successfully substituted half of the bread flour with white whole wheat flour, something I definitely want to try!
I will keep you all updated with my bread-making efforts! Anyone want to join me in this challenge?