I embarked on a journey today. One that I had never even thought of attempting before. But yesterday, I was gripped by a sudden urge.
An urge, that is, to bake bread.
So, while I should’ve been working on my research paper, I was looking up bread recipes on the Internet. Of course, the bread had to be whole wheat. 100%, if possible. So, I researched. And I learned. I read about yeast and kneading, sponges and gluten, and crammed my brain with all sorts of bready knowledge.
I finally decided I was ready. So at Organica, I bought all the ingredients that I needed. And I decided to utilize what we had lying around the house:
A bread machine. Don’t ask me why I have it, I just do. Now you might be saying that bread machines are for noobs who don’t have the talent to make real artisan bread. And I won’t argue with you. I fully acknowledge that I am a bread noob who needs the assistance of a bread machine to help her first step into bread-dom. Come on people, I’m not going for Balthazar standards here.
So, the ingredients:
And last but not least…
Yeast. This is fast-activating (a.k.a instant) yeast. I was really surprised when I opened the packet – it smells really funky! Kind of like beer, but in a more wheatish way..
First, I heated up the milk. I’m not sure if this is totally necessary; in fact I may have heated my milk a little too much. I know that when you add your ingredients together, they’re all supposed to be room temperature so they can mix evenly. Also, a warmer temperature makes for a better environment for the yeast.
So I microwaved my milk for about a minute:
But like I said, I think I did warm it up a little too much..
Then the flours. Usually when bread is made, even though it says whole wheat, it’ll have a certain amount of regular unbleached bread flour mixed into it. A lot of the breads you see in the store that are labeled “whole wheat” actually have more white flour than wheat flour! But white flour is usually a necessary ingredient – without that refined flour to help lighten up the dough, the bread will not rise properly. However, there is a way to overcome this.
And the answer is… vital wheat gluten.
I know, it sounds intimidating. But here’s the basic gist of what v.w.g does for you bread:
Vital Wheat Gluten: Made from the natural protein found in the endosperm of the wheatberry, when v.w.g is combine with water it becomes highly elastic and taffy-like. Added to bread dough, it helps retain the gas and steam from baking and gives more volume to the baked bread. It can be especially helpful for baking breads made with coarse, whole grain flours and cereals.
This explanation is taken straight from the Bob’s Red Mill package that the v.w.g. came in. (I love this brand by the way – so good for unusual flours and stuffs).
Pretty much, v.w.g. is just another leavening agent; think of it as a supporting actor to the yeast.
Then the recipe called for 3 cups of whole wheat flour; I used 2 cups of whole wheat, and 1 cup of teff flour.
Whattheheck is teff you ask?
Whole Grain Teff Flour: A Nutrional Powerhouse. This highly nutritious whole grain flour is made from the smallest grain in the world. Compared to other grains, it has a much larger percentage of bran and germ so it’s a very good source of dietary fiber, protein and iron. Teff flour has long been a nourishing staple of highland Ethiopians.
So I took all three of these powders and blended them together:
After measuring out the rest of my ingredients, I was ready to put everything into the bread loaf bucket.
Now let’s hold on a second here. See, the way you add the ingredients to the bucket is veeeery important – you can’t just throw stuff in willy-nilly. It may seem counterintuitive, but for the first 15 minutes in the bread machine, you want everything to stay separate in its own respective layer.
First things first: the milk. It’s liquid, so it’s obvious it has to be at the bottom, otherwise it would just dribble down through the flour.
Then the sugar (a.k.a. yeast food), salt and butter (I used olive oil) go in:
After that, you want to add your flour. Make sure the flour provides a solid barrier between your liquid and your yeast. You DO NOT want your yeast coming into contact with either the salt or the sugar too early. Although the little guys may not seem like it, they are living organisms. Too much heat, sugar, or salt, can end up killing them off.
I made a little well in my flour and poured the yeast in there.
Then I carefully took the bucket and locked it into the machine:
Set the machine to “Whole Grain”…
Then all I had to do was wait. And yes, it does take over 4 hours to make a single loaf of bread.
Let me break down for you what goes on in the machine during the “Whole Grain” cycle:
1. The first 25 minutes are dedicated to preheating, and bringing everything up to temperature. I didn’t know my machine had this feature – next time, I won’t bother heating my milk. I think that’s the reason why it was too hot.
2. Then it starts the first kneading cycle.
3. After kneading once, the machine let’s the dough rise. Then it stirs it back down.
4. Then there’s a 2nd rising. And a 2nd stirring back down.
5. Then there’s a 3rd rising; after this once the bread is actually baked.
So as you can see, it’s a pretty lengthy process. Halfway through the whole bread-making, I took a peek at my dough and saw that IT WAS NOT RISING.
But I just kept hoping for the best. In the end, my final product looked like this:
As you can see, my bread is preeetty short in stature.
Well, after researching a little more, it looks like it could’ve been a couple of things.
A. Although I had bought my teff flour today, my whole wheat flour was a little aged. The “Best Used By” date was sometime in 2009.
B. My heating the milk before adding it into the bucket may have resulted in an environment that was just too hot for yeast. They never had a change to grow and blossom…
C. I wasn’t even supposed to use milk. The recipe calls for water and dry milk, 2 seperate ingredients. I read somewhere that you could substitute milk for these, but I guess not.
D. I either didn’t use enough yeast, or Vital Wheat Gluten. Either way, it’s pretty obvious that this loaf could’ve used more leavening.
All in all, it was a fail of a bread-making venture, and disappointing to say the least.
It could be worse, though. The bread itself is actually quite edible; in fact, it’s pretty darn tasty.
It’s just that it’s a little dense in texture. However, it still has that rich, whole-wheaty goodness that I love. To be honest, when sliced thin, it tastes perfectly fine.
It’s just that in my head, I had this picture of me pulling a towering loaf of fluffy whole-grainness from the machine… But in reality I got something more like a paperweight.
Well, you live and you learn right? And even though it didn’t come out perfect, nothing makes your house smell better than a fresh-baked loaf of bread.
I’m gonna attempt to make bread again soon! Now that high school is over for me (last AP exam was taken, research paper was handed in), I’m gonna have pleeenty of time on my hands to do stuff like this. So expect more posts! I know that I only update every few days, but I promise I’ll try to be more diligent. It’s just that sometimes my life gets pretty normal, and I don’t want to bore you all when nothing exciting happened to me..
Wowza, will you look at the time. 2:40 AM. I should get some sleep, huh? I guess this is what it means to be a senior :D
Well, this is Eunice, signing off. Good night all!