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All about bread...

Bill Baking Bread Baking bread can be difficult for the beginner, but if you follow the instructions on the web site, you should be completely successful. If you examine the procedures for baking ‘Billy’s Deluxe White Bread’, you might think the procedure is too long or cumbersome. It really isn’t and goes quickly once you get the hang of it. Billy shows you step by step on how to bake the very best bread money can buy; the way bread used to be made in times past.

Why bake your own bread? Because it tastes like no other bread you can buy. Bread used to be a meal in itself, but today it is something merely to ‘hold the sandwich meat’. Today’s bread does not fill you up and adds nothing to the taste of the meal. Americans eat way too much meat partially because the bread has become so poor that it no longer satisfies your hunger. This situation has occurred because of economic pressures to keep a loaf of bread under $1, because people are so caught up in working that they have no time to bake their own bread, and because people have forgotten what a good loaf of bread really tastes like. When you make your own bread, you can control both the quality and quantity of the ingredients to suit your own tastes and life style. Commercial bread can be filled with preservatives and artificial substitutes, so baking your own homemade bread can be better for you and your family.

Store bought bread is made by commercial bakers who are interested in making many loaves of bread at a low cost, taste being a secondary consideration. So great are the economic pressures that commercial bakers will do just about anything to reduce the cost of their bread. For instance, some commercial bread is not kneaded at all; it goes into the pan as a liquid and directly into the oven - there is no ‘dough’ as we know it! In order to reduce costs, commercial bakers must add as few ingredients as possible and ‘blow up’ the bread with air to make it appear that you are getting a full loaf of bread. To prove this to yourself, take a piece of commercial bread and squeeze it in your hand; it will normally squeeze down to next to nothing. Have you ever noticed how light in weight is a loaf of store bought bread? This is because commercial bakers try to use as little flour as possible, because flour costs money. Flour adds mass (weight) to the bread and is one of the principal differences between home made and commercial bread. I in no way wish to criticize the commercial bakers. If I were in their position of either producing a low cost loaf of bread or going out of business, I would probably have to make the low cost bread. Commercial bakers are not responsible for the current situation; it is simply our economic system and competition that forces them to make cheap, tasteless, airy bread.

Flour is the principal ingredient in bread. There is ‘All Purpose’ flour, which can be used to bake a good loaf of bread, ‘Bread’ flour, which generally makes a better loaf, wheat and rye flour which makes wheat and rye bread. Commercial bakers almost always use All Purpose flour, because it is the cheapest. One of the advantages of baking bread yourself is that you can use a better type of flour, such as Bread flour or unbleached flour if you so desire. The choice is up to you.

The cheapest flour is All purpose which can be used to make a good loaf of white bread. We use it regularly and have no objections to the quality or taste of the bread that it makes. Some people don’t like All purpose because they say it contains too many chemicals, not enough gluten and not enough protein. These arguments might be true, but the proof of the pudding is in the eating: if All purpose makes an acceptable loaf of bread, and you are not starving for additional vitamins and proteins, then using All purpose flour to make your home made bread makes economic sense. This is especially true because it can be half the cost of Bread flour or other specialty flours.

Bread flour is probably the best for baking bread, as it contains more gluten and proteins than All purpose, but it costs more, sometimes twice as much. When flour goes on sale at your local store, it is almost always All purpose and never Bread flour. Bread flour is said to rise up better than All purpose, but we at OurVeggieGarden have never had any problem with our bread rising up high enough, so this subject is mute as far as we are concerned. It is also claimed that Bread flour contains more vitamins and proteins than All purpose. But ask yourself this: do you really need more vitamins or proteins in your diet? Most of us here in America get plenty of nutrients and don’t really need additional ones, this being especially true if you take a multivitamin pill, as we do. So this subject is also mute as far as we are concerned. But each person must do what he or she feels best with, so pick the flour you desire. We have tried baking bread with both All purpose and Bread flour and find that both of them will bake an acceptable loaf of bread, although Bread flour is probably somewhat better.

The brand name flours, such as Gold Metal, Pillsbury & Robin Hood, produce an excellent flour, but they cost more than the generic brands. In times past, only these brand names could produce a good flour, but the generics have quickly caught up and now produce an acceptable flour as well. So we simply use the generic brands, because there is not that much difference in the quality anymore. But again, you do as you think is best and choose the flour that makes you the most happy.

Flour can be purchased in both bleached and unbleached forms. Endless arguments have ensued as to the merits of both, especially unbleached, but again, we haven’t discerned any appreciable difference once the bread is baked. Bleached flour has been on the market for 50 years now, and the US and Canadian governments haven’t found anything wrong with it, so I think it is safe to say that bleached flour is safe for you. Unbleached normally always costs more and never seems to be on sale, so again, you pick the flour you think is best for you and your life style. We at OurVeggieGarden normally use a generic All purpose bleached flour and find that it performs just fine. Once in a while, however, we will buy a premium unbleached flour to see if we can discern any difference in taste. With flour constantly evolving and improving, it is wise to switch flours from time to time and see how your bread tastes.

Yeast comes in three forms: cake, active dry and instant. Cake yeast is sold in the refrigerated section of your grocery store, but many stores no longer carry it. Active dry comes in individual packets and 4 oz glass jars and is the yeast that we use. Instant, which is similar to Active dry, is said to rise the bread 50% faster than Active dry but is not recommended because you want the bread to rise up slowly, not quickly. A slow rising bread has more flavor because it has a longer time to develop the molecular structure of the bread. Instant yeast is used by commercial bakers to quickly rise the bread and get it out the door. Buy Active dry yeast for your bread making.

Bread has to be sweetened, white granulated sugar being the most common ingredient, but you can also use molasses or honey. At this time we use white sugar and want to try using honey and molasses in the future. Access our site regularly to see our progress in this area.

Salt adds flavor to bread but kills yeast, so you must always keep the salt away from the yeast - never mix the two directly. We tried baking bread without salt and it never seems to turn out correctly, and we have been told that salt is a requirement in bread baking.

You can use either water or milk as the liquid, but our bread tastes just fine using water, and it contains less calories and cholesterol than when using milk.

Margarine, vegetable oil or butter is the final ingredient of our bread recipe. We use stick margarine because it contains fewer calories and cholesterol than butter, although butter might produce a better tasting loaf of bread.

The secret to baking a good loaf of home made bread is the rise time. Commercial bakers do not have the time or space to allow the bread to rise-up slowly, so they use quick rising yeast, leave the bread rise-up, bake it and get it out the door. This is a requirement for them to stay in business and to keep the cost down, and we have no problem with this. When you bake bread at home however, you can allow it to rise up several times slowly and allow the bread to form a well developed molecular structure which adds to the flavor and strength of the bread. Adding too much yeast will certainly solve the ‘no rise’ problem but it greatly effects the taste. Beginners will normally have trouble getting their loaves to rise properly, and they resort to adding more yeast, which is a mistake. If you follow our recipes and directions, you should have no trouble getting your bread to rise and the amount of yeast we use produces a delicious loaf of bread without a yeasty flavor.

Can you use a bread machine to make Billy’s Deluxe White Bread? The answer is no. We have a bread machine, like most of you might have, and it cannot compare to making bread by hand as outlined in our web site. Why not? We aren’t quite sure, but we think it has to do with the kneading and rise times. Our hand made bread rises up three times, is allowed to rest several times, etc. For some reason, bread from our bread machine cannot compare to Billy’s Deluxe White Bread. Once you have successfully made Billy’s Deluxe White Bread you will probably use the bread machine less and less.

Finally, don’t leave the large number of steps required to create Billy’s Deluxe White Bread intimidate you. The steps are very easy to follow with plenty of pictures to view. Don’t be scared or worried. Simply follow the instructions step-by-step and you should be successful. Once you do it a couple of times, it will become like second nature to you and you will think nothing of making this excellent, home made bread.

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