Thursday, January 6, 2011

Getting Started with Homemade Bread

If you had told me two years ago that I would be grinding my own grain and baking my own bread, I would have told you I was crazy.  Of course, if you had told me I would eat only salad for lunch many days, be eating all kinds of "strange" grains, drink beet juice on a regular basis and any number of other dietary changes I've made; I would have thought you were crazy about those, too.  It's amazing what a health crisis will do to your perspective on your body and your eating habits.

In the last 15 months I have learned more about the workings of the body and the impact our daily food choices make than I have ever known.  And well I am still far from being strict or really doing anything crazy, in my opinion, we have definitely made some significant changes in our mindsets and the way we eat in our home.

I have found that for many of the changes, it's really all in what you're used to.  Your palate really does adjust as your regularly expose it to things that you have before thought to not be tasty, or to taste bad.  The first time I drank the beet juice (which is actually juiced carrots, celery, beets and cucumber, sometimes with lemon or parsley added), I could barely swallow it and usually resorted to the "plug and chug" method.  However, over time, my palate adjusted and now I can say that it really tastes fine.  I would go so far as to say I really like it (although Philip does), but I don't mind drinking it.

And so, when about 14 months ago I found out a friend of mine was baking her own bread, I didn't think she was crazy; in fact I was interested.  However, at that time, with the gallbladder being at the height of it's crisis in 2009, I was unable to add anything else on.  I kind of forgot about the idea for most of 2010, but in late fall found myself once again presented with the idea.  And this time, I knew it was a step our family needed to take, for the sake of our bodies.  You can read here about some of the basic benefits from homemade bread.  And here about the importance of Vitamin E.

So, last month, we took the plunge.  Everything arrived only about a week before we left for two weeks of Christmast traveling, so I haven't had that much time to experiment yet.  We did bring bread with us for the first half of the trip at my in-law's, and the since my mom had wheat berries and a grain mill at their house, we were able to make bread for the second half of the trip.

Several people have asked how much it cost to get started, so let me lay it out for you.  It was about $750 total, much of that in start-up cost that won't have been spent again.  I highly recommend buying ingredients through www.breadbeckers.com.  They have really good prices on most things.  They also have many local co-ops that place orders quarterly.  The closest to me is in Leesburg and orders in mid-January.  Ordering through the co-ops helps save on shipping costs, which as you can imagine are high when you order 140 lbs of grain!

Here is what I started with:

Grain Mill –I bought the Nutrimill for $239 on Amazon.  My mom has a Wondermillrmill, and it works the same.  The biggest difference is the counter space. The Nutrimill has a more compact design.  It is essentially all one piece and has the Bosch name. The Wondermill is a bit bulkier, but it is quieter.

Bread Machine - The Zojirushi (about $190) is what I bought.  I liked the Zo because it has two mixing paddles instead of one.  It has an up to 13-hour delay timer, several programmable settings, and makes a two-pound loaf, which is in the shape of a regular loaf of bread, which I like.  My friend Anne also recomends the Breadman Ultimate (about $110).  They’re currently both available at www.amazon.com . You can also use the “dough” setting to mix a lot of breads (i.e. like rolls) even if you don't bake them in the machine,
so for busy moms the bread machine can be more useful than the mixer.

(*Note, I have a 6 qt KitchenAid Pro mixer, but from what I understand, it's not recommended to be used with heavy bread dough.  My mother in law tried it a few years ago with her rye bread and it just couldn't handle the weight and bulk.  So, while it's ok to use those types of mixers for smaller, lighter breads, they aren't recommended for more than that.  I am considering purchasing either the Bosch Universal Plus or the Electrolux Assistent Mixer, but they are both pretty pricey, so I haven't bought one yet.  You'd only need this if you were going to be mixing up large batches of dough (for 4-7 loaves at a time) and not using the bread machine to bake.  So for getting started, I don't think you really need one.

Ingredients.  These cost me about $300, with shipping.  But that cost should be much less with future orders.

Wheat –Hard red and/or hard white wheat is what you’ll want. Hard red is the highest in protein and most
nutritious, so it’s what I recommend as your first type to use. Hard white wheat is almost as nutritious,
but it has less flavor, so it makes great white bread and pancakes. I personally like to mix hard red and hard white when making our bread. Six gallon drums of organic hard red or hard white (45 lbs.) are about $32 from www.breadbeckers.com. After buying a bucket the first time, you can buy in 50 lb bags when you replace, which costs about $24.  Soft white wheat is pastry flour and what you’d use to make cookies, goodies, etc.  We haven't really tried this out yet, although I did order it.   Wheat durum is what is used for pastas.  Also, be sure you order a Gamma Lid for $8 also to reseal each 45 lb. bucket you order. I’ve heard small bags of wheat (just a few pounds) can be purchased at Great Harvest Bread Co. or Whole Foods, but it’s more economical to purchase in bulk (and wheat stays good almost indefinitely if not moistened or cracked).  For example, the wheat we used at my mom's was purchased in 1999 and still good!   If you make bread once or twice a week, a 45 lb. drum will probably last about 4-6 months.  I am currently baking every day and a half to two days, so I'll go through it quicker.

You an also buy other kinds of non-wheat grains like kamut (which is slightly sweet) or oats.  I plan on adding some other kinds to our regular wheat bread when I place my next order.

Honey –You will need lots since there's so much in each loaf! Bread Beckers carries several varieties that are “raw and unpasteurized,” but the Wildflower or Clover variety are great basic flavors. Costco sells honey, but it does not say “raw” or “unpasteurized” which means that it may be less nutritious.   Each loaf usually uses 1/4 - 1/3 cup of honey, so a gallon should make you 48 loaves (1/3 cup/16 cups = 48).  Bread Beckers charges about $44 a gallon + shipping for their honey, which works out to about $11/quart.  I have been unsuccessful in finding local honey for less than that, but perhaps during "honey season" over the summer it may be possible.  This is definitely the most expensive ingredient if you buy it "raw and unpasteurized".  Buying regular from Costco is less than half the cost. 

Yeast – I already had yeast on hand.  I bought dry active yeast from Costco a while ago, I think in a 1 lb bag for about $4.  When I was in Sam's recently, I noticed they sell instant yeast in bulk for a low price as well.  If you aren't a member of either of those clubs, you can buy online in bulk for a little more.

Optional:

•Lecithin OR rice bran (either is fine) –You only need a small amount.  Amazon.com, Whole Foods or almost any nutritional store carries the “Lecithin Granules.” The Bread Beckers carry rice bran extract, but either is fine (use half the amount of rice bran when substituting for lecithin).  I have been using the rice bran extract.  The recipes I use calls for 1 tablespoon per loaf.

•Flax seed –Optional but REALLY yummy and nutritious and not expensive. You can order in bulk from Bread Beckers for about $3/lb, or you can get a bag unground at most grocery stores for about $3-$5/lb.  Wegman's sells it in their organic bulk bins for $2.50/lb.   I recommend ¼ - ½ cup per loaf.
Grind the seeds in a coffee grinder not the mill. Flax seeds come in two colors: gold and red, but I’ve heard there is no difference nutritionally; much like the wheat, the gold has less flavor and the red tastes a bit nuttier.

•Gluten- Makes your bread the rise nicely.  I have been using 1 teaspoon per loaf.

•Bread Beckers Recipe Collection -Several of my friends HIGHLY recommend the Bread Beckers recipe book, and it’s only $6 at www.breadbeckers.com. I have it, but haven't tried many recipes yet.

•"Do Not Eat the Bread of Idleness" CD –It's FREE and has great info. It’s available at www.breadbeckers.com as well.

It is a little expensive to get started and I'll have see what my cost looks like it's going to average out to per loaf.  My friend estimates hers to be about $2/loaf, which is about what I was paying for "good" bread on sale from the store.  However, the reason we have made this change wasn't for potential cost savings on bread, but rather for the positive impact this will have on our bodies and our health.

I have found the process to add very little work to my life.  It literally takes me about 8 minutes to get everything out, grind the flour, add the ingredients to the bread machine and hit "start."  The bread is done 2 hours and 40 minutes later, so the next morning, if I do it at night.  I hope to branch out a little in the kinds of bread I am making, but for now, this is quick, easy...and yummy!

Philip did use the hard red wheat to make pancakes one morning.  They were the best pancakes I've ever had.  We tried the muffin recipe once, but need to try playing around with that a little more.

If you have questions, I'll be glad to help you answer them if I can.  Hope this helped!

5 comments:

BabyMama said...

i love this idea! i think i might ask for a bread maker this Christmas..or my birthday...or anniversary.

Tegan said...

Hey! I don't know if you knew that this is what our business is in Atlanta. We own a bread company called Full Cup Bread Co. We buy grain and mill our own wheat everyday. We sell muffins, cookies, and all kinds of fresh milled breads. Cranberry Walnut, Cinnamon Raisin, Honey Whole Wheat, and Ezekiel Bread...to name a few. All of our products are made from fresh milled bread daily. Our website is www.fullcupbread.com The previous owner is still listed, but our new website will be launching very soon. This will give you a good idea of what we do. Also, Sue Becker is a friend and we buy "stuff" from her all the time! FYI

Tegan said...

Meant to say "all of our products are made from fresh milled grain" above

Helen said...

Hi Angela,
So glad to hear you are enjoying your whole wheat baking. I have been using my grain mill for 11 years and make muffins and waffles regularly. I got out of the habit of making bread but hope to start up again soon. Sue Becker's talk on the benefits of true whole wheat is so compelling!! I love making delicious whole wheat grain products for my family and regularly share the muffins with my neighbors.

Gina said...

You have really shared a lot of great information for someone who is learning to bake bread! Like you, I have found that baking bread is so easy to fit into my daily routine!

Gina