Home bread-making machines have made fresh bread accessible to lots of people who swear by them, particularly those with wheat and gluten allergies. But if you want to make bread by hand, here are the basics to get you started.
When our household income took a substantial dive a few years back, the budget restricted us to purchasing the cheapest bread available. Reminiscent of a duvet inner, our daily bread took on a whole new significance.
Using that horrid bread made me feel like a poor person. Funnily enough, recycle shopping and bargain hunting didn’t at all, instead I was rather pleased with my own resourcefulness. The desire for really good bread drove me into the kitchen and I began to make more and more of ours by hand.
When I’m making bread I feel wise and kindly, which is a welcome change from my usual messily disorganised status and I have to confess that sometimes I’ve been so enchanted by my own fresh-baked bread I could hardly bear to slice it. I always come to my senses though and what follows is usually an embarrassing orgy of crusts, crumbs and jammy smears.
I realise that to many people, the idea of enjoying homemade bread sounds like either a luxury or an utter impossibility. But a cup of flour from a 5kg bag only costs around 15 cents, and for little more than a dollar (the same price as a loaf of nasty bread) we can make something delicious, that people consider to be luxury food and that fills us up far better than any commercial bread.
I’ve also discovered along the way that people are really impressed by homemade bread. It has become an artisan craft rather than an everyday task so mastery of the bread basics assures you legendary status among your peers.
- large bowl
- small bowl
- measuring cups
- large spoon for stirring
- metal baking sheet or loaf tins
- surface to knead on
- Liquids: Use warm water or milk or a combination. Potato water or water and dried milk powder, which can be combined with the flour.
- Sweetening: Sugar, brown sugar, treacle, molasses, honey or sweetened condensed milk.
- Fat: Butter, oil, lard, dripping or margarine were traditional – from a health perspective an unsaturated oil like olive oil is recommended.
- Flour: Most recipes use 1/2 - 1/3 white flour for a light texture, so up to half the mixture can be made up of whole wheat flour, grains or a combination. This will vary the consistency and rising of the dough but generally results in tasty (if a little hefty) bread.
- Yeast: Dried granulated yeast and instant dried yeast are readily available in the supermarkets. Fresh yeast is difficult to come by but you can substitute it by allowing 1 1/2 tablespoons of dried yeast in place of 25g fresh compressed yeast.
- Baking powder and baking soda: 'Quick breads' are made with baking powder and soda bread with baking soda.
- Eggs: Some doughs are 'enriched' with eggs or butter to give a more cakey texture. Brioche and some fruit breads and buns will include eggs.
Making the most of bread
With these basic ingredients you can make:
- Fresh flour tortillas to wrap chilli and bean dishes, or scrambled eggs and roasted tomatoes for a light meal or brunch. Tortillas are raised with baking powder and cooked in a dry frying pan.
- Bagels or brioche for inexpensive but highly impressive breakfast time entertaining.
- Warm rolls with homemade soup for a delicious, substantial and very inexpensive meal.
- Spicy fruit bread for winter breakfasts and after-school snacks – lovely toasted or plain.
- Homemade naan to serve with curries. Raised with yogurt instead of yeast, it’s delicious, tender and fragrant.
- Make a double batch of pizza dough and use to make a calzone (like a big savoury turnover): stuff with roast vegetables, leftovers or delicatessen goodies and serve hot or cold.
- Freeze homemade pizza bases for a quick meal another day. Make the dough in the usual manner, knead and leave to rise: roll out into discs and freeze for up to 4 weeks.
- Quick breads, like a savoury scone dough, are great for picnics and lunchboxes – they are very easy and can be made and baked in around 20 minutes.
- Barbecue bread is very tasty and much more interesting than a burger bun: roll the dough out to resemble a pita bread, brush lightly with oil and cook on the barbecue till puffed and golden.
- Use stale or leftover bread for bread and butter puddings, bread crumbs and stuffing.
Keen to try and make bread? Try this basic bread recipe.