Sometime during the first year of my marriage, I baked my first loaf of homemade bread. The year was 1976, a decade before the invention of the best bread machine. It was a beautiful loaf, yet was hard as stone and weighed several pounds. Lovingly I wrapped the loaf in a kitchen towel, and with my husband, walked it over to some friends who lived in our apartment complex. We proudly presented the freshly baked bread as a gift, and laughed hysterically when we handed them the inedible loaf. We were young, and it didn’t take much to amuse us in those days.
A few years later I gave bread making another try. Instead of using a bread recipe from a cookbook, I tried recipes that my grandmother had given me. My efforts were richly rewarded. Not only were the loaves edible, they disappeared quickly. Baking homemade bread can be a relaxing and soothing experience. Kneading takes time, yet the process can be therapeutic.
When baking yeast bread, all-purpose flour or bread flour is usually one of the ingredients. All-purpose flour is milled from a combination of lower-gluten soft wheat and of high-gluten hard wheat, while bread flour is milled from hard wheat. Like bread flour, whole-wheat flour is made from hard wheat, yet it includes the germ and bran. This interferes with the development of gluten, causing wheat bread to rise slowly, and result in a heavier loaf.
There are other specialty flours that can be combined with all-purpose or bread flour to add variety to your bread making. Whole-wheat bread can be made by combining an equal ratio of whole-wheat flour to all-purpose or bread flour. This will produce a nutty flavored bread, with a dark brown and chewy crust. The texture of the bread will be coarse grained, with a brown shade.
Barley flour will produce a malty, slightly bitter tasting bread with a medium hard crust. The bread will be moist and chewy. To craft barley bread, use one part barley flour to five parts all-purpose or bread flour.
Corn bread will be pale yellow in color, chewy and on the dry side. It is a flaky and sweet bread with a yeasty flavor. When using corn flour, mix one part corn flour to five parts all-purpose or bread flour.
Oat bread is a sweet and earthy tasting bread that is a bit crunchy. It is both coarse grained and crumbly with a light brown color. To make oat bread mix one part oat flour with three parts all-purpose or bread flour.
Rye bread has a bitter and full bodied taste and aroma. It is dark brown, coarse and crumbly. When making rye bread, combine equal amounts rye flour to equal parts all-purpose or bread flour.
There are many different bread recipes, using a variety of flours. The proportion of all-purpose or bread flour to specialty flours can vary from recipe to recipe yet the above suggestions will help you to adjust the ingredients when experimenting with existing recipes.
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