Now that I have gotten into the groove of making my own butter, broth, tomatoes sauce and have successfully sourced my poultry, dairy, eggs, beef, fruits and veggies, so what is next? I mean come on, that’s quite an impressive feat! After all, I showed my husband it can be done. Of course with these already great ingredients, I was making the best food that we have ever had. But I was still buying bread. Have you looked at the ingredients of regular toast bread? And if you want a good quality loaf free of preservatives, artificial flavors, natural flavors, etc, you have to pay an arm and a leg. My husband always teased me that I have a bread machine and never used it. So I decided it is time to start using it. We consume one loaf a week, so I will make one loaf a week. It was a no brainer on what type of flour we would use, whole wheat of course. I don’t want my flour to have anything removed. So I searched for the best, or at least the best I can afford and got the stone ground, non bromated, whole wheat flour. I made my first loaf in the bread machine following the instructions, but the bread was dry and crumbly. Let me just say, bread became my nemesis. But by God, I was determined to beat it if it was the last thing I did.
Let us just say I was really good at making bricks. I actually perfected it. It was only recently that I finally consistently perfected making bread. And of course the key here is “consistently”. So in my quest to making the perfect loaf, I did a lot of research on everything flour. I was shocked at what I found.
I found out that whole wheat flour is nothing but white flour with bran mixed in. It has the germ removed to increase its shelf life. The wheat germ goes rancid fast and if you keep the grain intact then your flour can’t stay on the shelf but a few days. So what is so wrong with White flour? White flour is bleached with chemicals and enriched with synthetic vitamins to replace the vitamins lost in removing the bran and germ during its refining process and in addition to that flour starts to oxidize the minute it is milled losing even more nutrition. So we are basically eating refined starch with a little bran sprinkled in there for roughage. Wow!!!! So you are telling me that I am paying for you to strip the grain of its goodness only to put back synthetic vitamins to replace what you stripped out? Huh! Does that even make any sense? What about the enzymes the good oils found in the germ, what happens to that? And why would you bleach it, what is wrong with it in its original state? There were so many questions, but one thing I was convinced of, I can’t feed my family that even if I make bread myself. I learned in my research that an un-altered food has all the enzymes and live bacteria to break itself down in your body after consumption. So It was clear what I had to do. I need to mill my own flour to make bread and pasta. There was no turning back. I went and bought a mill. I did more research and found that the best mill is a stone ground mill, but good luck finding one for home use. I looked at the impact grain mills and found that pulverizing the grain at high speeds creates heat which is the enemy of flour. I also looked at burr mills. They were good and keep the temperature down and don’t pulverize the grain at high speeds. So I went and bought a middle of the road with a steel burr mill.
It was a disaster. The flour was never fine enough and I continued again struggle with the brick. What I made was not bread, it was brick after brick. I was devastated. I searched again and found out that fresh ground flour absorbs more water, the bran cuts down the gluten so after it rises it falls, the dough is not conditioned or enhanced ….. It went on and on. I realized then, how much the flour we buy at the store is altered to always provide the perfect loaf. But what I didn’t realize was my mill was also a problem. The flour was not fine enough for bread. I was still determined not to succumb to the impact mills. I did more research and I finally found a German grain mill that uses ceramic-corundum grinding burrs. So it really gives you the best of both worlds, an economical home mill with the capabilities of a stone mill. So it is not steel burrs that will wear with time, but it is ceramic and from what I understood is self sharpening is it is used and most of all it provides you with the finest flour.
Of course using fresh ground flour needed special consideration when making bread because it is no longer has the enhancers, conditioners or stabilizers in store bought flour so I searched for a resource with credibility that I can use as reference. I found a book that had great reviews called “No More Bricks” by Lori Viets. It was a breakthrough! I made my first loaf and it was really good. I have finally won! And I was making about 4 loaves at once and storing in the freezer so that I am only making bread once a month. I was finally content.
But wait! There is more! I am big fan of the cooking channel and one day I was watching and Elton Brown’s good eats was on. He was talking about the science of making the perfect bread. So naturally, I paid attention and watched. He started talking about letting the dough rise in the fridge over a longer period of time. I thought that was crazy, but he backed it up as usual by science and I am a big science girl. So I decided to give it a try, after all I would be able to store dough in the freezer instead of already baked loaves and that would serve two purposes. It would take less storage space and I would be able to bake fresh bread whenever I needed to.
The only deviation from Elton’s way was I did my first rise the old fashioned way for about an hour until the dough doubled in size. I then portioned the loaves and put the dough that I was not going to use in Ziploc bags and flattened it so that it filled the entire bag and it was easy to stack in the freezer. I immediately placed them in the freezer because you don’t want to give them a chance to start rising. The dough I was going to use, I shaped and placed in loaf pans, oiled and covered with plastic wrap loosely and put in the fridge to rise. Holy Cow!!!! I have never achieved such a rise, ever, ever ….. I almost teared up when I saw my loaves. The heavens opened and I felt like I was surrounded by angels. I mean I sat there just staring at my loaves for a good twenty minutes. I took them out of the fridge and put them in the oven and baked them. I had just achieved greatness. It was the best bread I have ever tasted. It was the perfect texture, it was everything I dreamed it could be and more. The family loved it. We couldn’t stop eating it. We went from consuming 4 loaves a month to double that. We found reasons to eat bread. Now the real test, would thawed dough do the same thing? And it did. It was glorious.
Was I able to do it again? Yes, and again? Yes! I have finally triumphed! And it feels damn good. It may take you a bit longer than you expected, but at the end of the day, you will feel great that you are living unprocessed!