Breadmaking 101 – An Introduction to Bread

I was going to post one of my favorite bread recipes today when started thinking about how I got into bread making. Let me tell you – it wasn’t easy. I did a little research, found a whole wheat sourdough recipe, and dove right in. Sounds like a good plan, right?

Wrong! It took me quite a few complete fails, numerous “just alrights,” and many “almost there’s” before I was able to make a loaf I was satisfied with. It was definitely a journey, but an addictive one. I would constantly think about how I could improve my loaves, what kind I could try next, how to make my sourdough taste sour. I bought books and tools and ingredients. I spent hours on end reading recipes, tips, and advice. I made loaf after loaf after loaf, and finally, after all my efforts, I made something I was pleased with. It was nowhere near perfect. I could still think of many things I could change to make it better. But it had good flavor, good texture, and was something I was proud of.

I’ve come a long way since then. I never buy any bread at the store anymore because I love the stuff I make at home. I consistently make bread that I am happy about, and I feel proud every time I eat my PB&J.

Just for reference, I eat PB&J almost every day.

I understand the ingredients – what they do, how they react with other ingredients, how they will affect the flavor. I’ve made – many times – a sourdough bread that my boyfriend calls home about (no, I’m not joking!). And I LOVE making bread. It takes a while, sometimes up to two days, but it is totally worth it.

So, I thought I’d share my two cents with you on beginning the process of bread making. Get ready to have some fun!

What is bread?

Before you go on judging me, remember what your elementary school teachers always told you – No question is a stupid question! There are so many different types of bread that it can be difficult to get them all straight.

In my opinion (correct me if I’m wrong!), Bread is something you bake in which the main ingredients are flour and water, uses some sort of leavening ingredient, and holds its shape when sliced.

There are three types of breads: Quick Breads, Commercially Yeasted Breads, and Wild Yeast Breads.

Quick Breads

These breads are generally made in less than 2 hours. You mix all the ingredients into a batter, pour it into a pan, and bake immediately. They use ingredients other than yeast as leavening, such as baking powder, baking soda, egg whites, or a combination. You often see these around the holidays as gifts. Some examples include:

Banana bread
Cranberry bread
Lemon & Poppy Seed bread
Zucchini bread (or even better, Chocolate Zucchini Bread!)
Pumpkin bread
Blueberry bread…

The list goes on and on! Breads of this type have some sort of additional flavor attached with them. You won’t find just a water & flour quick bread – I personally think that would be kind of gross…

Commercially Yeasted Breads

These breads can take anywhere from 4-8 or more hours to make, though the vast majority of this time is down time. They involve the use of yeast, kneading, rising (usually more than once), and baking. Commercially yeasted breads are more of your everyday breads. Some examples include:

Most Sandwhich breads (white, whole wheat, rye, etc.)
French breads
Italian breads
Pizza bread

As with the quick breads, there is a ton of variety here. You can put all sorts of things in yeasted breads to create the exact loaf you want. But, there is a lot to learn here! So many things, such as the hydration, fermentation times, types of flour(s) used, enrichments, etc, can effect the outcome of your bread. (I will post on these later!) While your first loaf of yeasted bread can be very intimidating, it gets much much easier with time. Soon you’ll have it down to a routine and will make all your bread at home! 🙂

Wild Yeast Breads

These are more commonly known as “sourdough” breads. These breads do not use any additional yeast in their formulas and depend on a natural form of yeast (the “wild yeast”) that is kept alive in a “starter.” These starters are made using just flour and water (and sometimes juice to keep the bad bacteria from killing it). Yeast is a naturally occurring organism that is everywhere. It is in your kitchen, on your clothes, on the plants outside. By growing it in a starter, you are able to maintain a concentration high enough to leaven your bread. It takes some time for the sour taste to develop, so it could be weeks or even months before your loaves begin to taste sour. But don’t despair! They will be sour at some point in time!

While many a new breadmaker wants to start with sourdough, I do not recommend it. Just the growing of the starter can be endlessly frustrating. They are very easy to maintain once established, but can be difficult to get going. That being said, the satisfaction you can get from your first really sour loaf is quite high. I highly recommend making sourdough bread once you get the hang of the commercially yeasted breads.

I’m so excited to help you begin your journey of breadmaking! It is such a fun and rewarding (and healthy!) thing to do. I will continue posting about all the little steps that are part of the process, so look forward to more soon!

Continue on to Breadmaking 102 – What You Will Need!


4 thoughts on “Breadmaking 101 – An Introduction to Bread

  1. Pingback: Breadmaking 102 – What You Will Need | Ovenmitts

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