A little word about bread baking

Several people have asked me how I bake my bread, so it might be time to tell you a little about what I do. At the moment, I’m baking all of my bread myself, having three reasons to do so. First, I dislike the taste of German bread. It’s hard and a little sour, also the non sour-dough. Second, I can’t eat wheat flour, so I need to have something like spelt. This is not available at a normal bakery, I have to look for it. Third, the bread I have to search for and then not really like after all is just so expensive. Now I’m buying whole spelt flour 10kg at a time, having the expensive part solved. This is delivered for free at my doorstep, so the searching and cycling part is also out-of-the-way. And I like the taste of what’s coming out of the oven. So, what more do I want?

Important to know: The whole process of ‘baking my own bread’ takes me about 10-15 minutes time, including searching for ingredients and cleaning up. If you’re using much more time, you’re doing something wrong :).

Now, what do I do?

I’m taking about 800g of flour, not measuring it really. There is some flour left in the package, so it must be around 800 grams. Put the flour in a bowl. I might add some oat, some kernels, but not too much. The dough needs ‘room’ to grow, and too many kernels will make it too heavy. Stir in a generous amount of salt if you like, using a wooden spoon. I’m using dry yeast, depending upon the room temperatures 1-2 packages. When you have time and it’s not too cool, one package will do the trick. I’ve found out that the amount of yeast doesn’t really matter, when you take less, you need to leave your dough a little longer. So, take the amount you want and stir it in the flour.
Make a little hole, and pour in some lukewarm water (if it’s too hot, you might kill the yeast). Stir, until you can’t stir anymore. Flour left on the sides? Stir in more water, until you have all of the flour incorporated in your dough. It should be quite wet though, otherwise stirring is impossible. My yesterdays dough looked like this:

Doesn’t look that jummy, just to show you that it’s sticky and wet..

Now scatter some flour over the dough and cover the bowl it with a damp dishcloth. Make yourself a cup of tea, do some groceries, knit a bit, or anything the like, and just ignore the bowl (I usually make my dough before or immediately after breakfast). Usually I leave it for two hours or so. Grease some pans (I use three normal, small oven pans, I don’t have bread pans), scatter with a bit of flour, take away the cloth from your bowl, say aahw and scatter a little more flour on top of the dough. Push the dough down, divide it in parts fitting to your pans (they should be only 1/3 full), put it into the pans and cover it with the cloth again. Leave it standing for another hour (heat your oven in the meantime to about 175 Celsius / 350 Fahrenheit) on a warm spot. Pull away the dishcloth and immediately put the pans in the oven. Leave it there for about 40 minutes. Let it cool a little bit before taking the bread out of the pans.

If you like your bread to have a hard crust, you might want to heat your oven to the maximum and reduce the time you bake your bread (25 minutes will usually do). You could consider to bake the bread on a baking stone or something the like, without the pans. Therefore, you form the bread with your hands instead of putting it in bread pans, and put it into the oven immediately (slash it on top to prevent from breaking). Adding steam (hot water put into a pre-heated oven pan) makes the crust crackling.
If you like a soft crust, the lower 175 Celsius degrees will be fine. If the bread comes out a little hard, this usually will disappear when cooled. If you’re in doubt, just cover the warm bread with the damp dishcloth you used before, leaving it for about 5 minutes. Your crust will be softened.

I always cut the breads (3 loafs) in half and put them in the freezer, ensuring me to have fresh bread every day, without baking every day. Turning on the oven each day (see my post about the Daily Bread in Five Minutes a Day) made me feel a little bad.

Enjoy your homemade bread!

Oh, and when your bread is in the oven (or right after you put it into the pans, with the oven already hot), you might want to prepare a kladdkaka! This chocolate cake is really done in an instant and so good. With the temperature being exactly right for both, this you actually have to do..

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