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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Nothing Like a Friend!

This year I have been taking Caleb (4) and Hannah (2) to an activity day that meets twice a month. This is the first year I have done this, and we have met so many neat families! I have also had a chance to meet a number of moms in our community, and they are quickly becoming great friends.

All of these other moms are also stay at home moms, and boy do I have a lot to learn from them! I think every time we get together I learn something new.

Because of this, I sent out a cry of help among them. For Christmas this year, I received a KitchenAid mixer and a grain mill (both recommended by friends from this group). After I got my wheat berries, ran them through the mill, and made my first loaf of freshly ground wheat bread, I discovered that my bread was not nearly as good as theirs.

I tried and tried all kinds of different methods that I found on the You Tube and the internet, but it seemed like the harder I tried, the worse my bread got. So out came my cry for help, and to the rescue came my friend, Jennifer - on the left. (Check out her blog - she is great and cracks me up!)

In the middle of her busy schedule, she invited me over to her house to make some bread. I had a blast, and I learned a ton! She has the same mixer and grinder that I have, so she walked me through from start to finish. She showed me all of her tricks - things that I never would have figured out on my own or learned from the internet - things I had to see with my eyes and work with my hands. And then she sent me home with a beautiful loaf of bread and even a pan of hot cinnamon rolls (which she also showed me how to do!).

Ethan and I were in the middle of our our land buying process at this time, so I wasn't able to try bread at home right away. I did take notes though to help recall everything. When I finally got around to making my bread at home, it turned out beautiful!! I couldn't believe it. Neither could Ethan. He kept eating slice after slice saying, "This is amazing!" Hmmm . . . I guess my original bread was in need of some improvement!

So after much time on the internet, too many You Tube viewings of random people making bread, and countless loaves of confusion, I am now able to make a loaf of bread that "wows" my husband, thanks to Jennifer's help. This just goes to show, there is nothing like a good friend!

(I have both Red Winter wheat berries - which the bread shown was made from - and Prairie Gold wheat berries. I really like the taste of the Red Winter wheat, but it doesn't rise up quite as high as the Prairie Gold wheat - although it does now much better after my lesson! From my understanding, the Red Winter wheat is a bit harder than the others, but also has more nutrients. I'd like to try a combination of the two. Does anyone have anyone have any thoughts on varieties of wheat berries?)  
Tools of My Trade
My Nutrimill will grind grains extra fine to course. It's main use is for grinding wheat berries to make wheat bread. Freshly ground wheat is so much more nutritious than the wheat flour that has sat on the shelves. It is also more economical to grind it yourself, minus the cost of the wheat grinder. (I put my wheat grinder on my Christmas/January birthday list and asked gift givers to go together on it.) In addition to grinding wheat though, it can also grind quite a variety of other grains including beans and corn. You can even make your own cornmeal (they say popcorn works best!). See here for more information about grinding wheat at homeYou might be able to find a nice used one on e-bay, or you can purchase one new as in the link below.

My kitchenAid mixer was another jointly given Christmas/birthday gift.  It's most common use is for making bread, 3 loaves at a time.  The dough is worked entirely by the mixer with the dough hook, including the 10 minutes of kneading time.  The only hand work is dumping in ingredients and then forming the dough to fill my loaf pans.  I also use my Kitchen aid for mixing cakes, cookies, quick breads, for whipping . . . well, just about for all of my mixing! These can be found used on Ebay or you can purchase one new as in the link below.  I would strongly recommend getting the 5 qt, 325-watt mixer.  I have had friends get the smaller one and have been disappointed with the volume/motor capabilities.

When I started making bread, I just used basic loaf pans. After seeing how beautiful my friends bread baked up in 8 inch Norpro pans, I decided to put a set of 3 on my Christmas list. Not long after using them, I realized that I would really appreciate having 6 of them so that when one batch of bread is baking in the oven, I can get my second batch prepared, raised, and ready to go right into the oven too, without waiting for the previous bread and bread pans to cool. I like to make as many loaves as possible at once to cut down on the number of days of bread making kitchen mess. I received my second set of 3 pans the following Christmas, and when I make bread, I make bread! (I freeze the extra loaves so they are ready to go.)


QuiltedSimple said...

Yummy - nothing beats homemade bread. Looks wonderful

Country Girl said...

I just came across your blog today. You do a nice job and you have a lot of good info!

~*~ Jennifer ~*~ said...

Hooray!! You did it. I knew you would.

AND... don't those look nice. ;) Not all humpy lumpy. LOL


It was fun too b.t.w. Lot more fun baking bread with a friend. °Ü°

The Beginning Farmer's Wife said...

Country girl-
Thanks for the compliment. Glad you dropped by. Come back again!

Christy said...

Care to share any of those hints? I've been trying to make bread with wheat I grind myself and I'm also not having much luck. I haven't tried adding gluten yet, that is my next thing to try.

The Beginning Farmer's Wife said...

To best help you out, could you tell me a little bit about your process and if you have any/what type of appliances you use. I will do my best to share some pointers, but what I found most helpful was to see with my eyes and poke with my fingers. Maybe I can do a photo tutorial sometime on it too.

Christy said...

I'm grinding hard red winter wheat with a Family Grain Mill. It doesn't grind very find and I think this may be the problem. I then use my Kitchen Aid to knead the dough. Even with commercial flour I can never seem to get the dough fully kneaded (to windowpane). Do you knead the dough until it reaches windowpane? Most people I ask have never even heard the term, so maybe I'm worrying about getting the dough fully kneaded for nothing. Then my dough doesn't seem to rise well, particularly on the last rising. So I end up with really dense bread. When I use commercial flour it is edible but not that good. When I use flour I ground myself it isn't edible.

The Beginning Farmer's Wife said...

Christy - I'm glad you have a Kitchen Aid since that is what I use too. It might make a difference in the process that is needed if you have something else.

I've never heard of the term window pane. Maybe I do it, but I just haven't heard of the term. I didn't grow up making bread though or even seeing it done.

I had the same problems you are having until I totally switched how I did things, thanks to Jennifer. I'll try to type it out, but it is best seen. Hopefully I'll be able to do a photo tutorial when I make bread again. I have a bit in the freezer now, so it might be awhile.

Here is Jennifer's recipe. Hers is a bit sweeter than mine, but they both work well. This will make 2 loaves.

First step:
Put in KitchenAid bowl:
2 1/3 c hot water
2 c flour (white or wheat)
5 tsp yeast
Mix these together until they are well mixed. It's okay if there is some flour on the side of the bowl. It will get worked in later. Set timer for 15 minutes. Let it set and get your pans greased.

For this first step, I don't think I was getting my water hot enough. Jennifer just let her faucet run until it was steamy. I turn mine as hot as it will go, and my yeast doesn't "burn"

After the 15 minutes is up, the mixture should look spongy and frothy. It is now time to dump in your other ingredients.

Step 2:
heat in microwave 30 sec:
1/3 cup oil and
1/3 cup honey
Heat them in the same cup to help the honey pour out well. (I use real maple sugar in place of honey since we were given more than we will ever use on pancakes. You can also use sugar or molasses.)

Put this mixture into your bowl and add:
2 tsp dough enhancer (I don't use since I don't have it)
2 T gluten
3/4 - 1 T salt
2 cups flour
Start your mixer and let it mix these well.

Step 3:
Add more flour 1/2 cup at a time until the dough is ready. (It will be about 2 more cups.)

This is the part that is good to watch with your eyes. Some days you add less flour and some days more depending on the humidity, and other factors. You know when it is ready by your eyes.

Start adding a little at a time, mix it in well, and watch closely as you get to the last 1/2 cup of flour. If you have a KitchenAid mixer you will want to watch your bowl. Your dough will start cleaning the sides of it - no need for a spatula. Then start watching near the bottom of the bowl. You will be looking for the dough to start pulling away from the bowl, Not the very bottom, but as the bowl starts turning upward.

It should all kind of pull together, but if it starts making long arms swinging up around your beater, you have probably added too much flour. Try to sprinkle in a bit of water.

Once you think you have gotten the dough to the right consistency (I will try to put up pictures sometime), then set your timer to 3 minutes and let your mixer run on #2, I believe.

Step 4:
When your timer goes off, it is time to get the dough ready to go in the pans. Put a bit of oil or cooking spray on your counter and throw/slam your dough on the counter 7 times. (You may have to put a bit of oil or spray on your hands)

Keeping your dough on the counter, tuck the edges underneath around the dough until the dough is a smooth ball.

Divide your dough in half.

Repeat the throw/slam process with the half and retuck it, but in an oblong shape. You can "smack" the top of the dough with your hand to release air bubbles that might be on top, and then place it in your greased pan.

Do this with the other half.

Either spray or brush your loaf with oil.

Step 5:
Preheat your oven to 350

Cover your loaves with saran wrap (I use a washed out cereal bag) and let them rise. Jennifer has a wood burning stove and a nice toasty warm house. Hers take about 20 minutes to rise. We keep our house at 66 and mine take about 35-40 minutes to rise. Set your timer though so you will know what works for your house.

Step 6:
Place your loaves in the oven and let them bake for 30 minutes and then check to see if they are done.

Jennifer has great bread pans (Nor Pro) that let the bread slip out so you can peek at the sides to check if they browned to doneness. My pans are meatloaf type pans so I have to let the bread cool 5 minutes before it comes out.

Step 7:
When they are done, you can brush them with milk to keep the crust soft, or you can run a stick of butter over them. They can immediately go into zip locks and in the freezer, or they can get sliced up and eaten right away!

I hope this has helped out a bit, and I hope I can do pictures sometimes to make it make more since. It really made a difference on my bread.

Also, I do use the red wheat too (I also have prairie gold). I like the taste of the red wheat, but it is a bit heavier and doesn't raise up as high as the gold. With this process though, mine now rises very nicely and isn't heavy anymore.

Let me know how it works, and if you read this, Jennifer, feel free to make any corrections!!!

Christy said...

Thank you so much for the details! This is very different from how I've been doing things so I'm going to try this. I've been doing 2 rises but the 2nd rise never seems to go very well. And my water certainly isn't steaming hot. All the flour you use is home ground? I'll give this recipe a try next week when we finish the bread I made this week (which was edible, but never very good).

The Beginning Farmer's Wife said...

Yes, all of the flour I use is home ground. It sounds like you and I were running into similar problems. I was also doing an extra rise that wasn't going so well. Hopefully this new method will work as well for you as it did for me! I'd love to hear how it goes.

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