Today I made two loaves of bread. But before I tell you what kinds, let me tell you about my baking experience.
First why bake bread when it's so plentiful and you can even buy artisan bread in Sam's Club, Costco and BJs now? For one thing, I like knowing HOW to do things, and prefer to be self-sufficient. If I have flour, water, yeast and salt, I can make bread almost anywhere very easily. Second, I like to know what is in what I am eating. I don't want a lot of preservatives, too much salt, the wrong kinds of sugars, etc. I've studied the history of making bread, am fascinated how it was done centuries ago, and how it came to be in the first place.
I've been baking bread for ump-ti-ump years and have tried all kinds of techniques, recipes and ingredients. About 4 years ago I found a book called Secrets of a Jewish Baker by George Greenstein. I've made many of his recipes, especially his challah. About 3 months ago I bought The King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion, have a copy of James Beard on Bread, and of course The Joy of Cooking has great info on bread making.
I've tried all kinds of flours, including going to Sonnewald's Healthy food store here in Central PA for fresh ground flour. The best flour for bread making and most baking of any kind though is King Arthur. Yes, it's more expensive, but if you watch the sales you can stock up when the price is more affordable. The thing is, it really is a better flour.
I also use Hodson's and Red Mill when buying semolina (no KA semolina here in York), and rye. We have several good farmer's markets and from them I can get a good pumpernickel flour. So you can see I am serious about what I put into our breads. But frankly, my breads never came out as what I would classify as Artisan until the last month or so. That's when I heard about a technique and bread book that has become my favorite!
I first heard about Artisan Bread in 5 minutes a day on the Food Preservation group on yahoo groups. It was just an obscure little post...go to this link to see bread with no kneading. I love trying new techniques and even though I use a Kitchen Aid to mix and knead my breads I was intrigued when I saw the video!
Now I really feel like I can make artisan breads...so do my neighbors Wanetta and Wayne, my friends, and of course my husband! I love the ABin5 book because it really does require NO kneading, instead it's just some quick mixing, which frankly I do with my Kitchen Aid mixer in just a few minutes.
To illustrate how serious I am I was recently in Wegmans (it's a must-see tour spot for my friends visiting from Alaska now) and I stood looking at their fresh bread section going "hm, I've made that, that, and oh yes, this one was good..." and I didn't even long for any of theirs! Now that is saying something for me because I love bread! I love seeing it, smelling the earthy grains, the mix of herbs in some of them, taking that first bite without any butter or jam, or spread of any kind. I want to feel the texture of the crumb, taste the bitter and sweet.
OK, so on to today's batch. ABin5 has two wheat bread recipes, one for light wheat and one for whole wheat. I made the light wheat earlier this week, and it was good. Matter of fact one of my friends took a loaf home and ate the whole thing for lunch the next day (it was a small loaf thank goodness)! But I wanted something with a bit more wheat. So today I did 3 C of KA white wheat flour and 3 1/2 C of KA all purpose flour. It came out much better! What a good crumb, crust and taste!
I also did a pumpernickel for my hubby Ken. He loves a good Russian pumpernickel. Most that I have bought in the stores have been a very dark soft bread with a good rich flavor. Course the commercial bakeries use coloring to get that darkness, matter of fact King Arthur sells it in a powder form. Plus some of those breads have espresso coffee and dark cocoa in them. A few years back I had tried a recipe like that but Ken did NOT like the cocoa addition.
For today's attempt I used 1 C of pumpernickel flour and 1 C of rye flour, even though ABin5 called for just the 1 C of rye. It didn't come out as dark as I hoped, but the loaf looks very professional and artisan and the flavor is very good. I put in the powdered espresso but Ken nixed that for the next time...it's very good don't get me wrong...but he'd rather have more molasses and no espresso.
Next I'll try the English muffins. Good thing I also like salads with lots of leafy greens wouldn't you say?
So all in all it was a successful day of baking bread.