The cost of a loaf of bread

I don’t know about you but the cost of bread seems to be constantly on an upward spiral. The cost of the average crusty white loaf in a UK supermarket is £1-1.20, in a local shop, £1.40, and in a local bakery it can be as much as £1.60!

I have calculated the cost of making your own bread at home, and the average cost, (including ingredients and gas/electricity) comes to a whopping 55p!

So it as AT LEAST half the coat of the cheapest supermarket loaf. The profit margins seem to be pretty high for bread as they would get much better prices for their flour because of the power of bulk buying.

Just one more reason to make your own.

Bagels

Good bagels are slightly sweet, a little chewy and have a soft, shiny crust. One of the strange things about making bagels is that you poach them before baking, but they are absolutely delicious.

To make 12 bagels:

 500g Strong white bread flour                    To glaze:

5g “quick” dried yeast                                       1 beaten egg

10g salt                                                                    (Optional) Poppy or sesame seeds

250ml warm water

20g sugar

50ml sunflower oil

Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl to form a dough and knead for 5-10 minutes. Shape into a round and coat with a little oil. Wipe out the bowl and place the dough into it. Cover with cling film or a damp tea towel and leave to rise in a warm area till doubled in size (approx 45 – 60 minutes).

When the dough has risen, deflate it and divide it into 12 equal pieces. Roll each on out into a sausage shape. Wet the ends with a little water and press them together to form a ring. Cover and leave to prove for 20 – 30 minutes on a lightly oiled board – do not place on floured boards. Preheat your oven to 200oC (392 ºF)/ Gas Mark 6. Bring a large pan of water to the boil – make sure that the pan is deep, you need the water to be at least 10cm deep. Lightly oil a couple baking trays.

Turn the water down to a simmer when the bagels have finished proving.  Place as many bagels as you can into the water (remember to leave them room to expand). Poach for a minute each side and then drain on a clean tea towel. When drained, place the bagels on the oiled trays and brush with the beaten egg and sprinkle with seeds (optional). You may have to stick some of them back together if they become uncurled. Bake in the middle of your preheated oven for about 15 minutes, until they are golden brown. Remove from the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack – if you can!

Enjoy!

Problems with your bread

I am often asked numerous questions about baking; Why didn’t my loaf didn’t rise very much? Why did my loaf expand too much? etc. I tend to get asked the same questions time and time again so I am thinking of producing a free guide in pdf to answer the most commonly asked questions.

This guide is a work in progress but I will endeavour to upload it to the site soonest.

If you are interested in receiving the guide keep an eye on this site or drop me an email.

Also, if there are any topics you wish to discuss please feel free to email me or leave a comment here.

Kneading

Kneading is a vital step in the bread making process. One of the biggest problem bakers have is they don’t knead the dough long enough. It takes a good 7 – 14 minutes to knead dough with lightly floured hands on a lightly floured surface.

As you knead many important things happen: the gluten develops so the bread is able to rise; air bubbles are trapped in the dough and are also necessary for a good rise, and the ingredients are thoroughly dispersed throughout the dough, allowing the yeast to feed, resulting in a more active fermentation. All this enables your loaf to expand to its fullest when rising and baking resulting in a well risen loaf with a good crumb.

Learning to knead properly is essential for good bread making. You will get better and faster with practice, so don’t become disheartened if you don’t succeed at first. You will learn to notice the signs when the dough has been kneaded enough.

I find kneading quite therapeutic! I just switch off, some people take out their frustration on the dough – it doesn’t matter as it is very forgiving at this stage so go for it!!

Basic classification of bread

Leavened bread.

Leavened bread relies on yeast, a single-celled live organism for rising. They belong to the genus Saccharomyces – this literally means “sugar fungus.” Yeast also affects flavour and texture in the bread through a process called fermentation. Different types of bread are made depending on the type of yeast used, its primary fermentation stage and the way it is introduced into the recipe.  Most leavened breads are made with packet yeast, either fresh or dried. The exception is sourdough which uses natural yeast – some sourdough starters are very old, and are guarded jealously by bakers.

Unleavened bread.

Unleavened bread has no yeast in it. It gets its rise from raising agents present in the flour – normally bicarbonate of soda in self-raising flour. These are generally called “soda breads”  and are generally much flatter than leavened breads. Different cultures have different types of unleavened breads, such as roti/chapati and tortilla.

Why bake your own bread?

Bread is a staple food in the West, and supermarkets try to keep the price as low as possible since bread is an item that is easily compared from store to store.

In the quest for lower costs, mass produced bread began to be made by a new process in 1961 known as the Chorleywood Bread Process. This revolutionised baking. A high speed mechanical mixing process was devised and this allowed reduced fermentation times. It also meant that they could now use British wheat which was cheaper than American wheat but also had a lower protein content.

They also started adding chemical stabilisers, “flavour enhancers” and antifungals as well as hydrogenated fats. All this had 1 result in mind: maximum efficiency for maximum profit.

It is almost certain that this kind of bread worse for you. As well as all the additives and fats, the short fermentation results in wheat that is actually harder to digest and there is some belief that the whole process may be behind the increase in gluten intolerance and allergy.

There has been a small consumer revolt against industrially produced bread, driven more by a desire for taste rather than plastic bread. This, of course, has been taken as an opportunity by the supermarkets to produce speciality and organic breads, but I am still dubious about their production methods. Those ‘instore bakeries’ often just take a chilled loaf and cook it rather than actually make it, and are just smaller versions of these plants.

Your own bread will taste better than anything you can buy from the supermarkets.  The traditional process enables flavour to develop that is replaced with added salt and enhancers in industrial bread.

And, to be honest, you can’t beat the smell of baking bread, and it makes the whole house smell wonderful when it’s in the oven.

Is your bread making you ill?

Reads this article from the Daily Mail:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2003622/Is-bread-making-ill-How-2011s-loaves-bad-you.html

This is a great reason to make your own – you know exactly what is going into your bread.

Although this is a typical sensationalised article from this newspaper, the basic premise is true.

There are so many additives in today’s bread. Bake your own using the 4 basic ingredients: flour, yeast, salt and water. Not an additive in sight! Much better for you, and it tastes better too!