I love good bread!
I have written in one of my previous posts that I could live on bread and potatoes. I have also said that the bread must be good bread.
I became so desperate for a good loaf of bread a couple of weeks ago that I thought that I would bake my own. You might ask what my motivation was. Simply, store bought pre-packaged bread is full of sugar, soft and does not resemble what I call good bread. A sandwich with one of these commercially available packaged breads does not taste good.
It might be argued that many people have never had what I call ‘good’ bread (strictly a personal preference) and are totally accustomed to white, whole wheat, multi-grain breads sold in plastic bags. In fact, they may think that what I call good bread is lacking.
However, I don’t associate sugar with good bread. There is usually a ‘freshly baked’ bread section at most grocery baking counters, but often the bread is sliced and put in plastic bags so by the time that you try them, they are like cotton. In other words, they have lost that wonderful crunch outside and that soft and moist texture inside.
For a while, I tried guessing when it would be best to arrive at my grocer to get freshly baked loaves of bread, but even if the bread was still on the cooling racks, often as not, we would get a loaf that had already lost its crunch.
I tried baking my own bread…
Baking your own bread is difficult. I tried both a rye loaf and an Italian loaf. The rye loaf is pictured at the top of this post. I found that the oven temperatures from recipe to recipe were not consistent, the type of flour varied, the type of yeast was different from one to another, and the amount of salt varied from recipe to recipe.
I think baking bread is an art and it is a trial and error for the amateur bread baker. The bread will vary depending on where you are (hot, humid, cold, dry, low, high elevation, etc.), the type of flour and where it comes from, instant dry yeast or yeast that is proofed, all of these elements impact the end product.
While I do have two bread recipes, they are both a work in progress, so I will not post them until I get the result I want.
One thing for sure, if you try baking your own, you must not cut into the bread until it’s fully cooled. Most recipes say allow the bread to cool for 15 minutes, this is definitely not enough time.
Make fresh grocery store bread great!
In the meantime, I have found a way to revive that ‘freshly made’ loaf from your baker, but only if it’s not sliced. The bread can be either inside a plastic bag or directly from a cooling rack.
This is a brilliant solution for great bread, and I have tried it with bread that had lost its crunch, even on the way home. Most recently, I tried it with a three-day old loaf that had been stored inside a plastic bag.
Pre heat your oven to 350ºF. Place the bread on the middle rack in your oven and set the timer for 15 minutes. When the time is up, remove the bread and place on a cooling rack.
Do not touch until the bread is cool to the touch or it’s just lukewarm.
You can repeat this re-heating as many times as you have bread left. Normally, this is two heatings per loaf, it doesn’t matter how many days apart (within reason) but keep the left over bread in a sealed plastic bag.
I have tried this with three different types of bread. The first was what is called a Tuscan Broule, which to me tastes a bit like sourdough and is relatively dense, the next is what I would call an Italian white loaf, round in shape, light in color with a soft white interior, and the third, an Italian long loaf. I will call this an Italian baguette but it’s larger around than a baguette, like a white loaf, but with even a lighter interior.
I started with a plastic wrapped loaf in each case and re-heated two out of three loaves of bread. We ate the Italian baguette after the first heating and guaranteed, you won’t have any left after the second re-heating.
A good alternative to great bread!