Saturday, August 8, 2015

Making Bread at Home: Pros and Cons of Different Methods



I've made bread at home for several years now and I have tried different methods.  The latest one involves a breadmaker and while I still have this experience fresh on my mind, I thought I'd jot down the pros and cons (as I see them and as I have experienced them) of each method. Your experience might be different due to location, availability and price of various products, lifestyle, dietary needs/requirements, etc.

This is to make a loaf of white bread.

It is to be noted that the biggest con, in my experience, is that each method has resulted in delicious, warm bread. Why is this a con? Because I eat a heck of a lot more bread when I make it at home. As in: I can eat a whole loaf in a day, whereas if I buy sandwich bread from the store, my whole family will take a week to eat a loaf.  So the price argument that it's cheaper to make at home holds no water for me. Also because I buy the cheap bread at the store (Aldi, $0.85 a loaf).  Homemade bread might be better for you because of the absence of preservatives and various additives that store-bought bread may have, but it is NOT better for you if you are going to be eating tons of it because of its deliciousness.

Another con of every method listed here is that fresh homemade bread really only lasts the one day. Yeah, yeah, yeah, you can make it last longer by putting it in a plastic bag or cloth bag or whatever. But it's definitely not as good the 2nd day. Well, at least if you live in Florida where it's humid most of the time.  So I wouldn't advise to make more than 1 loaf at a time, unless you're going to freeze the extra loaves.  I've frozen mine cut into slices first or unsliced. There are pros and cons to each method. Generally, I don't like the bread when it's been frozen... and also, see the biggest con: warm bread fresh out of the oven/breadmaker is hard to resist.  Usually I don't have any bread to freeze by the time it's cooled off sufficiently!

So here are my thoughts:


Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes A Day (no kneading)
I have used their recipes to make several kinds of breads and all were delicious. When it comes to making white bread, I have used the boule recipe (which kind of is their main recipe) to make artisanal boule bread, but also white bread to cut up for sandwiches by just putting the dough in a greased rectangular baking container instead of cooking it on a stone. It worked fine.

Recipe can be found here.

Pros:
  • So, so easy. No kneading whatsoever.
  • Very few ingredients (flour, water, salt, yeast) = minimal cost
  • You make enough dough at a time to make several loaves over 10 days so you don't have to make dough each time you want to make bread.
  • Despite it taking more than "5 Minutes a Day" (See Cons), it's the fastest of all methods.  After making the dough, you can make bread in 1 hour per day, tops. Less if it's hot and humid where you live!

Cons:
  • Need to buy a container large enough to hold the dough. I use a large Rubbermaid flat container. I also have found flimsier containers from the Dollar Tree that seem to work as well. I prefer the flat and long containers to the bucket they mention because it's easier to store in my fridge.
  • Need to make sure have room in the fridge to store the dough.
  • If you use their regular baking method, you will need to buy a baking stone... and then store it somewhere (the oven would be a given but you might forget it's in there and turn on your oven to preheat it and then you're stuck with a preheated baking stone that you need to sit down somewhere... but where?!  arrgh. So my advice would be not to store it in the oven).
  • Have to have time!  The "5 minutes a Day" is very misleading.  The dough needs to rest 40 minutes prior to baking and then bake for 20 minutes so 1 hour is more accurate, although you really don't have to do anything.
  • Uses unbleached AP flour, which Aldi doesn't carry. I buy mine at Target, it's where I have found it to be the cheapest.
  • Need to use the wall oven = energy cost
  • Slices are small. Fine for small sandwiches but if you want a larger sandwich, not big enough.

The Frugal Girl's Bread Recipe (kneading needed. Ah!)
Kristen has an amazingly detailed post showing how to make "her" bread.  I have made it many times and it's delicious. It was the first time that I kneaded bread and it was much less complicated than I had anticipated. Still, it's more physical work than the other 2 methods I'm discussing...

Pros:
  • Cost!  It uses more ingredients than the Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day method, as it needs milk, sugar, butter or oil, but they're not "specialty" items. You should already have those in your pantry or be able to buy them cheaply at Aldi.
  • Can use regular American AP flour :)

Cons:
  • Messiest all all methods because you need to knead it and roll it out.
  • You have to knead the dough - not great to do by hand if you have pain in your hands/arms/shoulders. Easier if you have one of those cool Kitchen Aid heavy duty mixers, but then you probably paid several hundreds of dollars for one so there is a big cost involved.
  • You need enough counter space/table space to knead the dough.  I have a small granite-topped island that I use for that. I call it my baking cart.  It's made my life easier because cleaning it is easier than cleaning my tabletop.
  • Level of time and effort needed: you have to knead the dough, let it rest, punch it down, roll it out... not a method that's quick and easy if you need to be doing over things in the meantime.
  • Slices are small. Fine for small sandwiches but if you want a larger sandwich, not big enough.

With A Breadmaker
I use a Black & Decker breadmaker (older model, made prior to 2004 as far as I can tell).

Pros: 
  • Uses less energy than wall oven and doesn't heat it your kitchen. This article gives some information, although it is from the UK so prices are different than in the US or Canada, of course.
  • Much less mess: mix the dough and cook it in same container, nothing to clean save the breadmaker baking basket and paddle
  • Easy!
  • Don't need to babysit it. Just put everything in the breadmaker and let it do its thing (again, this is for the basic white bread recipe. Other recipes might require you to add nuts, etc. at various times).
  • Don't need to knead!
  • It makes large slices for sandwiches and toast. Oh my!  Almost too big, actually. 

Cons:
  • You need to buy a special appliance.  However, they can be bought inexpensively at thrift stores. I see them all the time. I paid $7.99 for mine.
  • Takes lots of counter/storage space: good grief those appliance are huge!  Consider this if you don't have a lot of storage or counter space.
  • Needs special bread flour, can't use regular (American) AP flour = more expensive, harder to find in stores (for me), need to store special flour.
  • The baking basket and paddle have a nonstick coating.  Some people might be concerned by that because of possible bad health effects from the nonstick coating.
  • For another recap on using breadmakers vs. baking bread by hand, read this article. She mentions that bread baked in a breadmaker is denser than if you bake it in the oven.  Hmm, maybe a little. 
Tomorrow I'll be discussing the cost of those 3 methods.

4 comments:

  1. The bread used to go in a day in our house but the novelty has worn off so it does last a week now. I store it in a plastic container unsliced with the heel over the end that is sliced. I even bought a special bread knife to slice the bread thinner to be more like store bought bread which also makes the bread last longer. Good luck with your adventure. This is my favorite recipe for no knead, simple easy bread http://novafrugalfamily.blogspot.com/2014/07/peasant-bread-or-herb-focaccia.html

    Hope you like it!!! Sadly, we like this one so much that we are lucky if it lasts two days!

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    1. Oh my... that looks delicious indeed! I'm definitely going to have to try to make that. Maybe tomorrow?

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  2. I too bake my own bread. The recipes I use are found on Steve Gamelin Artesan Bread channel on Youtube. His video recipes are super easy to follow and make. His turbo bread recipes are start to finish in 2 1/2 hours and one of the videos shows how to bake 5 loaves at a time. That means you heat your oven and kitchen up once. I think you will like these recipes. Then you can graduate to his cinnamon bun recipe. ...Yum!

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    1. 5 loaves at once! This sounds wonderful and terrible for my diet at the same time as I just cannot resist fresh bread. Do you freeze your bread after you bake it, then? I just bookmarked his Turbo Bread video so I'll watch it tomorrow as I exercise on my stationary bike!

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