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In Part One of this series we shared some strategies for making bread at home with easy starter recipes and the basic materials you might want to have on hand. This article is all about the yumminess – our top five ingredients for making homemade bread taste delicious while also offering variety and health benefits.
1 White Whole Wheat Flour: you can’t make bread without flour, so this is your biggest ingredient decision to make. Grocery store shelves are filled with flour choices and all of them will work at the most basic level to make bread, but if you want to make a delicious loaf or you want to play around with flavor and texture, we highly encourage you get a little more adventurous (and selective) in your choice of flours. In our kitchen, the most frequent ingredient in our breads is King Arthur Flour White Whole Wheat Flour. White Whole Wheat is a little bit lighter than traditional whole wheat while still offering the nutritional benefits, meaning we can make a successful loaf of bread without worrying about it being too dense or too tangy. In fact, we use this flour for most of our baking and we find it to be a perfectly wonderful alternative to white flour. One hint – if you are baking or making dough with whole wheat of any sort be sure to give it a little bit longer to rise or to sit before baking. This helps the liquids in your recipe to absorb more of the whole wheat grains.
2 Artisan Flours: while white whole wheat flour often serves as the primary grain for our breads, we very much enjoy adding other flours to alter the flavor and texture of our bread. For example, oat flour is a great whole grain substitute for white flour that is just as soft and yummy; we buy a small bag of Bob’s Red Mill Oat Flour to use in smaller portions in our bread recipes. Likewise, we also enjoy the flavor of a stronger flour like rye – it’s slightly darker and adds a little density. Again, buying these artisan flours in small amounts (like this bag of Rye from King Arthur) can provide fun variation to your bread making. Many of these flours are featured in recipes in the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day cookbook that we recommended in Part 1 of this series.
3 Cracked Grains & Seeds: one of the other ways to add texture and flavor to your bread is to mix cracked grains and seeds into the dough or sprinkle them over the loaf before baking. As a general guideline, we usually keep it to about ¼ to ½ cup of grains in a bread recipe that makes 2 loaves. You can add all sorts of options that you would find in the bulk section of your grocer story like cracked wheat, oats, or sunflower or pumpkin seeds. Or, you can purchase a mixed bag like King Arthur Harvest Grains Blend or their Bread Topping.
4 Honey & Maple Syrup: many bread recipes call for a couple of tablespoons of sugar; this can help to jump start the activity of your yeast, but it isn’t absolutely necessary. That said, sweeteners can help to retain moisture, increase browning, and add a little flavor to the bread, but you don’t have to use actual white sugar to achieve this. We find we get all of the benefits we want, plus outstanding and unique flavors, by using recipes that call for honey or maple syrup – which can be used in everything from basic white bread to whole wheat loaves, and maple oat. Plus, maple syrup and honey can be sourced locally (even from our own backyard) which is an added bonus for any recipe we choose.
5 Whey (or Milk): if you are someone who makes yogurt or cheese at home (check out our recipe for fool proof instant pot yogurt!), you might find that you are sometimes left with whey (the thin liquid that separates from the yogurt or cheese after curdling, especially if you strain to make Greek yogurt). There are a million ways to use whey (and here we're talking about liquid whey, not the powdered whey you can buy in bags), but one very use is to substitute it for the water in a bread recipe. This will create a richer bread with a softer crust. You can also use milk, but whey is kind of an "in between" option that still allows for some browning of the crust - we typically use half milk and half water if we are going to make this adjustment.
How is your bread making adventure going? Do you have other ingredients you love to add?