Bread Making Basics

Consider bread recipes formulae. Unlike savory recipes, where you have freedom to make adjustments on the fly, bread recipes require precision. You can get by in most basic bread recipes measuring by volume, but as you get deeper into the craft and explore fresh yeasts and secondary ingredients, a scale makes the job a lot easier. You can divide bread into two main groups: Leavened and unleavened.

Breads, such as sourdough, use starters — a fermented mixture of flour, water, and yeast — to leaven, while others, such as muffins, use chemical leaveners. Leavening agents create bubbles in doughs and batters that raise them before and during baking. Most breads and pizza crusts use yeast, which feeds on sugars in flour to create carbon dioxide bubbles, as the primary leavening agent. Unleavened doughs don't include any leavening agents. Indian roti, flour tortillas, and Italian piadina, to name a few of many, qualify as flatbreads. Flatbreads typically consist of only water, flour, and salt, but different preparation methods give them unique tastes, textures and colors.

The Takeaway

Homemade bread always costs less than store-bought. For example, average sandwich bread from the supermarket — the type with the tissue-like crust and wealth of additives — costs around $1 to $2 per loaf.

Homemade sandwich bread, made with only flour, water, milk, yeast, salt and sugar, costs around 53 cents per loaf. But making your own bread means more than savings, it means quality. Homemade bread has a superior crumb (interior), richer taste and sturdier structure than that of store-bought, and no artificial ingredients. But you can do a lot more with flour, water and yeast than just sandwich bread.

Using different techniques but the same ingredients, you can make bakery-quality pain de campagne, classic baguettes and crusty Italian loaves, while spending less. And when it comes to flatbreads, you save even more. A package of 12 tortillas, for example, costs between $1.50 and $2.50 at the supermarket, but you can make your own for about three cents each. Give homemade breads a try. The quality, taste, and purity, not to mention the cost, beats store-bought every time.

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