If you are a beginner to healthy eating and lifestyle habits, the issue of bread might at first seem overwhelming. However, it is not as difficult as it may seem at first glance. It is actually very easy.
Please remember that the supermarket spongy product you most likely grew up eating and calling bread with 15+ ingredients is not bread, it is junk. I noticed that this kind is typical not only in America, but in many English speaking countries (although in some of them it does not contain the bad ingredients that are forbidden by the European Union) and in tourist areas of the countries that do not have bread as a staple food.
Bread contains flour, water, and salt (sourdough bread) or flour, water, salt, and yeast (yeast bread). This is how it was made for centuries, before corporations came up with junk. High fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, juice concentrate, vinegar, soy lecithin, cultured whey, barley malt, cultured wheat starch solids, monoglycerides, calcium propionate (preservative), calcium sulfate or citric acid do not belong in bread, and if they are in it, do not buy it. Something that was packaged a week, two weeks ago and shipped from hundreds of miles away is not bread, it is junk and should be avoided.
It is difficult to explain how bread should be to someone who ate the supermarket sponge throughout all his or her life. It is also difficult to find it by asking store workers because the sponge is the only product they grew to know as bread and this is what they always show me. Bread should be thick in texture. You may do a simple test: put your hand on the top of it, press, and see how far it goes down. If you press on the supermarket sponge, your hand will nearly reach the countertop. If the bread is good, it will not go even half way down. My relatives used to also do a hard butter test: take refrigerated butter and try to spread it on a slice of bread. If the bread rips, it is not good. I do not eat and do not recommend eating dairy so you may just stick to the first test. Good bread should also be hard enough to be easy to slice with a knife.
Many breads sold in America as whole grain, even if they are on the good side, i.e. do not contain the undesired ingredients, still contain a lot of white (refined) flour. The law allows to call a product (bread or pasta) whole grain if only 51% of the flour in it is whole, which means that it is likely that a bread advertised as whole wheat still contains 49% of white flour. It is better than the packaged sponge, but it is the best to find 100% whole grain brand. I recommend asking the baker what is the percentage of whole grain flour in it. The best bread I can get in the best bakery in my area is 60% whole and 40% white. Unfortunately, the bakers I spoke to in America claim that without conditioning (adding chemicals), 100% whole wheat bread does not rise. I proved at home that it does. It is true that it does not rise as nicely as the European flours I baked with, but it does and it is possible to bake good 100% whole wheat or whole spelt bread out of it.
Good quality bread and flour is more expensive, can even be double in price, but it is much more satiating and nutrient dense, so do not get discouraged right from the beginning. In the end it will turn out to be a savings.
Here is good news: you may bake your own bread if you cannot find a quality one in your area. It is not difficult. If you bake it or find a good one to buy, you need to remember that this is good stuff without preservatives and goes bad quickly. If you do not bake or buy it every day or every other day, I recommend slicing and freezing it. You will be able to defrost a slice in a pop-up toaster whenever you need it. It is like fresh bread once toasted.
Avoid aluminum and non-stick baking pans as they leach unhealthy substances into your food. I had aluminum toxicity and a very unpleasant detox reaction and would like to discourage you from using any utensils made of this metal. The best bakeware is made of glass or ceramic.
The easiest no-knead bread
This is the easiest bread I ever baked. The original recipe comes from www.puszka.pl, although I changed it a little bit. All the work takes about 10 minutes, the rest is waiting time. This bread was the first type of bread I learned to bake. I put this recipe aside when I started experimenting with sourdough breads, but now I am using it again because it saves me so much time. I bake three loaves every two weeks from two 2 lb bags of whole spelt flour (see the ads on the bottom of the page) because this is what exactly fits in the oven – three 12 inch long loaf pans. This way I save time and natural gas.
2 lb (or 1 kg) whole spelt or whole wheat flour,
31 ounces (or 1l) water,
2 tablespoons kosher salt,
3 teaspoons active dry yeast,
2-3 tablespoons extra virgin cold pressed olive oil (optional),
extra virgin cold pressed coconut or olive oil to spread on the baking dish,
a handful of bran (any except rice bran) to sprinkle on the baking dish.
Place all the dry ingredients in a large glass, ceramic, or stainless steel bowl or pot and mix them (the dough will at least double in volume). Heat up water to be warm and not hot and pour it into the bowl. Add olive oil. Mix the ingredients, cover the bowl with a towel, and leave the dough in a warm place for 30 minutes to rise.
Meanwhile, prepare the baking dish by spreading coconut oil on it and sprinkling it with some bran to keep the bread from sticking to the pan.
Preheat the oven to 380-400 degrees Fahrenheit or 190-200 degrees Celsius and pour (yes, pour, this dough is liquidy, yogurt-like) your dough in.
You may sprinkle some poppy seeds, sesame, sunflower or pumpkin seeds on your bread.
Bake for about 50 minutes (the original recipe indicates 45 minutes, but I found it not enough, at least in my oven).
Simple whole wheat or spelt bread
2 lb whole wheat or whole spelt flour plus a little bit more for sprinkling over the dough and the chopping (kneading) board to prevent sticking,
2 cups water,
3 teaspoons active dry yeast,
2-3 teaspoons kosher (or other) salt.
You will need an ovenproof glass bowl with a lid for baking, a glass or porcelain bowl for mixing the ingredients, and a little bowl or a tea cup or mug for dissolving the yeast.
Place the flour in the mixing bowl and mix it with salt. Heat up water, pour it into a cup or mug and add the yeast. The water should not boil or be too hot, you have to be able to put your finger into it without burning yourself. Let the yeast dissolve. Add it to the flour and knead with your hands for a couple of minutes. If the dough sticks to your hands, apply the additional flour to your hand. When done kneading, form a ball, sprinkle the additional flour on the bowl to prevent the dough from sticking to the walls and spread some on the top of the dough ball as well. Let it rise for an hour or even more in a warm place covered with a cloth towel. After it has risen, take a chopping (kneading) board, sprinkle it with flour, stretch the dough a little, place it on the board, tri-fold and press with your hands in order to get the air out (degas). You will hear a characteristic sound. Place it in the mixing bowl for rising once again, sprinkled with flour. Put the baking bowl with the lid inside the oven. Preheat the oven to 380-400 degrees Fahrenheit. When hot, put the dough into the bowl, cover it, and bake it for 30 minutes. Take the lid off and bake for another 15-20 minutes. Take it out, let it cool off, and enjoy with a fresh garden salad and hummus or refried beans.
Sounds complicated? It is actually very simple, although it may seem like a lot of information. Once you have gone through all the steps in practice, you will say: It is so easy! Picture the pride on your face when slicing your first homemade bread! It smells so wonderful that you may have your neighbors lining up at your doorstep to get some. You will certainly be able to fit the baking in your busy schedule. It does not require much work, there is more waiting time, so you may do it when relaxing: reading a book or watching TV. You may knead it and leave it to rise, go for a walk and bake it afterwards. On a business day, you may ask your teenager to knead the dough after school. By the time you come back from work it will be ready to bake. I bake my breads on weekends, while reading or running. I knead it first thing in the morning and go for a run. When I come back I degas it and put it in the oven. By the time I am out of the shower, it is time to take the lid off and the wonderful smell makes me even more hungry. There is nothing better than freshly baked bread on a weekend morning.
The same dough can be used for pizza, calzones, or empanadas.