Rediscovering bread making

I have made the family’s bread for years. It is a joy and immensely more satisfying to eat. I find pounding the dough therapeutic, but when I was pregnant for the second time, I found it almost impossible to knead the dough. My muscles were just too relaxed, so I opted for a bread machine. It was convenient to throw everything in and let it do the work, sometimes overnight. Even once my muscles had recovered from the pregnancy, I continued to use the bread machine. I put up with the sweeter taste, as the recipe required sugar, basically because it was easy and I didn’t have to think about it.

No sun elf was harmed in the making of this bread. She just likes to help.
No sun elf was harmed in the making of this bread. She just likes to help.

Just before Christmas, my breadmaker pan sprang a leak, making it unusable. Instead of replacing the pan, I decided it was time to rediscover handmaking bread again. I started researching, not just recipes but also the different flour and yeast.

I opted for fresh yeast, but before I swapped it, I changed my flour. I discovered that bread flour has a w value. It turns out that the bigger the w value, the better the flour for breadmaking. I found a bag of Marriage’s Manitoba bread flour in Costco which I’m told is meant to have a value exceeding 350. Whatever the value is, I am amazed at the results. The dough rises faster and fuller. The resulting bread is lighter than I was achieving with my previous bread flour. Next I mixed it with a locally stone ground wholemeal flour (which I am guessing has a fairly high w value, but I don’t know what it is) and it produces a tasty, light loaf. I then switched to the fresh yeast and if anything it seemed to be lighter.

Ready to rise
Ready to rise
... and risen. Hang on, there are two of them now.
... and risen. Hang on, there are two of them now.

I try to source our food as locally as possible, so it feels a bit of a let down to be buying flour from Canada. I will keep looking but, for the moment, I have resigned myself to a compromise between reducing food miles and making bread that the family will eat.

Amazing how the fresh smell bread brings them all flocking.
Amazing how the smell of fresh bread brings them all flocking.

This was not a scientific experiment and the results are anecdotal, but I do feel I have rediscovered the joy of breadmaking, which is a good job as the family have discovered how much they like eating it.

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