Making bread at home

Making bread at home

Making bread at home can be a relaxing pastime, or a quick way to gain stress. The difference is in the process for many bakers. Some people love taking their time with the steps of mixing, kneading, rising, and breaking the bread.  They enjoy getting their hands messy and the labor of kneading. Others prefer the easiest and fastest method of getting to the all-important end product – a tasty, wholesome, and delicious loaf of homemade bread. Some people (myself included) truly enjoy making bread by hand, but just don’t have the time to do it on a regular basis.

Making bread by hand, using a bread machine, splitting the work between the two, or using a food processor all have their pros and cons. I’ll walk you through them in this article.

Fully homemade and handmade

Making bread at home, entirely from scratch and by hand, can be a rewarding experience. That’s especially true if you love getting your hands dirty. It is an involved task, though. You can’t easily walk away from kneading a loaf for a break without paying a few consequences.  You need to be around to tend to the bread during the long rising process, to shape it, and keep an eye on it while it’s baking.  This process can take several hours.

Pros

The benefits of making bread by hand include the ability to control every step of the bread-making process carefully, and to create beautiful loaf shapes and designs. You get the rewarding feeling of having prepared something delicious and artisan in your own kitchen. This is a great method of bread-making to share with little kids, who are often fascinated by the processes of kneading, knocking a loaf back, and watching the bread rise.  It can be a relaxing and rewarding endeavor.

Cons

The kitchen can be a mess after making bread from scratch. Flour everywhere, and a pile of dishes to clean up are just a few of the consequences of making bread at home by hand. You’ve also got to keep a close eye on the process, and get your mixing times and temperatures just right. That can be tricky for beginning bakers.  It also takes up a lot of your time.

Sharing the load with a bread machine

If you want to let a machine do some of the work, my advice would be to let it make the mess. You can control the number of dishes that need to be washed, and the amount of mess made if you use the dough cycle of your machine. This is actually one of my favorite ways to make bread.

Pros

The benefits of sharing the work with the machine are many. You can achieve an artisan-shaped bread without the mess of mixing and kneading your loaf by hand. Your ingredients will be mixed at the right temperatures, and your bread will be risen for the right amount of time. If you want, you can do other tasks while you wait for your dough to mix and your bread to rise.  You can even set the timer so the dough is ready for you to shape and bake when you are. In short, its the best of both worlds.

Cons

This method of bread-making is great for the baker, but not so great for little helpers. If you have kids or grandchildren who want to be a part of the process, you’ve essentially eliminated all of the tasks they could easily do, apart from shaping the dough before baking. You may also get a few surfaces dirty if you choose to make a fancily shaped bread, and you will have to prep and wash a loaf pan.  It is still time consuming, although less so than doing the entire process yourself.

Letting a Machine Do All the Work

If you just pop the ingredients in your pan and let the machine do all the work, you get a tasty, fresh loaf in just a few hours. Very little effort is required in the process. In fact, you don’t really have to do much of anything except enjoy your fresh bread. There are a few drawbacks, however.

Pros

Fresh bread is hot and ready within just a few short hours, you can walk away from the machine and do other tasks, or even run errands while it works, and clean-up is a breeze. It’s almost as easy as buying fresh bread from a bakery, but letting your bread machine do all the work is cheaper!

Cons

You don’t get to change the loaf shape, and it isn’t really a fun family activity to prepare bread entirely by machine. It is not as rewarding to some who enjoy the long process of homemade bread.  Loaf pan sizes for bread machines aren’t the same as traditional bread loaf sizes, either. That makes it pretty obvious that you used a machine, and also can make storing a fresh loaf slightly challenging.  There will be holes in the bottom of the bread from the paddles, and the slices may not be the shape you want.

Food Processors and Bread-making

Some people choose to use a food processor to help with the home bread-making process. This can allow you to do some fun things like add nut meal, rice, potato, or chickpeas to the dough with ease, and to be certain that they are thoroughly incorporated.  A food processor can mix and knead the dough for you, eliminating some of the hard and messy work.

Pros

You can blend in some special ingredients, knowing that they will be completely integrated into the dough. Clean-up is as easy as using a bread machine on the dough setting in many cases.  My food processor’s bowl and dough blade can be washed in the dishwasher.

Cons

This is still a time consuming way to make bread since you have to do the shaping, rising, and baking yourself. If your temperatures aren’t right, your yeast may not work, either. This method isn’t too different from using a bread machine to mix the dough, really.

Conclusion

All in all, the main factor that you need to consider when deciding how you want to make bread at home is what parts of the process matter most to you. If you like the process of kneading, knocking, and shaping a loaf, do it all by hand. If your favorite part of the process is creating interesting artisan-shaped loaves, you might consider using a machine or a food processor for the first part of the process and then shaping and baking the loaf by hand. For those of you who just love fresh bread, let the machine do all the work, and enjoy the results!

Personally, I use all of these methods to make bread, depending on how much time I have and how energetic I’m feeling that day.  There are many ways to make a good fresh loaf of bread at home, and all have their advantages and disadvantages.

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