Whole grain flour: This is the critical ingredient in making healthy, tasty bread. Whole grain flour is elusive and difficult to get. It is the milled grains of wheat: nothing added and nothing taken away. It is not wholemeal flour which has various definitions but normally means plain flour with colour and bran added.
Olive oil or canola oil
For a small loaf use 300ml of water. For a big loaf use 400 ml. For an even bigger loaf (or rolls or two small loafs) use more water. The critical thing is the ratio of water to flour. Which is approximately 100ml of water to one cup (250ml) of flour. This varies depending on the type of wheat but it’s a good place to start.
Place 300ml of water in a beaker.
Add a tablespoon of dry yeast. Add about a tablespoon of sugar. Add about a teaspoon of salt. These are all approximates. It doesn’t really matter that much. You can even leave out the sugar and salt if you wish (but it will take longer to rise).
Place the water in the microwave for about 30/45 seconds. This will speed up the rising time.
You need about three cups of flour. You would normally go with about two cups of wholegrain flour and one cup of plain flour. You would need about two tablespoons of gluten added to the plain flour. Place the flour in the microwave for about 45/60 seconds. This will speed up the rising time.
Add about two tablespoons of oil to the water. Amount of oil you add is not critical. Vary to suit. Wisk the watery ingredients. Wisk the various flours together.
Add the fluids to the flour. Stir it with a knife or a spoon. It should be dry enough to pick up in your hands. This is the important part. Getting the right consistency and needing the bread for long enough. The only way is by having a go. If it’s too wet then pick up the dough and dip it into some flour. Then go back to needing. Difficult to explain. You really need someone to show you at least once. Perhaps ‘YouTube’. If the dough is too dry then you need to add water. More difficult but can be done by pushing holes into the dough and then pouring water in. It comes done to feel, instinct and trail and error.
Needing should take about 5/10 minutes. Needing is finished when the dough hangs together. It develops elasticity. More trail and error.
Place some glad wrap over the top of your bowl and then cover with a tea towel. Let stand. The time it takes to rise depends on the room temperature. If you have heated the water and flour and the room temp is above 20 degrees C it should take about an hour and a half for the bread to rise. When ready it will have more than doubled and tiny bubbles will start to appear in the surface of the dough. If you haven’t heated the water and flour it will take 3 to 4 hours for the bread to rise at the same room temperature. If the room temp is getting down around 10 degrees C then it will take forever to rise. You need to place such dough near a heater. If the temp is above 30 degrees C then you don’t really have a problem. The dough will rise very rapidly. Probably about an hour.
When it is fully risen it then needs to be knocked back. Punch the dough and knock the stuffing out of it. Then put it in a tin or on a tray to rise for a second time. This will be quicker this time. About 20/30 minutes. It should roughly double in size. If you leave it too long the resultant loaf will be full of air bubbles especially in the top half. Too little and the loaf will not be as light as it could be. Once again this is a question of trial and error and personal preference and will vary from day to day depending on the room temperature and type of flour.
Now cook the loaf in a pre-heated oven. About 175 degrees C for 35 minutes (for a 300 ml loaf) . For a 400ml loaf cook for about 45 minutes. Rolls for about 25 minutes.
More trial and error. Ovens vary tremendously. So does personal taste. For a crusty loaf cook for longer or at a higher temperature. For a moister loaf that keeps longer cook then cook for the shortest time possible.
The basic dough recipe can be used to make loafs, rolls, flat bread or pizza. Though you need to change oven temperatures and cooking times. Use your imagination.
To cook bread it is very much a question of feel or the vibe. The only way is to experiment. Most failures are edible. Just do it. Get the feel for needing the dough; get the vibe that tells you how long it should rise for and how to cook it.
The basic variations:
Add herbs; fresh or dried
Add olives, sun-dried tomato, grilled capsicum
Add nuts, dried fruit, soya grits, sunflower seeds, pumpkin kernels
Coat with poppy seeds, sesame seeds, polenta
Add bread improver: the bread keeps longer
Add wheat hearts or semolina
Vegetables: If you add mashed vegetables to the dough you need to decrease the amount of water. The alternative way is to grate the vegetable; place in a tea towel, squeeze the liquid from the vegetable and then add the dried vegetable to the flour and the juice to the liquid. This method works really well for unwanted zucchini. Add the squeezed grated zucchini to the flour and decrease the total amount of liquid slightly. The resultant bread will be moister than normal and last longer.
Exotic flours: you can easily replace some of the wheat flour with flour made from rice, rye, barley, oats, maize, sorghum, millet, buckwheat, legumes, and potato. I’m sure I’ve missed something but you get the point. Replace a cup of wholegrain wheat flour with any other flour and you will not have to alter the basic recipe. If you start taking out more wheaten flour you made need to add extra gluten. If the loaf is crumbly; like a muffin or a scone then it is lacking gluten. A crumbly loaf is not a complete disaster, you can still eat it but the loaf will not keep well and the trail of crumbs will not please everybody. Personally I prefer gluten.
If you cannot acquire or make some of the more exotic flours another option is to add rolled grains to the flour. Substitute a cup of rolled oats (or barley, rye, triticale) for a cup of flour and proceed as normal.
 One reason being whole grain flour contains oil in the wheat germ and has a short shelf life.
This blog is about what goes in. Not about what comes out. A lot of the posts are about food. There are posts about the food before it goes in. About preparing it, growing it or cooking it. There will be recipes.