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Healthy homemade breads

If you recently purchased a bread maker or have one that’s been gathering dust in your cupboard, it’s time to make it work for its keep! And with these delicious and healthy recipe ideas, it certainly won’t feel like a chore.

Homemade raisin bread

Bread is a staple in most diets. Whether you enjoy a piece of toast in the morning, a sandwich for lunch or a bun with your chili at night, chances are you consume a hearty chunk of bread throughout the day. By now you likely know to avoid white breads, which don’t provide you with any food value. But did you know that many store-bought breads — even those labelled whole wheat or whole grain — are loaded with sugars and preservatives? If you’d rather put nothing but wholesome goodness into your body, homemade bread is the only way to go. But the concept of making bread can seem intimidating. We’ve gotten so used to picking up a loaf at the bakery that going through the process of kneading dough and getting it to rise feels overwhelming. Fortunately with a bread maker you can have a fresh loaf of homemade bread with just a few minutes of work. So whether you’ve had a bread maker sitting in your basement for years or have to go out to purchase a new one, making your own bread will be worth it!

Start simply

Most bread machines come with a simple recipe book to get you started. This will give you an idea of the quantities of each kind of ingredient you require. For the majority of machines, you’ll need roughly 1 cup of water, 3 cups of flour, 2 tablespoons of oil, 2 tablespoons of sugar, 1 teaspoon of salt and 2-1/2 teaspoons of dry yeast. These quantities may change slightly, depending on the size of your machine. Start by testing out a few of the provided recipes. See how you do with a batch of whole wheat bread and some simple dinner rolls. Once you feel comfortable with the machine, you can start to get a little creative.

Having fun with it

When you shop for bread at the grocery store, you have a few options to choose from. But when you make bread at home, there is no end to the options available to you! Have you ever bought a loaf of cinnamon raisin bread and thought, “I wish there were less raisins in this”? Or felt a whole wheat bun seemed more white than whole wheat? These problems become a thing of the past when you make bread at home! And you can get creative in making the bread just as you want it. The only thing that matters is keeping the liquid-to-flour ratio the same and taking into account which substitutions may hinder the bread from rising as much. For instance, whole wheat flour rises less than all-purpose flour does, and buttermilk will make a bread denser than 2 per cent milk will. So aim to mix and match rather than use too much of one ingredient.

Creative substitutions

In addition to experimenting with different flours (i.e., almond flour, rye flour, tapioca flour, rice flour, etc.), there are a few fun ingredient ideas you can consider adding to your flour quantity:

  • rolled oats
  • bran flakes
  • cornmeal
  • oat bran
  • chia seeds
  • ground flax
  • sunflower seeds
  • raisins
  • cranberries
  • chopped apricots

And don’t be afraid to throw some flavours and spices in there too:

  • rosemary
  • cinnamon
  • garlic powder
  • onion flakes
  • orange, lemon or lime zest

And here are some fun possibilities to replace plain old water:

  • milk
  • buttermilk
  • juice
  • apple cider
  • beer

And don’t forget the sugar! You can get creative there too:

  • honey
  • maple syrup
  • brown sugar

You can even play around with the tablespoons of oil. Try butter or margarine instead, or experiment with different kinds of oil, such as sunflower oil, grape seed oil or coconut oil. The only truly important rule with homemade breads is to ensure you place the ingredients into the machine in the right order. That means liquid first, then flours and then yeast. Don’t let the yeast touch the liquid!

Don’t be too hard on yourself

You will likely have a few setbacks before getting it right. There will be times when the bread doesn’t rise properly or the flavour isn’t what you wanted it to be, but that’s OK! With each loaf you make, you’ll learn something new, so keep experimenting and learning. You’ll be grateful you persisted when a friend asks you where you got the delicious bread and you can say you made it yourself!

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