Ingredients Matter Bread 202
To make great bread, you need to use great ingredients. Ingredients do matter if you want to make the best bread.
From flour to water, to salt and oils, good bread - no - great bread comes from using high quality ingredients.
Remember the phrase, Good - Better - Best? It's true with bread as well. It's easy to find good ingredients, but there are also better choices. And once you understand the reasons why ingredients matter, I think you'll agree that using the best ingredients available when making bread is always the best choice.
Using the Best Ingredients
Flour - Flour with good gluten isn't hard to find. Good flour would be a well-respected brand of all-purpose flour, bread flour or whole wheat flour from vendors such as Khorasan Mills, King Arthur or Central Milling. Even better, mill your own flour from your favorite type of wheat for the absolute best flavor.
Good - All Purpose or bread flour. (Never Bleached Flour). Bleached flour kills the carotenoids needed for good flavor and color in bread. Don't use bleached flour. See King Arthur flour for details.
Better - Proven, high grade flour from King Arthur, Central Milling or other reputable flour distributors.
Best - Fresh milled flour - Purchase hard red wheat, hard white wheat, spelt, Khorasan wheat or Einkorn and mill fresh. Keep unused fresh flour in the freezer to minimize oxidation, or use within 48 hrs.
Bulk Wheat/Grain Sources - Khorasan Mills, Azure Standard, or look for a local source of wheat depending on where you live.
Water - Tap water may have additives such as flouride, chlorine or other items mandated by local communities to assure clean, healthy water. These additives, however, are not so good for bread. Perhaps you've been using tap water for years and your bread seems to turn out fine.
Clean water is important. Filtered, distilled or purified water is even better. Sourdough responds better with purified water and so does bread made with commercial yeast - and you know your giving your family the best possible choice.
Good - Filtered water (filtered through carbon or micron filters).
Better - Distilled water (boiled water where the steam (pure water) is captured and bottled). However, natural minerals can also be lost.
Best - Purified water (impurities reduced to no more than 10 parts per million). Much higher standard than just filtered.
Yeast - Commercial yeast is very common when making bread. It's quick, efficient, easy to keep and stores for long periods of time. Fresh (cake) yeast is just that - more fresh, and can actually go bad over a few weeks if not kept refrigerated. But fresh yeast works very well. Sourdough or natural yeast is by far the most nutritious type of yeast. Most folks think yeast is just to help bread rise, and that is it's main purpose, but natural yeast starters have so many benefits over commercial yeast. But starters take time, they have to be active and they need to be fed regularly to stay alive and well.
Good - Commercial yeast - Instant/rapid-rise or dry-active.
Better - Fresh (cake) yeast. Sometimes called block yeast.
Best - Sourdough or natural yeast. Numerous health benefits. Also great for pancakes, waffles, muffins etc.