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Bread Making, Part 1: It Feels Right

Bread Making, Part 1: It Feels Right

Have you ever considered the difference between handmade and homemade? We believe that everyone deserves the chance to experience the joy of baking handmade bread and all the sensory pleasure it holds. The smell of bread in the oven is amazing and there’s nothing like it! But you don’t have to be the baker to enjoy aromas from the kitchen. We’re talking about unleashing your inner baker with the power of touch.

Hands are the Best Bread-Making Tools

When it comes to making bread, your hands are your greatest tools. Nothing can rival the power they give you. Bread making has a long history, tens of thousands of years old, and it began long before the arrival of shiny utensils and power mixers. All that time between then and now is filled with hands-on trials and errors. The process is still pretty much the same, with no qualifying age or previous knowledge. What a relief to know that anyone can do it!

Put Your Hands in the Dough

The dough itself has a lot to do with feel. Learning the texture and consistency of good dough can only be achieved by using your hands, from the palms to the fingertips as you feel your way through the process of mixing, rolling and kneading. Engaging your hands and arms as you find your rhythm will quickly become a game of relaxation and it’s fun to develop your own method and style as you go. Eventually your sense of touch will help you determine if the dough is too sticky, crumbly or just right.

Handmade Bread is Unique and Delicious

Like with all finished hand crafted projects, true artisan bread will turn out a little different each time you make it. That’s expected, so don’t let it discourage you! The same is true for us at House of Bread Bakery Cafe and we are proud of the varied results we get from using fresh ingredients kneaded with care. It makes us confident that the taste is more satisfying and it results in wholesome goodness.

You will never regret the decision to make your own bread or to let your hands guide you in the process. We’re pretty sure that even your first loaf will turn out  better than a mass-produced loaf from the grocery store. Our very own Grandma’s White Bread recipe is great for beginners and it’s so delicious you’ll make it over and over, experimenting with different ingredients to suit your dietary needs and taste preferences.

If you’re still hesitant to get started, check with your local House of Bread Bakery Cafe to ask about group or private bread making classes. Or just drop in for some smells, samples and selections that will inspire you to go home and give it a try.

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Perfecting Your Bread’s Crust

Perfecting Your Bread’s Crust

There aren’t many things more satisfying to eat than a slice of warm homemade bread, especially when you bite into a crispy crust followed by a soft, chewy middle. But if your bread baking at home is not yielding that crunch, how can you fix it?

The ideal oven temperature for getting a good crisp crust is 425 degrees. Start by ensuring that the temperature in your oven is accurate. You can find oven thermometers at the grocery store. Why is the right temperature so important to the crust of your homemade bread? Gases in the yeast cause the fermentation process during baking. If the temperature of the oven is too low, the structure of the bread won’t set up properly, and ultimately the bread will collapse and the crust won’t brown the way it should. However, if the oven is too hot the opposite happens—the bread sets too quickly, before the gases have a chance to expand the way they should, and your loaf will burn.

Once you have the accuracy of your oven temperature resolved, the next thing to consider when perfecting your bread’s crust is the ingredients in your dough. High protein flour, instead of all-purpose flour, is the best choice for bread making. The higher protein levels allow for more moisture to be absorbed in the bread as it bakes. More moisture equals a thinner crust, which is more likely to be crispy and crunchy.

Your oven is ready; you’ve used the right flour. What is next for perfecting your homemade bread’s crust? A baking stone can help disperse the oven’s heat more evenly for a browner and crispier crust. You can also introduce a bit of steam into your oven, the way commercial bakers do, to promote a crunchy exterior on your loaf. The best way to do this at home is by placing a cast iron skillet on a lower rack in your oven before preheating. Once the oven temperature is right, place the bread in the oven on the baking stone. Then standing away from the oven, fill the cast iron skillet with about half an inch of hot water. There will be an immediate burst of steam (that’s why you should stand as far away as possible). Close the oven door, and do not reopen it for at least 10 minutes.

To keep your loaf crusty after it is baked, store it in a paper bag or simply out on the counter. Sheila McCann, founder of House of Bread, offered some of her own tried and true tips. “Bakers also can place an upside down cookie sheet in the oven, and let it get hot. Then transfer the dough on to the cookie sheet. The key is to have the dough begin the baking on an already hot surface,” she shared. And of course, for those times when you want the immediate gratification of a perfectly baked, crunchy loaf of bread, House of Bread offers a wide selection of tasty options.

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Favorite Thanksgiving Breads

Favorite Thanksgiving Breads

No two ways about it, Thanksgiving is all about food, and bread plays a big role in our feast. From dinner rolls served alongside the meal to the stuffing in the turkey, people continue to celebrate the holiday with a range of tasty, seasonal breads. House of Bread can help you make your Thanksgiving dinner that much more delicious (and easier!) by supplying all your bread and bakery needs.

During the month of November, we are baking a range of items with all your favorite flavors of the season—pumpkin, cranberry, pecans and apples. Our cranberry orange bread captures the essence of fall and the harvest with the classic pairing of the tart cranberries and the sweet citrus. Or if you simply want the goodness of homemade rolls on your Thanksgiving table, without all the effort they require to make from scratch, we have our flakey, yummy dinner rolls you can grab and go. Finally, our homemade stuffing is famous—lots of customers special order it, they love it so much!

Our choose one of our delicious breads with all the flavor of the fall baked right in. From cinnamon raisin walnut to apple cinnamon swirl, you can start your holiday mornings off right with a sweet slice at breakfast. Interested in a sweet treat later in the day? Ask if our pumpkin pinwheels are available. We even have a healthier alternative to the traditional fruitcake—our holiday loaf. A fruit-laden bread with hints of vanilla and honey it is available every Friday, and best of all it skips the unhealthy refined sugars, bleached white flour and gummy candied ‘fruit’ found in the classic version.

Finally, House of Bread can even help finish off your Thanksgiving feast with one of are fresh baked apple, pecan or pumpkin pies. Best of all, if you buy two pies before November 22, we will give you half a dozen rolls, free!

If you would rather spend your holiday visiting with your family, instead of in the kitchen watching over a hot oven, we have all your baked needs covered with tastes and flavors that will make you think grandma has been hard at work in your kitchen.

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The History of Bread

The History of Bread

Whatever form it takes, pita or tortillas, pumpernickel or sourdough, bread has been eaten by every culture. What’s more, this one food has been a part of our lives for more than 30,000 years. But why? Bread is easy to produce from common natural ingredients, and it packs solid nutrition with powerful carbohydrates that are a great source of energy.

The first bread

At some point, prehistoric man went from merely mixing grains in water to cooking these ingredients on hot stones. Research released from a 2010 study conducted by the National Academy of Sciences showed prehistoric mortar and pestle-like rocks contained traces of starch, probably from the roots of cattails and ferns.

As wheat and barley were cultivated in the Fertile Crescent, about 10,000 years ago, our ancestors shifted from a diet of animal meat (hunter-gatherer) to one that contained more plants (agricultural). Of course this impacted not only diets, but also how prehistoric man lived. The advent of agricultural societies meant that people started to settle in one place, rather than roaming. It also allowed larger groups of people to live together. Our modern lives would not exist if man had never shifted from the hunter-gatherer life.

How bread changed

Leavened bread, the precursor to our modern fluffy loaves, also probably first developed during prehistoric times. Yeast is all around, so if some found its way into a bowl of grain and water, the mixture would have naturally undergone leavening. Yeast cells have been discovered in bread made by ancient Egyptians dating back to 300 B.C.

Of course the next major change that allowed our forbearers to get closer to our modern bread came with the introduction of refined flour. Early flour would have been coarsely ground, meaning those loaves would have been denser and been somewhat akin to our whole grain loaves of today. However, around 800 B.C. the Mesopotamians created the first milling process to more finely grind grain into flour.

Modern bread

With industrialization, bread changed yet again. Otto Frederick Rohwedder created a machine that would not only slice, but also wrap bread, in 1928. And while generations of bread eaters have preferred white bread and viewed it as a form of status, that too changed in the last few years of the 20th century. The nutritional value of whole grain breads has come to be valued more as our attitudes about diet and lifestyle have shifted.

Another area where industrialized practices have changed bread is the Chorleywood Bread Process, which speeds up the fermentation process and allows for lesser quality flour to be used. This process, in addition to chemical additives that can be added to bread dough to decrease the rising and baking time, have dramatically changed not only the structure of modern bread, but also its nutritional value. At House of Bread, we don’t look for short cuts that save us money. Our mission is to craft the highest quality bread that evokes the history of bread, when it was a food rich in nutrients that sustained civilizations.

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Bread Baking 101

Bread baking 101

So you want to make bread? Creating a loaf of your favorite bread—soft on the inside, crunchy on the exterior—can be a rewarding, and delicious, experience. But even the best bakers occasionally struggle with turning out that perfect loaf of bread.

Here are the top five most common problems and the possible reasons why your bread baking experience didn’t rise to your expectations:

  1. The dough didn’t rise. Nothing is sadder than a flat as a pancake loaf of bread. The most common reason your bread didn’t rise is you used the wrong flour. Most people use all-purpose flour at home for baking cakes, cookies, pies, etc. However, with bread you need high protein bread flour. The general rule is if the product has yeast, then use bread flour. If not, all-purpose is fine. The other two reasons for flat loaves are either there was not enough water in the dough and/or not enough kneading. People are not used to baking doughs that stick, and your bread dough should be sticky as the dough only gets drier as time goes on in proofing and baking. Lastly, the dough should be kneaded long enough to get that “good” dough feel. When in doubt, knead longer and add more liquid.
  2. The bread isn’t brown on the sides. No one wants a pale loaf of bread. If your sides aren’t coming out golden brown, it may be because your oven was over-crowded or the temperature of the oven was too low. Another reason could be your pans were too bright and reflected the heat away.
  3. The top of the loaf cracks. A crack along the top of your bread loaf is most likely the result of the bread being cooled too quickly or even in a draft. It also may happen because the dough wasn’t mixed well or was too stiff.
  4. A doughy bottom. If the bottom of your bread loaf is doughy, you need to remove it from the pan to cool completely on a rack after taking it out of the oven.
  5. The bread is too dense or heavy. This can happen when you use too much flour in your bread or if you don’t allow the dough to rise enough during proofing. Also, different types of flour will change the density and texture of your bread.

Baking bread shouldn’t be scary, but it does require some practice. But even loaves that don’t turn out so great are delicious because they contain your love and effort. And worse case scenario, you’ll have some great breadcrumbs for homemade stuffing!

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Go for the Gusto: Garlic Cheddar Bread Recipe

Go for the Gusto: Garlic Cheddar Bread Recipe

Take one part passionate baker, and one part people-pleaser: What do you get? An irresistibly delicious recipe, of course! The garlic cheddar loaf was created at the suggestion of a customer, who desired fresh, flavorful bread baked with her favorite ingredients.

If you already like to make your own kitchen creations, then you already know how slight ingredient or process changes can leave you with a series of trials before you get an out-of-the-oven taste that pleases you. We have so many stories like this and can assure you, it’s all part of the baking experience. Your recipes and your baking skills will be better for it!

House of Bread Bakery Cafe has been offering Garlic Cheddar Bread for 15 years. It’s hard to believe you can follow such simple instructions and produce this customer favorite. Make it straightforward, as shown, the first time. We tried adding the cheese and garlic into the dough during the mixing process, but found that the garlic and cheese tastes were too mild. The star flavors stand out much better if they are added after the first rising. With that in mind, go ahead and prepare your garlic butter–water mixture:

  • 3 Tablespoons of Crushed Garlic
  • 3 Tablespoons of Melted Butter
  • 1 Tablespoon of Warm Water

NOTE: It is perfectly find to adjust the amount of garlic in the recipe for your own personal tastes.

Have ready:

  • 1 cup of Shredded Cheddar Cheese

NOTE: Monterey Jack, Parmesan or any type of hard cheese may be substituted.

Follow Grandma’s White Bread recipe for the dough. After the first hour-and-a-half rising is done, spread out the dough with your hands. Make it approximately one (1) inch thick. Evenly apply the garlic butter and water mixture. Sprinkle the cheese all over the dough. Roll up the dough into a torpedo shaped loaf. Garnish with the garlic mixture and sprinkle with cheese on top.

SERVING SUGGESTION: Slice the loaf lengthwise and broil in a 350 degree oven until toasted. Serve with any type of dinner. Best served hot, right out of the oven!

We are confident that if you are following this recipe, yours will be just as tasty and in-demand as our Garlic Cheddar loaf! Even so, we hope you will visit our neighborhood bakery and cafe, where you can tell us about your baking experience or sample any of our wholesome, homemade breads for yourself.

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Most Requested Recipe: Cinnamon Swirl Loaf

Most Requested Recipe: Cinnamon Swirl Loaf

As a young girl, we made a homemade version of cinnamon toast that was just buttered toast sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar. That kitchen creation was a great starter recipe, and fun for little fingers, too! But since then I have learned some healthier alternatives. Today cinnamon is the star of several wholesome breads and delicious pastries at House of Bread Bakery Cafe.


House of Bread’s Cinnamon Swirl Loaf

Try this one at home for an all-out people pleaser at any meal. It also makes a thoughtful all-occasion gift. House of Bread Bakery Cafe’s popular cinnamon swirl loaf is based on Grandma’s White Bread recipe.

Start by making the swirl mixture:

  • ¾ Cup of Honey
  • 2 Tablespoons of Cinnamon

Mix the honey and cinnamon until all the cinnamon is incorporated into the honey. Feel free to adjust the cinnamon to taste—just be careful because if there is too little cinnamon, the swirl runs out of the loaf. If there is too much cinnamon, the spice overpowers all the other flavors.

Follow the exact recipe for Grandma’s White Bread and after the first hour-and-a-half of rising, spread the dough flat out. Make it about an inch or two thick, as if you were going to shape rectangular pizza dough. Spread the swirl mixture evenly on top of the dough.

Next, roll up the dough as if you were rolling up a sleeping bag, and fold in the ends as you roll. Pinch the seams together and place seam-down in sprayed loaf pan(s). Scrape out the last of the swirl mixture and wipe it on top of the loaf.

House of Bread’s Apple Cinnamon Swirl Loaf

Using the same recipe as the cinnamon swirl loaf, add a cup of chopped apples to the swirl mixture. You can use canned apples, fresh apples or dried apples.

Spread the mixture on top of the dough, but instead of rolling it up; the bakers at House of Bread prefer to chop the dough into one-inch cubed pieces and toss it with the apple swirl.

Next, place the chopped apple swirl pieces into a well-sprayed loaf pan. Only fill the loaf pan three-quarters full in order to avoid the dough spilling out over the pans while baking.

Later you can vary the recipe by adding raisins or dates to the swirl filling but please try this one first because it tastes so amazing!

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Bread Making, Part 2: It Tastes Right

Bread Making, Part 2: It Tastes Right

Once you’ve pulled a loaf or two of your own out of the oven, any time is a good time to start experimenting with ingredients. That’s right! It’s time to channel your inner food artist. Adding elements according to your own tastes or swapping them out based on your dietary needs will make you even more fond of the bread making process, and let’s not forget all the baker’s bragging rights you will earn!

Here are a few tips to get you started, based on the advice you are most likely to hear in our bakery-cafes and in our bread making classes.

Adding Hard Ingredients

The key to adding ingredients with substance (such as nuts, dried fruit) is to add them after you get to “the good dough stage,” which is what we call it when you have gotten the feel and consistency just right after mixing and kneading the dough. Use a light hand and not more than a couple of ingredients, as dough needs other dough to stick together. If you are swapping similar ingredients in a recipe, use the same volume as called for in the recipe.

Not Too Cold, Not Too Hot

Dough has to remain a certain temperature in order to bake evenly throughout. Adding frozen or cold items to your dough will keep it from fermenting (rising) and will probably leave it half-baked.  Room temperature is the safest bet. With the minimal extra time you might spend letting items defrost or slightly warm outside of the refrigerator, you’ll save time wondering what happened to your dream loaf.

Substitutions and Reductions

Sometimes people want to substitute flours. Instead of switching cup for cup, we tell them to use no more than 10% of the substitution flour to start. Then the next time they can go 20%, and keep raising the ratio until they have reached the threshold because the texture or flavor is compromised.

This baby-step approach works best with sugars and salt reduction, too. We recommend starting with half the amount. The change will result in substantially less flavor. Sugar can be reduced more easily than salt but might require less liquid, too, or more of another dry ingredient such as flour. If you reduce honey (our sweetener of choice), add more liquid or reduce the flour.

Endless Inspiration

At House of Bread Bakery Cafe, we use Grandma’s White Bread as a wonderful stand-alone that also makes a great building block for a wide variety of artisan bread. Our customers always want to know the secret to our specialty loaves. There’s no secret—just knowledge, which we are happy to share! Trust yourself to customize your own homemade bread in any way imaginable. Feel free to subscribe to our blog or bookmark this section so you can read the latest recipes and tips from House of Bread Bakery Cafe.

photo credit: pähkinöitä via photopin (license)

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The Joy of Baking

The Joy of Baking

No matter where you turn, you hear something about ways to eat healthier. All too often that talk centers on eliminating things from your diet that you really enjoy, particularly baked goods. But treats are part of healthy diet—when enjoyed in moderation and, most importantly, when they are made with real ingredients.

Of course the way to ensure that you are getting backed goods of the highest quality is to make them yourself, or to buy them from House of Bread! The love, care and quality of ingredients we use in our breads and pastry items are the same that you would put into your own home baked items. And naturally House of Bread’s treats are head and shoulders above what is put into mass-produced baked goods.

Sugar and Fat

Where a mass-produced baked good uses high fructose corn syrup, House of Bread uses real sugar or pure honey as a sweetener, just like you would at home. If you are looking for ways to lighten up the sugar of your baked goods you make, try substituting unsweetened applesauce for the sugar in many baked items (just be sure to reduce the liquid in the recipe). Another substitution is Stevia. This natural sweetener is 300 times sweeter than sugar, but it can be expensive.

If you are baking at home and want to reduce the fat in your baked treats, there are also some options to try. Again applesauce can be used in place of half of the recipe’s normal fat content, and it works really well in sweet breads or muffins. Other options include avocado or bananas. When pureed or mashed both can be used in the place of butter in cookies and brownies without altering the taste.


Where the big manufacturers of bread and pastry items use flours with additives or that have been bleached, at House of Breads, our flour is always the highest quality, from the freshest wheat and white flours available that have been milled utilizing an all-natural steel cut milling process. Interested in trying to use more wheat flour in your home baking? The general rule is replace 25 percent of the white flour a recipe calls for with wheat flour, spelt or various nut flours.

Want to go even further? The only way to find out the ratio that you like in terms of taste and texture is to gradually increase the amount of non-white flour in the recipe. Maybe go up by five percent each time to see what you like. If you do opt for a nut flour, remember nut flours are heavier than regular white flour, so you may even need to include more of a rising agent to keep your baked good light and fluffy. Finally, if you are making brownies, you can put in pureed black beans in the place of the flour.

Enjoy your baked treat!

Whether or not you love baking at home, or simply love indulging in the finished product, enjoying the occasional sweet treat or slice of warm, fresh bread is something we all deserve now and again. When it comes to baking—at home, from a manufacturer or at House of Bread—you get out goodness from the goodness you put in. You know what you are using in your home baking, and you know that House of Bread is using the same high-quality ingredients you would pick, but what about the mass-produced baked goods? Do you trust that they have the same standards?

At House of Bread, we know that it is more convenient to buy mass-produced baked items in a grocery store. But if you want to enjoy your baked treat more, and feel less guilty about the occasional indulgence, than House of Bread is the best solution. The taste and nutritional value of House of Bread’s bread and pastries simply is superior.