Baking Healthy Breads

by in Healthy Recipes, April 23, 2009

whole-grain bread
Baking your own bread isn’t as hard as you think, and despite what low-carb zealots might say, it can be part of a healthy diet. Leave the croissants and baguettes to the pros (those can get a bit complicated), and try these simple and delicious recipes.

The Carb Question
There’s no need to fear bread — especially the whole-grain varieties. Whole-grain breads are full B vitamins, iron and hunger-fighting protein and fiber. Often carbohydrates such as bread are the first to go on low-carb diets, but this puts dieters at a serious disadvantage because carbs are the body’s primary source of energy. And just so you know, bread has about 80-100 calories per slice. Just like other foods, it’s all about moderation.

Experiment with Ingredients
No matter what kind of bread you’re making, flour is most likely on your ingredient list.
Increase fiber and protein by using a combination of whole-wheat and all-purpose flours. Often using all whole-wheat flour makes breads tough, so the combo is key. Experiment with other types of flour and whole grains such as spelt flour (also made from wheat), brown rice flour and corn meal (corn is a whole grain too, ya know). Nuts and seeds add great texture and flavor to healthy bread recipes. Just use a little (about 1/4 cup for the recipe) to avoid adding too many extra calories — save those for spreads, dips and sandwich toppers.

An added bonus to making your own bread is there are no preservatives. Ever notice how a bakery-fresh baguette goes stale in a day, but a loaf of grocery store sandwich bread lasts for weeks? There’s nothing wrong with a loaf of whole-wheat bread for weekly lunches, but store-bought breads always contain some preservatives. So when you’re in the mood to bake, utilize the freezer. You’ll get more mileage out of the recipe, and this will also help stop you from eating everything you made that day. Store baked breads (wrapped tightly) in the freezer for up to 6 months. If you’re planning on using the bread within a few days, you can just refrigerate it. Give it a quick toast, and it will be good as new.

Quick Breads
Quick breads are convenient and time saving. Since they typically don’t contain yeast, you don’t have to wait for the dough to rise. Their consistency is often more cake-like but delicious nonetheless. Make a batch of corn bread or corn muffins to serve with a chili, barbecue fare or a brunch spread. Try baking bread with beer to serve with a soup or stew.

Pizza
In my humble opinion, there’s something so rewarding about making your own pizza dough. Here’s a no-fail, thin-crust recipe I use all the time. If you’re in the mood for something more deep-dish style, try a light and airy foccacia. You can keep the calories under control by using fresh veggies for toppings and a light sprinkling of cheese. Watch the portions, too — serve small slices of pizza or foccacia along with a large salad for a healthy and complete meal.

Rolls and Loaves
If you’re in the mood for some traditional whole wheat rolls, try this recipe for soft whole wheat rolls — they’re great for sandwiches, burgers, tuna melts or for dunking into soup. Thin slices of toasted bread are good for bruschetta or grilled cheese. Try a whole wheat Irish soda bread to get the effect.

Think Outside the Bread Box
Get creative! Honey whole wheat pretzel sticks make a great snack and scallion flat breads (made on the stove top) will work for wraps, soft tacos and fajitas.

Your Equipment
Bread machines can help make baking a breeze — they are especially good for loaves of basic sandwich breads. For bread dough that requires a lot of kneading, make sure you have a flat work surface that you can flour well to prevent sticking. Bowl scrapers and bench scrappers can also come in handy when transferring dough from work surface to baking vessel. A good serrated knife is also a must-have for easy slicing.

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