Remember this is Curmudgeonly advice so don’t say “you’re going shopping for groceries”. I hate shopping and consider groceries the inferior backup alternative to food which should be out running around the forest where I can gun for it. Try to spin this terrible association with grocery stores; loudly state that you’re “stockpiling ingredients” for your “bread project”. The other household members with whom I live expect this sort of thing. Your family is probably used to it from you too.
You’re going to need salt, yeast, flour, and gluten. Each of these things is so earth-shatteringly cheap that you should buy a lot of them. Why? Because they store forever (almost) and it sucks to go to grocery stores. Also you might want to make bread during the zombie apocalypse.
Lets start with salt. I was astounded to find out that salt comes in eleventy zillion varieties. Not bad for a chemical compound. I’ve tried several kinds of salt and I can’t actually taste the difference in bread. If anyone can it’s probably the placebo effect. However, even the most yuppified artisan hippie macrobiotic organic free range salt costs less than a six pack of beer so knock yourself out. The photo shows what I bought. It works. Remember, if you keep salt dry it will store for millennia and a pound is enough to bake many loaves, so don’t short change yourself. Buy plenty and keep it for your “bread project”. If you miscalculate and wind up sneaking salt from the shaker like a mouse stealing crumbs you’ve failed.
Next comes yeast. Yeast stores for a long time but it doesn’t last forever. If the yeast in the fridge is questionable, toss it. There are ways to gather yeast from the wild. Screw that! We live in a modern era and don’t need to be fretting over exotic sourdoughs…at least not yet. Buy it. Yeast is like good leadership, it’s more important to the final product than it’s diminutive percentage suggests. Don’t buy yeast in packets. It’s the same stuff and costs more so buying it by the packet means you’re a loser. Keep yeast in the fridge. I have bought expensive yuppified gourmet yeasts but the cheap stuff in a jar seems to work better. Go figure.
Gluten flour is discussed at length in all of my bread books. Apparently it’s important. I’ve never stayed awake for an entire chapter on gluten so I don’t know the precise mechanics. However I’ve learned plenty through experience. Here’s what you need to know; if you’re using 100% whole wheat flour (as opposed to the white stuff) you’ll need some of this magic gluten. If you don’t add it, the bread trolls get mad and turn your loaf into a brick. I’ve tried many variants of 100% wheat recipes and I’ll tell ya’ now that gluten is serious big time key important. Skip it and you’ll rue your foolishness. Gluten stores a long time but not forever. If it’s stale…chuck it. A pound or two of the stuff goes a long way.
Now comes the material that makes 99% of your bread; flour. Flour is important and subject to far too much bullshit misinformation. Thus I’ll cover flour in my next article.
Incidentally you’ll also need water. Unless you live in Chernobyl just use what comes out of the tap. I suppose it could theoretically affect the bread’s flavor but I haven’t noticed anything. Here’s the test for water quality. Drink some. If you don’t die, it’s fine for the yeast in the bread.