What’s that heavenly smell? It’s so intoxicating. Ah, Mom’s baking bread. Nothing stirs up wonderful childhood memories quicker than the aroma of fresh bread baking in the oven. I call homemade breads comfort foods as my mother baked breads and bread products several times a week. The addictive wonderful aroma of freshly baked bread is forever etched in my brain. Our tasty homemade bread recipes primarily include recipes for quick breads, muffins, scones, and biscuits.
You can find all these yummy recipes in our Breads & Muffins Category on Your Daily Food Choices blog.
Baked breads, which are starchy carbohydrates, play a small role in our daily eating pattern. Starch makes up one fourth of our daily lunch and dinner and one-third to one half of our daily breakfast. However that starch is more than just breads. It’s also oatmeal, cereal, rice, potatoes, beans, and other starchy vegetables.
Sometimes we eat a piece of whole grain toast, a homemade muffin, or a mini English muffin for breakfast as a starch in place of oatmeal, whole grain cereal, or whole grain pancakes. We might eat a bread product for lunch as a sandwich or an accompaniment to a soup, again as a starch in place of a starchy vegetable.
We occasionally enjoy a whole grain dinner roll or other bread product like a tortilla as a starch for dinner. After all, who can live in Texas without enjoying tacos or enchiladas?
Breads are Carbohydrates
We are eating less starchy foods made with refined grains because research shows that eating fewer poor quality starchy foods, along with less red meat, less highly processed foods, and less sugar decreases the risk of getting Type 2 diabetes.
This is in conjunction with eating more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fish, and poultry. We changed to this healthy lifestyle because hubby Steve was getting too close to prediabetes.
Carbohydrates are essential for human health. Carbohydrates are one of the three macronutrients that the human body needs to function properly. The other two are fat and protein. For more information on fats, check out this post on The Truth about Dietary Fats.
According to the Dietary Reference Intakes published by the USDA, 45% – 65% of your daily calories should come from carbohydrates.
Your body needs carbohydrates to:
- Fuel the body
- Provide body energy
- Support intestinal health and elimination
- Provide glucose to all cells and tissues
- Store in muscles and liver for later energy use
- Help proper functioning of heart, brain, kidneys, and central nervous system
What are carbohydrates?
Carbohydrates are the sugars, fibers, and starches found in:
- Beans and legumes
- Milk products
Wow! No wonder they are such an important part of a healthy diet. Carbohydrates provide the body with glucose which gets converted to fuel for supporting bodily functions and energy for physical activity.
Eating any kind of carbohydrate raises blood sugar levels, but it is important to remember that all carbohydrates are not the same. Your body digests and absorbs highly processed foods, sugars, and refined grains quickly resulting in a blood sugar spike. In contrast, your body digests complex carbohydrates like whole grains and high fiber foods (vegetables, fruits, and beans) more slowly, limiting their ability to cause blood sugar spikes.
Good or complex carbohydrates are:
- Higher in nutrients
- Lower in calories
- Have no refined sugars
- Contain no refined grains
- Higher in fiber
- Lower in saturated fat
- Lower in sodium
- Very low in cholesterol
- Have little or no trans fat
Bad or simple carbohydrates are:
- Lower in nutrients
- Higher in calories
- Full of refined sugars
- Full of refined grains
- Lower in fiber
- Can be higher in saturated fat
- Higher in sodium
- Can be higher in cholesterol
- Can have trans fat
The safest way to eat carbohydrates like whole grain breads as well as tortillas, pasta, oatmeal, granola, or breakfast cereals is by being mindful of portions. I admit that this is not always easy as breads are so tasty, especially when homemade.
We Use Gluten and Gluten-Free Whole Grains
Baked goods made with nutrient-rich whole grains are more satisfying and can help you eat lighter overall. Whole grains like wheat, rice, oats, corn, and barley are high in protein, fiber, B vitamins, antioxidants, and zinc.
Eating whole grains provides many healthy benefits:
- Reduces risk of Type 2 diabetes
- Helps prevent heart disease
- Helps decrease LDL cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol)
- Decreases triglycerides
- Reduces risk of colon cancer
- Decreases hypertension or high blood pressure
Here at Your Daily Food Choices, we enjoy the pleasures of choosing from many whole grains, from those that contain gluten and from many that are gluten-free. We don’t have a gluten issue so we use whole wheat and rye in many of our baked goods.
We also bake with gluten-free grains like corn, millet, oats, and sorghum as we realize that many people are gluten-intolerant.
What are Grains?
So, what are grains? Grains are the hard, edible seeds or fruit of grasses grown for food. There are many varieties of grains with the most common being wheat, rice, oats, and corn.
Grain seeds have three main parts:
- The hard outer shell or bran
- The inner core or germ that provides nutrients when the seed grows
- The inner endosperm that is the starchy food source for seed growth
Types of grains:
- Whole grains: Whole grains have not had their bran or germ removed during milling. All of the important nutrients like potassium, magnesium, and selenium are still present in whole grains and they have more fiber. Examples are brown rice, popcorn, and whole wheat flour.
- Refined grains: Unlike whole grains, refined grains have had the bran and/or germ removed during milling, giving them a finer texture and longer shelf life. But the milling also removes many of the nutrients and fiber. Examples are white flour, white rice, white rice flour, corn flour, and white bread. Many highly processed foods like cereals, crackers, pastries, cakes, and cookies are made with refined grains.
- Enriched grains: Most refined grains are enriched which means that some of the lost nutrients are added back during further processing. Many are also fortified which means that other vitamins and minerals that didn’t exist in the grain have been added. Enriched grains still lack fiber.
- Gluten-Free Grains: Gluten-free grains are whole grains that do not contain gluten. Gluten is a protein in wheat, barley, and rye that is difficult for some people to digest. Other people are allergic or sensitive to gluten. People with these conditions need to eat a gluten-free diet with products made from gluten-free grains.
Which grains are gluten-free?
It may surprise you, but most grains are gluten-free. All grains, whether gluten or gluten-free are most nutritious when consumed as whole grains that have all of their bran, germ, and endosperm.
Grains with gluten:
- Quinoa (pseudo-grain)
- Wild Rice
How to Find Whole Grain Breads in the Store
When choosing bread in the store, look for one that has the word “whole” as the first word in the ingredient list. While this may not guarantee that you are purchasing a healthy bread product as even whole grain breads can have up to 20 hard to pronounce ingredients listed. But it is a start.
Don’t be fooled by the marketing claims on the packages. Manufacturers try very hard to make their packages products look and sound healthy.
Beware of these terms on packages:
- 100% whole wheat
- Wheat bread
- Wheat germ
- Organic flour
- Unbleached wheat flour
Look for whole grain breads that have a short list of ingredients, hopefully ones that you recognize and can pronounce.
Look out for added sugars or sugar substitutes. If you see corn syrup, an ingredient ending in “-ose”, or cane sugar in the first 3 ingredients, put that bread back on the shelf and find another.
Don’t be fooled by the dark color of bread thinking that it is made with whole grains. Most are, but some manufacturers add molasses and food coloring to their refined bread products to make them look darker.
Another healthy option is to look for breads made from sprouted grains. Ezekiel bread is an example. The nutrients in sprouted grains are easier to digest. These breads spoil quickly so keep them in the refrigerator or freezer.
Best bet is to buy from artisan bakers or make your own.
Common Types of Baked Breads
Bread is one of the foods humans have prepared since ancient Egyptian times. Knowing how to bake bread is an invaluable skill and is helpful in making all kinds of other baked goods like cakes, cookies, and pastries.
Quick breads and Yeast breads
Breads are either classified as quick breads or yeast breads. While they may have a similar appearance, the methods for creating and the ingredients used are different.
Quick breads use ingredients other than yeast or eggs as leavening agents, most common being baking powder and baking soda. Quick breads do not need a lot of time to make as they do not need to rise before baking.
Common varieties of quick breads:
- Cheese breads
- Fruits breads
- Soda breads
- Some donuts
- Some pizza crusts
Yeast breads use yeast as the leavening agent. A sweetener like sugar or honey is used as a catalyst to activate the yeast. Yeast breads need to rise until doubled in size before baking. They may also be allowed to rise a second time after being shaped into the desired form of bread.
Yeast breads have a lower fat and sugar content than quick breads. Yeast breads take more work as they require kneading plus time to rise. Quick breads are often topped with a frosting or glaze, making them even higher in calories.
Common varieties of yeast breads:
- Dinner rolls
- English muffins
- Hot cross buns
- Sandwich breads
- Sweet breads
- White breads
- Some pizza crusts
- Some donuts
15 Quick and Easy Tips for Making Baked Breads
- When mixing a bread product, unless the recipe tells you otherwise, mix batters gently by just folding the ingredients together. Over mixing can lead to a tough product.
- Read the recipe and instructions before you begin making baked product to make sure you have all the ingredients on hand as well as the correct size of pan.
- Love chocolate? Who doesn’t! To get the greatest health benefits from chocolate, replace conventional chocolate chips with high quality organic dark chocolate chips.
- When it comes to baking breads, develop a “do it right” attitude. Baking demands accuracy and precision, especially when it comes to measuring and assembling the proper ingredients. Unlike other kinds of cooking, such as soups or casseroles, with baking you are not as free to improvise or substitute ingredients.
- Before measuring sticky ingredients like honey or molasses, first coat the measuring spoon or cup with cooking spray. Then just watch that sticky ingredient slide out with ease. Also makes cleanup a snap.
- When buying baking pans, purchase light-colored pans with a dull finish. Darker pans absorb and retain more heat which causes the exterior of the baked goods to get too brown or even burn before the inside is done. If all you have is dark metal pans don’t fret. Simply lower the oven temperature by 25 degrees and start checking for doneness a few minutes early.
- Making a quick bread recipe that calls for nuts and you aren’t a nut fan? You can just skip the nuts or try substituting oatmeal or dried fruit for the nuts to help keep the crunchy texture.
- Store flours, especially whole grain varieties, in airtight containers in the refrigerator or freezer. Be sure to measure out the amount the recipe calls for and bring the flour to room temperature before using.
- Make sure the oven racks are in the proper position before heating the oven. Baked items like quick breads, muffins, and yeast breads bake best in the center of the oven and in the center of the rack. If making two batches of muffins, use the middle and lower racks. Never bake on the top rack.
- Always take the time to preheat your oven to the temperature called for in the recipe. Allow up to 15 minutes to make sure the oven reaches the proper temperature. Placing breads into an oven that is still heating can cause problems with color, texture, and rise. Get into the habit of setting the oven temperature, first thing, before starting to make the baked bread.
- Once your baked bread is in the oven, don’t open the oven door until it’s time to check for doneness. Check quick breads 10 to 15 minutes before the recommended baking time to see if the loaves are getting too brown. Cover lightly with tin foil if they are browning too fast.
- When adjusting oven racks, develop the habit of always using an oven mitt when touching an oven rack. Remember that old saying about an ounce of prevention, that oven mitt will go a long way just in case the oven was already turned on!
- Quick breads are done when a tester or toothpick inserted near the center of the loaves comes out clean.
- When baking any item that needs removing from the baking pan like quick breads, muffins, or yeast breads, let the item cool for 7 to 10 minutes in the pan. Then remove the item from the pan and transfer it to a wire rack to finish cooling. This allows air to circulate around the baked item and let’s steam escape.
- While it is tempting to slice into freshly baked loaves of bread while they are still warm, don’t do it. Breads need to cool completely for their structure to set. Slicing into warm loaves of bread causes tearing and mashing.
Wrapping up on Homemade Breads and Muffins
We reviewed that homemade breads and muffins are carbohydrates and chatted about why your body needs carbohydrates. We talked a lot about whole grains, what they are, which grains are gluten-free, and how to find whole grain products in stores. We reviewed common types of breads and we gave you several tips for making baked breads.
There is so much more we could discuss, but now the choice is yours. You need to decide if you want to make homemade bread products and enjoy their intoxicating aroma or buy your breads from the store. Let us know if you have any questions.
Need more information for healthy homemade bread products, carbohydrates, or whole grains? Below are a few articles for you to check out.
Sources and Enlightening Reading
Scientists Probe Dark Chocolate’s Health Secrets by Dr. Mercola
Whole Grains vs. Regular Grains: What’s the Difference? By The Mayo Clinic Diet
The Real Problem With Grains by Wellness Mama
What Are Carbohydrates? By Jessie Szalay from Live Science
Carbohydrates by Harvard School of Public Health
Whole Grains and Fiber by American Heart Association
Macronutrients: the Importance of Carbohydrate, Protein, and Fat by McKinley Health Center
Difference between Quick Breads and Yeast Breads by They Differ
Different Types of Bread by Brittany McSorley from Udemy Blog
Bread: is bread bad for you? By Megan Ware RDN LD from Medical News Today
The Truth About Bread by Elizabeth M. Ward, MS, RD. from WebMD
8 Things That Happen When You Stop Eating Bread by K. Aleisha Fetters from Women’s Health
Is Any Bread Actually Healthy? A Must-Read Before You Buy Your Next Loaf by Emily Shoemaker from Greatist
4 Myths About Grains Debunked by Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN from Everyday Health
Grains and Starchy Vegetables by American Diabetes Association
This Pantry Staple May Add Years to Your Life by Johannah Sakimura, RD from Everyday Health
8 Tips For Better Bread Making by G. Stephen Jones from The Reluctant Gourmet
How to Make Bread by Allrecipes
“Secret” Baking Confessions for Quick Breads! By Kim from The Baking ChocolaTess
We Appreciate You!
Thanks for stopping by and letting us share a little about our healthy philosophy for making homemade breads and muffins.
We are here for you as a guide and as a friend. Let us know how we can help you embrace a healthy lifestyle.
Here’s to lower calorie, great tasting recipes, and living well! And remember, what you eat really matters!
Linda and Steve
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