I used to live the life of a bread baker: setting my alarm at 2am, at work by 3am, and mixing dough by 3:15am! The good part? I was done with my work day BEFORE noon. Bread baking is an art, skill, and will test a true person's patience.
How do I know good bread versus cheap, processed bread? When I was working at COBS BREAD BAKERY (Bellevue and Mercer Island Location), our Country Grain Bread won first place in their North America Bread Baking Competition. We went home third place overall.
What does good bread start with? Good ingredients and dough. The foundations of the bread. You want bread to have real, natural ingredients! When you work with real food, the rest of it is easy. Note: most bread you buy at local bakeries and farmer's markets will be made with real ingredients. Most bread, prepackaged at the supermaket, sold very cheap, will be made with fake ingredients.
GOOD QUALITY BREAD WILL HAVE:
-A golden brown "crust" on the outside. This means the oven temp was perfect!
-It will look like a "loaf," not a mishapped football. When bread is over proofed, or under proofed, it will cause the loaf to "collapse" and become an ood shape.
-Yes, bread should be soft, but it will have a very soft "bite" to it. Too soft bread means too much fat/sugar has been added. Too hard bread means it has been baked too long and/or there is not enough fat/sugar to it.
-If bread is shaped into a loaf, the "seam" will be at the bottom. If bread is "shaped" wrong, the seams will appear at the ends and on the sides.
-It should taste GOOD! Not too sweet or bland. If bread is bland, that means not enough salt was added.
-Golden color all over the bread! Not golden enough? Then not enough salt was added. Not only does salt aide in taste and color, it adds strength to the gluten strands.
BAD BREAD WILL HAVE:
-Misshaped loaf. The bread doesn't "look" like bread.
-Bad color, due to baking/oven times or salt content.
-Too big/too small due to proofing and/or shaping.
-Doesn't taste GOOD! Either too bland or sweet.
-Unnatrual ingredients. Check the ingredient list on your bread package. Does it have words your can or cannot pronouce?
-Stale. Due to the wrong packaging and cooling procedures.
Throw out the gluten-free and atkin diets, bread is a staple of life and the American diet. Not only is it healthy, nourishing, and a great source of carbs, good bread tastes amazing by itself!