Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Simple Changes: Making Our Own Bread

This is my second entry under the category "Simple Changes," as I document some of the small changes we've already made toward a streamlined and simpler way of living. One of our goals is to become less dependent on outside sources for our foods, and to bypass processed and pre-packaged foods as well as ones with preservatives and ingredients of unknown origin. The result? More and more, we're making our own, eating at home more, and satisfying ourselves with the basics. Bread has entered the picture here as something easy to make and easy to appreciate. Breadmaking is one of my simple changes.

Last week I made the batch of bread shown in these pictures. I had wanted to try another recipe that had caught my eye, only this one required 2 risings before the final rise in the loaf pans. I committed to the extra time involved, and was glad I had a fine crumb and made robust loaves and rolls. One recipe made 3 hearty loaves and 8 or so large rolls. I froze one loaf, gave one to a friend, and we ate on the other loaf and rolls for a week. The rolls doubled wonderfully as hamburger buns, if they survived long enough. (Some were eaten hot with butter and honey, wherein they immediately set up cellulite colonies on my hips...ha!) The cost couldn't have been more than a couple dollars all told, and that's pretty darned economical in proportion to the finished product.

It was only last year that I successfully made bread by hand, for the first time ever. Not that I'd never tried before, but I'd never stuck with it long enough to have an edible product without the help of a bread machine. Oh, and by the way, I do consider bread made by bread machines real bread! Whatever it takes, if it turns out bread, it works! :)

I needed to learn the skill without a bread machine due to the likelihood of not having one in the future ...since I don't have one now, ha :) (I used to, and loved it) I can't describe it, but every time those raw ingredients morph from flour and liquid into a kneaded yeasty living dough, it just feels so downright womanly. My first few attempts never quite achieved that, though, and the resulting compacted wheaten doorstops dampened my enthusiasm for further tries...for a long time. But last year, something clicked, and lo and behold I made real bread!! It was a challah, and as my daughter ate it hot from the oven, I kept pointing to it and saying "look..REAL BREAD...I made that! I'm a WOMAN now!" (laughing!) Well, don't know exactly where that came from, but it felt primal...

We're not a family that needs bread as a daily staple, but I've noticed that we do buy it at the store regularly enough to warrant making it at fill in for occasional sandwiches, especially for toasting cheese on in the oven. Open-faced cheese toast hot from the oven rounds out a salad nicely, some raw veggies, or cup of soup. It's also nice when studded with a few garlicky green olives or any other addition that's a hint of savory or herb-ey...with a little chopped basil, green onion, or mixed herbs. So...the bread does come in handy, and I'm less and less able to justify buying breads with those long lists of ingredients, most of which I've never heard of. At least when I'm baking my own, I know what's in it -- and the nice thing about most breads is that wonderful results can be produced from the most basic pantry items.

I mentioned in a recent post that we'll slowly explore gluten-free breads for health reasons. I do feel that we'll utilize breads with wheat flour, however, enough for me to try to master some good basic recipes.

Some day I hope to have a grain mill so that we can grind our own flours/meals. But until then, it's just measure, pour, and get my hands right into things...and that part is as fun as mud pies used to be as a child.

It's affordable, filling, and the best house smell in the world...fresh baked bread!

I'm trying some different basic recipes, and will include some great ones suggested by readers here. This is the second bread I've tried in the last couple months. The bread pictured here is a basic white bread I found instructions for in a Tasha Tudor cookbook. I'll include the recipe on an upcoming post in her memory...she was a remarkable woman.

As we move further into simplifying things, breadmaking is one of the basics. Simplicity has never tasted better :)


ilex said...

MMMmmm bread. Like your sister, though, and for the same reason, bread is sadly off my list. *sniff* Heaven smells like homebaked bread, I'm certain of it.

My favorite farmer at the farmer's market makes a divine loaf of yeast-free, sourdough spelt- I can have sandwiches again for the first time in 8 years. Egg salad sandwiches, yum.

Robbyn said...

Have you gotten down on your knees and begged her for her recipe?? :)

Meg said...

Woah, look at those rolls! Makes me want a burger :D

Kathie said...

The bread is lovely and I agree it does feel womanly somehow, though I know plenty of men who make great bread too. It never gets tired either, no matter how many years, I've been making our bread, Jeff still wants a heel fresh from the oven. It's still a treat and that is something so very wonderful, I think. Simple living at its very best.

MeadowLark said...

What is the recipe you used here? They look fantastic and I've had terrible luck with bread. (Perhaps I'm not really a woman?)

Country Girl said...

I want to learn to make breads too. Your pictures look great. I hope with a bit of practice I can master the art of bread making. ~Kim

Robbyn said...

Meg, mmm, me too!

Kathie, you're exactly right about it not being limited to husband reminds me that men are the best chefs (this is a running debate in our house, ha!) ;-) but I never argue with it when he cooks

Meadowlark, it took me a while to post the recipe, but if you check, it's one of the newer posts :) Oh, and yes, you're surely a real woman...I am the sort of person who just doesnt take naturally to breadmaking and was a bit overjoyed when one day I actually made something EDIBLE ;-)

Killi said...

My Grandfather was a Master Baker & operated out of the shop where the first Banbury Cakes were made. My brother-cousin is a baker (for himself now, but he has worked in a Scots bakery & made bread for a retreat house) & he showed me the old way of making bread: mix a batter of flour & water, add yeast, mix & leave until frothy. Hours later add knead in flour to make a dough, then knead in the salt, leave to rise at room temperature. Knock back & reknead, shape or place into tins, leave to rise at room temperature. Bake in a hot oven. No quantities are given, just feel & eye used. In Wnter loaves can take 2 or 3 days to make due to the temperature.

I made all our bread in the UK, but let it slip on moving here as I have nowhere that I can dedicate to bread making alone AND the horrid tom cat broke my mason bread bowl! My sister bought me a bread maker for my birthday, but the cat/dogs have run off with & lost the mixing paddle after Annon left the pan on the table overnight.
I love homemade bread & must try to get back to it somehow