Monday, March 8, 2010

On Making Bread

So I'm standing at the bread section at Costco.  I take a good look around and pick up a loaf of wheat bread.  I slip it into the cart, acting as casually as one possibly can while shopping with a toddler.  Just as I'm about to saunter away from the bread aisle and down the next aisle to buy yet another 5-lb. bag of baking soda, someone jumps out from behind the corner, with an accusational finger outstretched.

"A-ha! Buying bread at the store?!" she says, shaking her head slowly, "And you call yourself the parsimonious princess..."

Oh, the shame.

Yeah, this didn't really happen. Part of me wishes it did, purely for comedic reasons.  In any case, I still feel like I'm copping out when I buy bread at the store.  I mean, when you think of frugal living, isn't making your own bread one of the first things that comes to mind?  And then there's those stories about mothers of ten children who made all their family's bread. Heck, my husband's aunts have like six children each and they all make homemade bread for their families.  Who knows, maybe they even grind the wheat. To be honest, I wouldn't be surprised; those women are incredible.

But I just don't do it.  I want to, really I do.  I'll purposefully not buy bread at the store, in hopes that it will motivate me to bake some bread. Instead, I'm feeding spoonfuls of peanut butter (aka 'He-Man suckers' - that's what my husband called peanut butter on a spoon when he was a kid. Awesome.) to my son or sending the hubby to work with yet another homemade frozen burrito because I don't have bread for sandwiches.  I just can't seem to work it into my routine. 

Here's the thing: I've come to the conclusion that even if something's frugal to make or do, if it just takes too much time it sometimes is just not worth it.  Time is money, after all. Plus, if it's not something that you enjoy, you won't stick to it. And that's the key to living frugally - there has to be an element of fun to it. I enjoy coming up with ideas and ways to save money;  I think it's fun to make food from scratch;  getting a really good deal on something can be exciting.  If frugality ever just feels like drudgery, then your methods or attitude need revamping.  As frugal guru Amy Dacyzyn said, "Frugality without creativity is deprivation."  There are just some things I'm not willing do, even to save a buck, because I either won't do them regularly (too much upkeep) or I will hate every minute of it. And if being frugal is just deprivation and drudgery, you'll never stick with it.

But I don't hate making bread. In fact, I think there's something so therapeutic about getting a few ingredients together, kneading it into a ball of dough, and turning it into 'the staff of life'.  And I honestly don't think anything tastes as good as warm, homemade bread.  So, I'm going to give making our family's bread a try again and make at least a loaf of it a week. BUT, if I don't stick with it and I buy bread at Costco again, I'm not going to beat myself up about it, either.

If you're going to give this whole bread-making thing a go (if you haven't already), I have a GREAT recipe that I used for my latest loaf.  It's from the cookbook Whole Grain Baking; the cookbook is written by the chefs at the King Arthur Flour Company, so I figure they know a thing or two about how to make a really great loaf of bread.  This recipe for wheat bread was so delicious - even though my son squished the loaf mere minutes before I put it in the oven, deflating it after all that rising time.  I was pretty angry, but baked it anyway.  Still really good. What I really like about this bread is it isn't heavy like lots of whole wheat breads, yet it still is close-grained and works great for sandwiches, hence the title...

100% Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread
from Whole Grain Baking

2 Tbsp. orange juice (according to the book, the juice "tempers the somewhat tannic flavor of whole wheat, without adding any orange flavor of its own".  If you don't want to use juice, substitute water. I used the orange juice.)
1 cup lukewarm water
4 Tbsp. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces
3 cups traditional whole wheat flour
3 tablespoons sugar
Heaping 1/2 cup of dried potato flakes or 3 Tbsp. potato flour (I used the potato flour. I found it at the natural/health food store in my neighborhood)
1/4 cup nonfat dry milk
1 1/4 tsp. salt
2 1/2 tsp. instant yeast (the book also says that you can use regular active dry yeast, but you need to make sure to dissolve it some of the liquid in the recipe before adding it to the dough)

Combine all the ingredients, and mix and knead them - by hand, mixer or bread machine - until you have a soft, smooth dough.  Cover and allow the dough to rise until it's puffy and nearly doubled in bulk, 1 to 2 hours.
Lightly grease an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 loaf pan. Gently deflate the dough, and shape it into an 8-inch log. Place it in the prepared pan. Cover the loaf gently with lightly greased plastic wrap and allow it to rise till it's crowned about 1 1/2 inches over the rim of the pan, 1 1/4 to 2 1/2 hours.  Near the end of the bread's rising time, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Uncover and bake the bread for about 35 minutes, tenting it with foil after 15 minutes. The bread is done when it's golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center registers 190 degrees (Heather's note: I tap the top of the bread and if it sounds a little hollow, then I know it's done). Remove it from the oven, and after a minute or so turn it out onto a rack. Brush with melted butter if desired; this will keep the crust soft. Cool the bread for 30 minutes before slicing. (Good luck with that last part - I cut it just a couple minutes after I took it out and it was AMAZING, even if it was squished. Look at the picture below, you can see the dent from his little hand.Grrrrr...)

So where do you stand on the bread-making spectrum?  Are you the exclusive baker of bread for your household?  Or are you on the other end and think it's just not practical (it does take a while, after all...) or worth the work? Or are you somewhere in-between like me?


Stephanie said...

We should talk...

I went to a bread class a year ago and have a recipe that will be life changing and the best part is, it only takes an hour start to finish. Wahoo!

Heather said...

Stephanie - Send it my way. PLEASE!

Nisha said...

Well, quite frankly, I don't like the taste of any homemade bread I've ever had. I buy Innkeepers 8 Grain Bread from Costco and it's heaven in your mouth.

I know the bread recipes my mom and sister make are pretty simple. They just throw all the ingredients into a bread maker and leave it. No kneading, no preheating the oven.

Markelle said...

tell me about it, I have all the ingredients in my pantry. The certain kind of yeast, the dough enhancer, the wheat, the honey...

It's kind of our family joke (well one of them)that Brent likes to jab at. "when we make our own bread...blah blah" I'll show him one of these days!

Shel said...

I think that's awesome! Greg and I tend to do the bread maker cop-out when we want homemade bread. But what if you make four loaves worth of dough, and then freeze three of them. And each week, while at church or something, thaw it out and let it rise.(like Rhodes dough) Then you'd only have to make it once a month. :) We miss you guys!

Gina said...

I bake bread - when I feel like it too. But I love homemade bread SO MUCH! I most generally make my dough in a bread machine that I have had forever! It is a worthy investment and you can get them at thrift stores even. I also regularly keep the 5-Minute-A-Day dough in my fridge. With it I make bread (makes wonderful toast), english muffins, pizza, homemade hot pockets, hoecakes. I see you have a post with that book as a pic. That is the recipe that most revolutionized my cooking style. I teach this method and recipe to everyone I can get to listen, especially some of the young college students who work in our company. It takes me literally 30 seconds to mix up and I'm good for a few days. And saves so much money!

I agree though. You have to enjoy doing it. I think I mostly just ENJOY eating it! LOL. Happy bread baking!

(I have some great recipes on my blog for my tried and true recipes of raisin bread (great for gifts as well as eating), sandwich bread, schoolhouse rolls, and the 5-minute-a day items I make. Check it out if you like. My blog is

Your blog is awesome and I really enjoy your posts.


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