Baking Bread: Do I have time for this?

I got clever with the 2nd loaf of white bread and braided it–came out GREAT!

Along with wanting to feed my family healthier food the financial considerations in buying pre-made items is always a factor in my shopping excursions.  While I was challenging myself with the 10-day Real Food Challenge I discovered that the bread we buy is FILLED with additives!  Yuck.  I decided, in a spurt of renewed homemaker vigor that I should again attempt bread making.

I say “again” because back when the twins were new (and I was insane) I had a few attempts at making bread.  I was somewhat successful and discovered the therapeutic world of bread making.  I enjoyed kneading and watching the bread rise but after a few loaves of white bread I moved to wheat bread (my husband is diabetic and we need to make each carb count) which is a little less forgiving.  My breads were dense and less than delicious and the kneading as giving me serious muscle aches!  I wasn’t sure what I was doing wrong but I did know the results weren’t worth the effort I was putting in to say nothing of the TIME I was spending on baking  bread instead of taking care of my home and my kids. So I gave up baking in favor of cooking, something I do much better anyway!

Lately Christian and I have been doing a lot of talking and thinking about our future homestead.  Not just a new house but an actual homestead where we try to produce as much of our own food and energy as possible–a self-sustaining home.  That means buying as little pre-made food as possible.  Whole foods are healthier and cheaper and they come with a sense of satisfaction you can’t get by heating up a frozen pizza!  I’d admit I got some inspiration from the stack of library books I got on homesteading, including Made From Scratch: Discovering the Pleasures of a Handmade Life by Jenna Woginrich.  Amidst her single life of handmade psuedo-farm-girling she gives some good pointers and ideas, including a recipe for white bread from scratch.  The thing I liked about this recipe was she wrote it out in narrative form, really giving you details about each step.  Having attempted many “normal” bread recipes I appreciated all the extra help I was getting and with Jenna’s help I discovered what I’ve been doing wrong all these years: I haven’t been letting my yeast activate enough.

Oh, so simple and yet so important!  When you make bread you are supposed to start by getting hot water (I’ve read temperatures ranging from 100 degrees to 120 degrees farenheit) and then letting it sit for AT LEAST FIVE MINUTES.  Okay, I’ve read that before but I’m not the most patient person on earth so it’s, um, possible that I’ve been cutting that time a little short.  It’s also entirely possible that in my original bread-making ardour I may have inadvertently purchased old or ineffective yeast.  Either way I never saw the froth I wait to see every time I make dough now!

So, I’ve tried a couple different recipes but here is one I really liked.  I found in on Allrecipes (which, along with Epicurious, is my go-to recipe finding site!), the author calls it a kid-friendly wheat bread: my kind of bread!  As for the answer to my original question: Do I have time for this?

As of right now I’ve made only two different batches of bread (white and wheat) in addition to some much better pizza dough.  Ya know what?  It’s a lot easier to knead dough that properly activated yeast!  I have big plans for a honey wheat bread in the shape of a turkey for thanksgiving… maybe I’ll try making a pumpkin one first for Halloween!

Bread recipes are forthcoming once I have my honey wheat bread perfected!  I’ll even toss you the white bread recipe I started with (from Jenna Woginrich’s book) to help you get started.

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2 responses to “Baking Bread: Do I have time for this?

  1. When you guys were little I would double the water, salt, milk and sugar of a basic white bread recipe and add a tad more yeast and water and then would divide it into 5 loaves instead of four (just be patient in the rising stage and they will fill the pans). I added a bunch of stuff to the original water such as, At the beginning you can add oats, (or cooked rice for that matter) old cereal that nobody was eating, bran, wheat germ, chocolate chips, cheese, raisins, cranberries, chopped dried fruit, nuts, veggies corn meal and various kinds of flour – rice, wheat, graham, rye etc. “Everything but the kitchen sink” bread is the best!

    All flours are not equal, however, and you just have to watch that you get enough gluten (white flour) to hold things together So experiment with how much other stuff you can throw in. Definitely when I start kneading I only used white flour as it “glutinizes” better.

    And if you have a problem waiting for your yeast, try putting it in a cup of hot/very warm (but tolerable to the touch- if your hand is comfortable, your yeast can take it) tap water in at least a 2 cup container when you start and put in some of the sugar so it starts to work and is nice and foamy when you are ready to add it to your mixture. Just don’t get distracted as it does start to work and will overflow on the counter if you don’t keep an eye on it. I have a vague recollection that honey and molasses aren’t as effective in getting the yeast to work as white or brown sugar, but “don’t quote me”.

    I would beat everything with my little hand mixer up until the yeast mixture and as much of the flour as my mixer could stand had been added, then go the rest of the way by hand. And once I got past the mixer stage, I only used white flour. I added more flour only to the point of being able to keep the mixture from sticking to my hands and the bread board – too much flour makes a tougher, denser (higher calorie) bread. More kneading can also make the bread tougher/denser, so you have to hold yourself back on those days when there there’s a happy medium. And if you forget about your bread and go past the perfect rise point and find you loaves have fallen, just dump them out and reknead them and let them rise again.

    On the second rising, I would cover my loaves with a cling wrap (with room to rise) and set them in the oven with a pan of hot water (from the tap) in a 9X13″ pan on the bottom of the oven and close the door. You can also put your oven on for a few minutes when you are starting the second kneading and then turn it off, and the oven will be warm (if you get it too hot, just open the door for a few minutes.

    • wow, that was not so much a comment as an entire new post!
      To reply: I’ve been having good success with my 2:3 white:wheat recipe and it’s pretty easy. I do activate my yeast every time and I have been using honey (it is working well!). I’d try the “everything but the kitchen sink” but I’m aiming for the most whole-wheat possible. Maybe I’ll try adding some oats or nuts though… interesting! I also like the idea of getting more bread from the same amount of flour, seems like cheating!

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