Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Our Daily Bread

We got in the habit of making our own bread when we lived in Nelson, New Zealand. At that point we were so glad to be settled in one place for a little while and to take advantage of being able to buy things like flour and have a fully functioning kitchen, and it was also far cheaper than buying good bread. We lost the habit between mid-May and a few weeks ago, with all the chaos of traveling and moving, but now we have gotten it back! We make bread once or twice a week, and we've gotten John (our housemate) into the habit as well, so between the three of us we usually have a loaf of good homemade bread in the breadbox.
 (Click on Photos to Enlarge)
 Matt kneading a double batch of bread last night.

My favorite recipe remains this one from Rhonda at Down to Earth. I've never really had it fail, and it's basic but very tasty. We usually do about a 60/40 mix of white and whole wheat flour. When I double this recipe (which then makes for two good loaves of bread) it calls for 7 1/2 cups of flour, so I use 4 cups of white flour and 3 1/2 of whole wheat. We buy our flour from Bob's Red Mill, which has a whole grain store and mill near us. I did a lot of comparison shopping for flour, with the suspicion that Bob's Red Mill would be the best option, and I was right. I could have gotten cheaper prices elsewhere but that would have been for bleached, enriched flour. Bob's flours are far more natural and less processed than most brands. Most flour is bleached simply for looks, and "enriched" because all of the natural nutrients in the wheat are stripped out during the processing, and since we would rather pay a bit more for good products to avoid the processed ones, we buy from Bob's Red Mill. I have always been a huge fan of their products; they make naturally processed flours and baking mixes of all kinds, and for every kind of dietary restriction: gluten-free flour, rice flour, graham flour, etc. In addition, they produce all kinds of whole grain cereals and sell grains like spelt, kamut, and quinoa. Their whole grain store is like a wonderland!

 Bread rising next to the breadbox that Matt found and refurbished for us last year.

We buy 25 lb sacks of flour, for around $16 apiece. We go through a bag of white flour in about two months, between bread and other baking. By my calculations, all ingredients included, we pay about $30 for two months' worth of bread. If we were eating the same amount of store-bought bread of the same quality, we would be paying for 1-2 loaves of bread per week at a price of around $4 per loaf. For 1.5 loaves per week for eight weeks, this comes out to a total of $48. That's a clear savings of $18 (and a dozen plastic bread bags) for us, and we get the added benefits of knowing exactly what goes into our bread, and the satisfaction of making it with our own hands, in our own kitchen.

Someday soon we hope to get a bread machine, to save us a bit on time and kneading. I can't knead bread, as it exacerbates an old repetitive stress injury in my wrists, so usually I mix up the dough, and Matt or John does the kneading. I'd love to have the option of just throwing in a batch and not having to worry about one of the boys being around to do that part for me!

At the moment we only have one loaf pan, so with a double batch we make a free form loaf or rolls. I'm on the hunt for another nice (cheap, secondhand) pyrex or ceramic loaf pan. 

For a long time, bread making seemed really intimidating to me, like it would take a lot of time and effort, but the fact is it doesn't, and it's easy to fit into your routine. It takes 15-20 minutes of mixing and kneading up front, and then it's all proofing and baking, during which you can work on other activities. So if you haven't tried making your own bread yet, try it- it's so worth it! I grew up on my dad's wonderful homemade sandwich bread, cinnamon swirl bread and cinnamon rolls (he would make massive batches, then put several loaves in the freezer), then lost out on the goodness of fresh bread for most of a decade. I am so glad to have it back! 


Laurel said...

And there's nothing like snagging a warm, just out of the oven piece. Yum!

FlowerLady said...

Homemade bread is so delicious! I love the smell of it baking. I use my bread machine. I haven't made a loaf of bread by hand in years. Maybe I'll give it a try again one of these days. The bread machine hardly puts out any heat though so that's a real plus down here. It takes about 3 hours from start to finish.

Happy Bread making ~ FlowerLady