Monday, November 17, 2008

Basic Bread Recipe, or "Hey Man, Can You Spare Some Bread?"

Whenever people talk about how difficult it is to make homemade bread, I always scratch my head. I've always baked homemade bread in conjunction with other activities, so to my mind bread virtually bakes itself. So, for this blog entry, I want to talk about how to make homemade bread and allay fears and anxieties that go along with it.

For my part, I start the yeast and water with a little honey or organic sugar (aka proofing the yeast), put some laundry in the washing machine. Then I come back, add some flour, bran, salt and oil, (or milk & egg, depending on recipe) put it in a greased bowl and cover it with a clean, dry towel. I set the bowl on the top of a warm stove or in a recessed area away from drafts. Then I go do stuff for an hour (vaccuum, play Scrabble, go for a bike ride, whatever...) and come back. I punch the dough down and knead it for about 10 mins until the gluten in the flour is elastic and stretchy, a bit shiny. Sometimes, I enlist the help of the Peanut Gallery™ to help me. Kids love to hit stuff, especially when its sanctioned and legit. Why not bread dough? Then, it's back to the greased bowl for the second rising. I go do more stuff (put away dishes, move clothes to the dryer, do some ironing...) and it's time to shape it, let it rise the last 15 mins and pre-heat the oven. If I want loaves, I grease loaf pans. If I want rolls, I shape the dough into balls, with the ends tucked under, and place them on a greased baking sheet. Then, I let them rise until it's time to place them in a pre-heated oven. If you want a crisper crust, brush with egg or melted butter, and place a pan of water on the bottom baking rack. Voila! Homemade Bread. It's just that easy.

Or, even easier if you use the No Knead Bread Recipe I found.  I will use this one if I don't have the time or energy to focus on kneading.

Now, granted, I don't bake bread every week, and it would be a drag if I had to - which is when I bake homemade bread it is kind of fun still (if utilitarian and useful). It's also cheap. I can make several loaves of bread from one bag of flour. The varieties are infinite. Depending on the kind of homemade bread you want to make, I've used herbs from the garden, or left over mashed potatoes (for potato bread! yum!). I've made challah (it's fun to twist the braids - kids enjoy that, too!) and dried fruit breads, oatmeal bread, millet bread, whole wheat, multigrain...There's something so satisfying to sitting down to a meal where you've grown the food, baked homemade bread and prepared it yourself...and who knows? One day it will likely include fish I've caught and cleaned (though not anytime soon! Haha!)...

21 comments:

purpledogstar said...

That bread looks scrumptious. You do right to multi-task when baking bread, my only problem with it is that it can take ages. We'll have to try baking some together next month!

Music Fan said...

looks great. i went to a local farmers market last sunday and bought some fresh bread. tasted yummy.

Nysha said...

Yummy bread. I really need to get my oven fixed.

Christina Fleming-Kade said...

At least you don't put yeast and water in the washing machine!

In which case, we'd bake a lot of bread and not have much to wear.

C, who wishes she had time to do such things. But now that I am unemployed, I may take a look at greening up.

Jeff Wills said...

Abby or Abbie,

I really like your green living blog. I will continue to check it out and hope to see many updates. ty, jeff wills

xysea said...

Hi everyone! Thanks for your comments.

Yes, P, let's bake some together. I love fresh baked bread with a little butter on it. Simple pleasures like that can't be beat!

And Music Fan, our local farmer's market sells lovely bread, too. I bought some rosemary bread that I just really couldn't stop eating! lol I don't have the big-time ovens that bakers use to get the crispiest crust on a bread, so for French or Cuban, I'll still buy it. But I must say, my own loaves are rather edible, too! lol

Nysha! Yay! You're here! lol I love my oven. I couldn't imagine being without one. What happened to yours? :)

C - well, sometimes, if I'm not paying attention I've flubbed the bread (which ticks me off - I hate wasted food!) but that rarely happens. Bread baking is like taking care of plants - do the basics, and let them fend for themselves. Usually works best! :)

And Jeff - it's good to see you here, too. I thank you for your compliment and if you have any ideas or suggestions for topics, feel free to message me! :)

The Union Girl said...

I like baking my own bread as well. I especially love Nisua which is a Finnish bread usually served (in my family at least) with really strong coffee.

I tell people that nothing tastes better, is better for you and works out all the stress in your upper body than baking bread. Clearly, you're of the same mind!!

Have you joined Bakespace? Would love to social network some bread recipes.

xysea said...

I would be completely interested in trying your Finnish bread. Can you email me the recipe, UnionGal?

xysea1971@hotmail.com

And Welcome! It's great to see you here!

Steve said...

We make bread as often as possible. Lately we've experimenting with different types of grains- oats, spelt.

We even bought a brad machine, which saves a lot of time and effort, but is qualitatively inferior (in my opinion) to hand-made bread.

There is nothing like the smell of baking bread. And there is also nothing (as you wrote) like the satisfaction of eating a meal with home made bread. Which really get to the crux of why we like to cook and eat-the process of it. Indeed, very utilitarian.

When the steps of the bread making process are done with deliberation and love (for those whom will share it with), the finished loaf sitting steaming on the table is the embodiment of a process that has come full circle. Eating this kind of bread is a celebration.

xysea said...

Hi Steve!

Yes, I feel especially connected to what I am eating when I've made it by hand, grown it and had a direct hand in bringing it about.

I don't have a bread machine, but I often wonder if its worth the investment, you know? Maybe I'll pick one up and give it a try... :)

And Uniongal, I missed your comment about Bakespace before. I haven't been there, but I'm going to Google it. My only experience baking, besides growing up in a large family, was working summers in a French bakery (boulangerie) when I was in late teens/early 20s. It was very educational. We had a German baker and she taught me a lot, though her English wasn't great. Mostly it was about how the dough should feel beneath your hands, stuff that no recipe book can adequately explain...and to me it has been practical, working advice that I've been employing ever since.

:)

The Union Girl said...

oh, a French bakery? I would love to open a bread bakery when I grow up. It'd be union of course. Probably represented by the bakers, confectioners and tabacco union.

I'll send over my bread recipe when I get a minute. It's at home on a piece of paper. My mumu gave it to the family, but hers was terrible. I've made a few alterations, I think mine is much better.

xysea said...

Hi Uniongal,

That would teh awesome! :D

Oh, I quite enjoyed working in the bakery. I learned things like making croissants, that are complicated, but I also learned about tastes - how things should taste, how to bring out the tastes and flavors in things. I basically received professional kitchen training. It was really my only foray into the food industry.

Alex Aulisi said...

I've never successfully baked bread of any kind. I hate baking. I think it's the chemistry...

On the other hand, I could whip out a four course meal for you in about an hour.

Felicia Conway Korengel said...

used to bake bread a fair amount...much more a baker than a cook. My friends have a recipe party every year. Cookies the first year, so I was good with Scotch Shortbread. But then appetizers and this year side dishes. I need a good pie party to go to!

Christina Fleming Kade said...

made loaves of Amish Cinnamon Friendship Bread. Someone sends you a ziploc bag, you mush and air, you add stuff, you separate more bags to your friends, then you bake loaves.

Mine - well, I might not have stirred well enough. Or baked long enough. Or something.

C, who might slice it and serve with coffee or something. Or give it to the kids; they'll eat anything.

Alex Aulisi said...

Felicia - I would be happy to help you with your appetizer dilema. Tell me something you like (and ingredient or a particular taste) and I"ll provide a recipe for you. Something easy. :)

Felicia Conway Korengel said...

Thanks Alex, that was actually last year's party. This year's was side dishes, and most everybody else noticed the "Holiday" notice on it so did yummy sweet potatoes and several good cranberry dishes (although I like my cranberry compote better). I confused people by bringing an Asian Slaw...Happy Chinese New Year?!

I'm not sure kids will eat ANYTHING C -- my MIL made ginger snaps with Splenda for my son with diabetes. All crumbly, she said she threw out a few that got too crunchy because she likes them soft. I had to point out they are called ginger SNAPS! Anyway, they're sitting in a container in the kitchen, and nobody's bugging me to snack on them!

Christina Fleming Kade said...

Well ....

When Seth was younger, he heard me talking in the other room with a friend of mine. He stomped in with his face quizzical, yet surly: "I am NOT a goat!"

C, who hates to change the subject, but I just thought of something I am Thankful for. My brother-in-law's divorce is final, which means I likely will not have to endure another Thanksgiving potluck in which we stick her green bean casserole in the microwave so that we can say we missed it, and ate the other ....

xysea said...

I do have to inject here - I love this conversation! :) xx

I have made the Amish bread before - my neighbors brought me a bag of the starter. That was kinda fun and a nice way to get to know people.

This year, it's just me and the young'un for Thanksgiving, so we probably won't do or bake too much. But I do like to make holiday cookies!

Colin Smith said...

Fish fingers anyone ?

xysea said...

Haha! Col! xx