Monday, January 26

Baking & Breaking Bread

Today, I made my first loaf of home-baked bread.

Last week, I tried to bake bread with a breadmaker at my aunt's insistence. I failed twice, and I failed because the machine had been sitting on a shelf for five and a half years and apparently can no longer be relied upon to do anything but make a cake-y mess and a lot of noise. The breadmaker's cookbook had also warned me that baking bread was tough, and that yeast was super fragile, and that I would never manage on my own because I am a Naive Human Being.


Today, I used More-With-Less' recipe for Honey Whole Wheat Bread. I kind of integrated information from the old standby in our house, Joy of Cooking. Here is how it happened, and why:

Reading and Mentally Preparing

I read More-With-Less and wanted several things out of baking my own bread: I wanted to feel that I could do it and know that I could be independent from store-bought bread, I wanted to avoid the packaging and production waste associated with store-bought bread, I wanted to make sure that only "good" ingredients were going into my bread, and I wanted to give my family the gift of home-baked bread again. It has been five and a half years since my uncle died, and he was the last one to use the breadmaker.

I decided on the Honey Whole Wheat recipe because it looked easy, and didn't require any processed sugar. I love wheat bread, and this seemed like a great place to start.


Karen and I went shopping at Win-Co, and we found all of the ingredients in bulk. I can also draw a wheat kernel now on demand, because Karen had an illustrated explanation for me of what wheat germ was. At Win-Co, I can even get honey in bulk.

I did not get soy flour, but adding some into my recipe would have added nutrients to my bread. I chose not to do so because Karen freaked me out with all of her baking science talk, and I just wanted something straightfoward. Having actually succeeded once now, I may experiment with flours. Win-Co has like...a billion kinds of flour.

Recipes and Reality

This morning, I spent a good long time thinking about yeast. Joy of Cooking told me that yeast is a prima donna and that she does not like a cold dressing room. Okay, thanks, Joy of Cooking. I divvied out all of my dry ingredients, and warmed up my liquids. Then, somewhat holding my breath, I dove in.

1) I dissolved the yeast with some sugar and warm water. I created a "sponge" a la JoC. I let the sponge "rise" in front of the wood stove, because the rest of the house is about sixty degrees. Then, I kneaded in the rest of the ingredients.

2) I turned the kitchen sink into a lovely "bread sauna" because, like I said, the house is at about sixty. Then, I started running out of time.

3) I pulled the bread early from its first rise (at about 45 min, instead of letting it fully double), because I had to make sure that it rose again before I had to leave. I pressed it out by hand, and then rolled it (by hand, again). I tried my best to seal the edges. I put it into the pan and made sure that the short ends touched the short ends of the pan, because JoC assured me that this would help the bread rise. Then, I refilled my "bread sauna" and let the bread rise again.

4) I had to leave, and so did Scott, so I couldn't put the bread in the oven. With my heart in my chest, I wrapped it in an old produce bag that my aunt had washed and saved, and stuck it in the fridge.

5) When I came home six hours later, I pulled the bread out to warm up for fifteen minutes or so. Then, I baked as normal.

The Results

The resulting loaf was dense, but lovely. I think that I will definitely make this a habit, as I ended up liking my loaf much better than store-bought. All of my ingredients were very inexpensive except for honey, but I'm pretty sure the whole thing is still under the $1 we pay for a generic wheat loaf at the store.

I only made a single loaf today because I was afraid that I would mess up again, but I will definitely bake two next time in order to make better use of the oven space.

I will also give my bread more time to rise next time. :)


I think that everyone should try to bake bread. It wasn't hard; I just followed the directions very carefully. I think that this is one small way that I can take ownership of what I eat, and I want to continually seek those opportunities.

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