Honestly, is there anything better than the smell and taste of freshly baked homemade bread?
In this age of instant gratification, the art of bread making is at risk of being forgotten as it can be rather difficult to motivate people to make their own bread. Yet, the benefits are well-known and let’s remember…easier isn’t always better:)
What are the benefits of making homemade bread?
Whatever happened to the consumption of our daily bread? Since the mid-20th century farmers and commercial producers have manipulated the system and sought ways to mass produce while keeping the cost low. The results have been disastrous for our health (i.e. grain and gluten sensitivities), our farmlands, and our environment.
This is the case for making your own bread! The benefits are incredible. Making your own bread allows you to control the ingredients based on your dietary needs. I’ve also found that we eat less bread now that I am making it homemade — which in general is a good thing — I try to bake one day a week, usually on Mondays, and once it’s gone it’s gone.
And lastly, one of the greatest benefits of making your own bread is the revival of this nearly forgotten skill.
What ingredients should I look for?
From unbleached bread flour to 100% whole wheat to sprouted spelt the choices for ingredients are numerous (and a bit overwhelming if you ask me). I like to keep things simple in my kitchen. When deciding on ingredients, I operate under our dietary values, looking for items based on this checklist:
- Purchase directly from the farmer.
- Locally-produced and harvested (if possible).
- Small family run operation.
- Ethical business practices.
As a family, we generally do not have any food allergies or sensitivities — for which I am extremely thankful. However, I know many people do. Therefore, when looking for ingredients you must look for those that meet your dietary requirements.
This list is in no way exhaustive. These are just a few products that I have come to love and use frequently.
Grandpa’s Grain, a farmer that grows a variety of non-GMO grains in Idaho and delivers to Arizona when he comes to see his grandchildren, is as local as it gets for me. Search LocalHarvest to find an independent grain farmer near you. King Arthur Flour and To Your Health Sprouted Flour Co. are also excellent sources for flours and grains.
Buying grain in bulk and milling it yourself is by far the most economical choice. From hand-crank manual mills to electric ones everyone has their own preference. According to my own experience, in addition to the recommendations of our facebook community, some of the most popular grain mills include: Vitamix with the Dry Blade, NutriMill Grain Mill, and the manual Family Grain Mill.
There’s no doubt that sourdough bread is a far superior bread — and there’s nothing more frugally sustainable than harvesting the wild yeast in the air for free — but I have had many unsuccessful attempts at making it. I’ve taken the Gnowfglins Sourdough eCourse (which I highly recommend by the way), I’ve purchased cultures, and I’ve prayed over it…yet I have failed:( Talking to a dear friend — who also lives here in the desert southwest — we’ve determined our difficulties in sourdough bread-making are due to the arid climate (Just a guess…what do you think?). I will continue on my quest to create the perfect sourdough bread loaf…but until then it’s old-fashioned yeast bread for me.
Since most of the instant yeast on the grocery store shelves, unless otherwise labeled, contain GMO’s (genetically modified organisms) be sure to know your product and it’s source. Rapunzel Rize Yeast is a bit more expensive, but well-known for it’s adherence to organic and non-GMO practices.
I substitute local, raw honey in all my bread recipes.
There are several bread recipes that produce excellent results, but today I would like to share with you my favorite recipe for white yeast bread (it’s been modified from a recipe found in Forgotten Skills of Cooking.
1. Activate yeast according to packet directions. This usually means placing it in a small amount of lukewarm water, along with the honey, for a few minutes.
2. Sift together the flour and salt.
3. Cut the butter, lard, or olive oil into the flour.
4. Then pour in the yeast mixture and the remaining lukewarm water. Mixing until a loose dough is formed. Be sure to add water or flour as needed.
5. Now it’s time to knead the dough. This step can be performed for 5 minutes by using an electric Kitchen-Aid tool or a Bosch appliance. The most sustainable method is to learn how to knead by hand (performed for 10 minutes). Even if you use an electric mixer (like I do), it is super important to have the knowledge and practice kneaded by hand occasionally in order to refine your skills. Here’s a great video to help.
6. After kneading, put the dough in a large bowl and allow to rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, covered, and placed in a warm moist environment.
7. Once dough has doubled in size, knead it again for 2-3 minutes. Cover again and let the dough rest for 10 minutes.
8. Shape dough into loaves (this recipe makes 2 standard loaves or 1 standard loaf and 4 BPA-free bean can loaves) and place into well oiled pans. If using upcycled, BPA-free bean cans — a great way of using what you have to bake bread — grease the can and line the bottom with parchment paper.
9. Once in pans, allow dough to rise doubling in size again (approximately 20-30 minutes).
10. Preheat oven to 450 degrees fahrenheit.
11. Brush top of bread with water or egg wash.
12. Bake for 25-35 minutes. Note: When done, bread should sound hollow when tapped.
13. Slice and enjoy!
Note: If you are going to use an upcycled can, be sure that it has been clearly labeled as a BPA-free can.
Share your homemade bread-making experience!