Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Our Daily Bread

Various snapshots of bread that I have made over the past couple of years. 
I have a confession to make...I am one of those women.  I homeschool my kids and I bake my own bread.  I know.  You all want to roll your eyes in disgust.  But I wasn't always like this.  I have been married for over 22 years and it has only been the last two or three during which this strange bread-baking phenomenon has occurred.  Before that, through the years, I had made several attempts to bake bread which had resulted in doorstops.  I affectionately had called them "brick-bread."  Imagine a loaf no more than an inch and a half high and dense enough to break a toe if dropped.  I had decided that baking bread was an impossibility for me.  My parents thoughtfully gave me a bread machine one year.  That was wonderful!  For the first time ever, I was able to produce an edible loaf of bread in my kitchen.  Sheepishly, I have to admit, I had my share of failures even with the machine, but with practice, I prevailed and could consistently churn out yummy loaves.

A few years ago, I got the bug to start baking all of our bread.  It was healthier and saved money.  Every morning I would diligently measure ingredients into my bread maker and we would have fresh bread.  Then, just as we were totally hooked on this, tragedy struck. My bread maker quit working!  I didn't have money in my budget to replace it either.  Faced with the option of returning to store bought bread, I decided that this was the time to master the art of bread making from scratch.  With determination, I began to read about bread making techniques and actually figured it out. I made bread!  (Imagine me yelling this just like Tom Hanks yelled "I made fire!" in Castaway when he finally succeeded.)

So, I began a new ritual.  I would get up early, measure out my ingredients, mix them, and knead them (and knead them....and knead them....) and set the dough to rise.  A couple hours later I would punch the dough down, form loaves and let this rise again.  Then I could bake it.  It took at least half a day of babysitting the dough and working with it.  It took longer if I was busy and didn't get back to it right away.  But when you smell that bread baking to perfection in the oven, it is all worth it.  Oh that smell!  I was a lot of work, though, and my family can devour a 2 pound loaf of bread at one meal.

This process continued for quite some time.  Then I discovered the the best technique EVER for making bread.  Seriously, it is revolutionary.  I was reading a blog that referred to the book, "Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day."  I was intrigued and decided to see if my local library had it.  It did so I checked it out.  The book spells out a process of mixing up ingredients for 4 pounds of bread dough all at once in a big container, letting it sit on the counter to rise, and placing it in the refrigerator.  When you want bread, you whack off a hunk, form a loaf, let it rise and bake it.  Do you notice what is missing from this process.  Think about it; I'll give you a minute...NO KNEADING.  None!  It also saves time because you make a lot of dough at once and then can use it to make a fresh loaf each day. And the bread is flipping fantastic.  I can tell you, once I tried this technique, I won't ever go back to the long, tiring process that I was doing before.

Are you intrigued?  The recipe and process for making the basic bread dough in the book is available online here:  Back to Basics ~ tips and techniques to create a great loaf in 5 minutes a day.  It may look a bit long and daunting at first, but I assure you, once you understand the process it is SO simple. 

I now own the book and the newest version, "Healthy Bread in 5 Minutes a Day."  I bake 2 large 2 pound loaves of bread at least every other day, sometimes even daily.  I can manage this even when we are at our busiest.  My point is, that if baking bread is something you desire to do, you can, too.  I highly recommend giving this a try.

I will have to do a post on what has become my "go-to" bread dough from this book.  I try to keep some on hand at all times and use it in a variety of ways.  Stay tuned for that.


HappyGoMommy! said...

I so enjoy your blog!! We also use the artisan 5-minute-a-day bread, but we don't make it nearly as often. I also thought you might enjoy this blog post if you haven't already read it:

Hope you have a great week! :)

Trish said...

Oh Amy, I love that post! I can really relate to that. We are even making our own homemade yogurt as I type. It is nice to know that I am not the only weird one out there.