September 23, 2014

Homemade Bread

(If you just want a bread recipe-- skip to the end.  I'm a bit chatty this morning.)

The sounds of morning surround me as I type.

"Do you know where my green shoes are?"  Anna asks.
Little girls are playing in the basement, I yell for them to brush their teeth.
Jakob's playing the piano.
Drew is reading.
Ben is happy because I finally handed him his own bowl of Cream of Wheat to eat.  (Little stink wants to do everything himself.)

Rocco is licking every drop Ben graciously throws to him.
Eve is still sleeping.
Todd just kissed me and thanked me for breakfast, as he eats a piece of homemade bread.
We searched for answers to the question "Who is Abinidi?" for a quick scripture time this morning, while I was helping Ellie finish up some homework she remembered about at 9pm last night. 

My home is tidy (oh how I love Tuesday mornings better than Monday mornings).
Leah did her own hair today and you can tell.  Good moms let second graders have messy ponytails (even as we cringe) because we know that will create 3rd graders who are independent hair stylists.

My to do list is long.  Ben is a huge mess.  Rocco just inherited Ben's whole bowl and spoon.  

Eve just woke up- cheerful and starry-eyed.  She hugged and kissed her brother with the announcement "Now I love Jakob!"

All is just as it should be.

I have learned that there is joy in creation.
I don't believe there is just joy in having-- there is joy in doing.
The joy does not come from having a clean house- the joy comes from cleaning your home.

The joy doesn't just come from having well-behaved children- the joy comes in teaching and serving your children.

When I was on bed rest, my children were well cared for.  I felt peace in that, but I missed the joy and sense of accomplishment that comes from doing it myself.

Although at the end of the day I knew they were tucked into bed, I missed that end of the day accomplished feeling that is so naturally ours as hardworking mothers.

Making bread is more joyful than just having bread to eat.

Making bread is one of the most rewarding kitchen jobs.  It simply feels good and right.  Bread is filling and it costs very little.  (We eat homemade bread for breakfast or as an addition to soup for dinner.  I buy bread for sandwiches.)

Honestly, I am a bit wary of health trends that teach true principles of health mixed with an extreme way of thinking that almost paralyzes us as we try to feed our families.  I absolutely reject the idea that God has allowed the world to get to the point that we all must live off of coconut, baby spinach, and Accai berries (although all are yummy) in order to nourish our families.  I do not believe healthy eating in this day and age, must be so expensive that we have to choose between eating healthy, saving more, and serving others.

I believe that this earth is designed to feed the people.  Food that is inexpensive and abundant and natural must be good for our bodies.

I'm not judging you or your food choices.  Individual health concerns lead people to different food choices.  I have learned so much from people who have been blessed to learn different life lessons from me.

But as for me and my house, we will eat as healthy as we can for $200 a week on groceries, diapers, and household stuff.  That is a lot.  (I have friends with large families who spend $500 a month on groceries.)  I am not super frugal-- just moderately healthy and moderately frugal.  We eat good food, we eat like kings and queens.  

One of the ways we save money is by eating more oats, wheat, and potatoes.  We also eat a lot of apples, oranges, and bananas.  I love good food.  I love local food.

Sorry for that random food rant.  It is on my mind.  I just feel the time and energy and huge weight and financial burden that eating healthy places on so many mothers.  I hate that.   I also see the weight and drag and health burdens that eating unhealthy places on people.  That isn't good either.  

There is a place of peace.  We can strive to be better while at the same time feeling peace where we are.  Guilt makes me sick- literally.  

Peace comes when you live within your means not when you are finally able to acquire all you think you need or achieve perfection.  I have learned this lesson SO well these past two years.  Live within your means!!  Find peace where you are.

God can change your means.  God can bless you with health and money and wisdom and ability-- if He hasn't, it might be because you can do all that He needs you to do with the stewardships He has already given you.  Maybe you can serve and teach others better in your want than you could have in abundance.  Maybe God knows the lessons your children are learning as they are not given everything they see, are greater than those that they would be learning in a more luxurious life.  

As I read history-- almost every single person I admire, has endured poverty, hunger, persecution, and pain.  Perhaps that should tell us something.  

Haha.  It should tell us to make bread.  :)

I am not a direction follower or one who measures.  (I use a one cup measuring cup for everything I measure- including table and teaspoons.)  I'm good at bread.

Here are a few things I learned--

-Instant yeast is different from active yeast.  If you buy regular (or active) yeast, you need to start it in a bowl of warm water with sugar sprinkled on top.  When it is foamy, add it to your bread.  Instant yeast skips this step.  You just add it right to your flour and water and it's fine.  (I use instant yeast.)

-I'm not a big bread kneader.  Kneading the bread too much, in my experience, makes the dough sticky and too hard to work with.  I will knead the dough BEFORE I add all the flour, but not very long after I add all the flour.  If I'm completely honest, I hardly ever knead bread or rolls much longer than it takes to actually mix the dough.  Maybe I'm missing something.  But, my rolls and bread are light and fluffy (depends more on the recipe than the kneading) and I make dough a lot.

-Think "easy to clean".  In my opinion, making bread is SO easy.  Basically, you are just adding liquid (water, oil) + powder (any type of flour, yeast, salt, and dab of sweetness) to create a dough.  

Think of it as two steps-- first, mix all your ingredients together using only one or two cups of flour (your making a thick soup) then add more flour until it forms a dough that cleans everything up.  If you have made a huge mess-- you need more flour.  Don't look at your recipe, look at your dough.

-Clean your kitchen before you begin.  Keep your kitchen clean as you go.  I like to gather all my ingredients on one counter-- (I'm sorry I don't take better pictures for you.  iPhone pictures are my life these days.)
As I add them, I move them to another counter so they are easy to put away later.
(See the ingredients over by the stove waiting to be put away?)

The hardest part of mixing bread is the beginning.  You want to add a little flour and a little water so it doesn't splash all over when you mix it-- like this
Don't ever add all the flour it calls for all at once.  Just add enough flour to keep the water from splashing around.  Once you get all the individual ingredients mixed, mix for a few minutes (this is my kneading part).
If my recipe calls for 8 cups of flour, I add about 8 cups of whatever I want to add. 
You can add different kinds of flour, flax seed, wheat germ (I love those B vitamins), oats, cinnamon, etc.  As long as you start with a basic recipe of water, fat, and yeast-- you can be creative with the dry ingredients.

I like to use just a tad of dark brown sugar, and cinnamon.  (My friend, Ines Erickson, always put cinnamon in her bread and it reminds me of her.)  Wheat bread with cinnamon just feels more yummy than plain wheat bread.

And-- don't forget the SALT!!  Unsalted bread is just really missing something.

(Sorry if I'm being too obvious here.)

Once all your ingredients are mixed you start adding flour until your dough clings together and cleans the edges of the bowl.  I like my bread light, so I don't keep adding flour after my Bosch is all cleaned, but you could.
See how the bowl is white?  
Making bread should not be a gooey, messy experience where the dough gets all stuck to your rings, your arms, and your sponge.  
I did it that way many times-- it means you haven't added enough flour.

I knead the dough while I'm getting out my bread mat and then I just dump the dough out.  It should come easily.  If your dough is a little sticky, spray your hands with no stick spray.

Ask for a Tupperware mat for Christmas. It makes bread, rolls and pie crusts beautifully.

Most recipes call for two rising times.  So, I'll just dump the dough into a bowl with a little oil in it, spin the dough so the top gets covered in the oil, cover the bowl with a dish towel, and let it sit on my stove to rise.  This recipe only rises once, so I just put the dough right into loaves.

See how clean the bowl is?
Forming the loaves is about stretching the tops and folding the edges under.  I'm pretty careful to form the loaves quickly and not be too particular.
I am absolutely not a perfectionist.
I almost always make 6 loaves.  
That's how many fit in my oven.
I started this batch at 2:15 and it was in the oven just as my kids got home from school AND we had unexpected friends stop by from Oregon. Thankfully, I had started chicken soup before the bread.  My kitchen was clean and I could wash up the dishes in two minutes so it wasn't this huge ordeal.  Just a perfect, cozy afternoon.
Anna found our first red leaf!
This recipe is really good.
Nothing beats talking about our day and visiting with old friends, while drinking cider and eating warm bread.
OK-- here is the recipe I used (from my friend Ines Erickson).
I have two other recipes I love-- but start with this because it's good.
(If you want, you can buy gluten, flax or chia seeds, and wheat germ at most grocery stores.  I found mine at Walmart.  I still haven't found vitamin C to add.)
Really Good Bread
(Takes 45 minutes and makes 6 to 9 loaves)

6 cups hot water
3/4 cup sugar (I used 1/2 cup dark brown sugar)
3/4 cup gluten (you can make it without gluten, it will just be more dense)
1/2 tsp vitamin C crystals (from Trader Joes- optional)
3 cups flour (any kind wheat, rye, white- I add wheat germ and flax seed with my flours)
3/4 cup oil
1/2 cup yeast
Cinnamon (optional)
1 Tablespoon salt (Don't forget!!)
2 cups oatmeal (can add more flour instead if you prefer)

Mix 1-2 minutes
Add 2 cups flour
Mix 5 minutes

Add remaining flour (about 4 cups) until dough pulls away from the edges.

Spray loaf pans and shape dough into loaves.  Mine made 6 loaves.

Place in oven warmed to 170* for ten minutes.
Then change the temp to 350* and bake for 20 minutes.

Mmm.  It's good.
45 minutes start to finish.

I use a Bosch with a dough hook.
I'm sure you could mix this by hand though, it would just take some elbow grease.  If you make this bread, take a picture and tag me in it on Facebook or Instagram.  I'm sure you'll love it.

Boy-- what a ridiculously long post.
Have a great day!
Life- with bread- is good!


Tina said...

I'm going to try making this bread but wondered about the 1/2 cup yeast... I've never added that much to a bread recipe before. Does the bread taste extra yeast-y? I have a recipe for bread that makes 7 loaves and only calls for 2 Tbs... just want to confirm before I make it ;-)

jenifer said...

Tina- it does sound like a lot. I just scooped it by eye and probably added less than 1/2 cup. It didn't taste yeasty to me.

Ane said...

As a response to the many emerging food trends, a New York Times food critic wrote this (or something along these lines): "Eat food. Especially vegetables. Don't over-eat". I thought that was simple and beautiful. Maybe I read too much wisdom into his/her words, but I think they were pretty spot on and very much in line with what you are saying. I especially love the "eat food" part as I think people tend to overthink their dinner (it has to be paleo, raw-food, vegan, biodynamic, low carb etc...) creating stress where there should be peace.
Bon appetit!

The Davis Family Three said...

"Maybe you can serve and teach others better in your want than you could have in abundance."
This sentence you wrote really stuck with me today. Not because I am struggling in the financial sense, but because I am struggling with other righteous "wants" that are not being fulfilled as I feel they should. It was just a reminder to me that Heavenly Father knows me and I need to use this time of "want" to serve his children more. Thank you for your thoughtful words - I think I will put them on my refrigerator as a reminder :).

Anonymous said...

Thank you! My husband just tasted the bread I made using your recipe and said, "this is the best bread you've ever made." So easy and so yummy! -jennie

Mary said...

Ane, an even shorter version of that statement is this catchy one:
Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.

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