Thursday, March 22, 2012

Give us this day our daily bread...on the cheap.

In the interest of Not Being Broke All The Time, Mr Incredible and I are constantly on the prowl for what we refer to as "no money fun".  If we can find something that kills time and has some other beneficial effect and it doesn't cost a lot, we're on board.

I'm not a big food snob, but ever since Boo was born, I've been more attuned with what's in our food.  We read labels, and we avoid high fructose corn syrup and saturated fats and all that bad stuff that you read about. It's not hard to do, really, but sometimes we have to get creative.

A couple of months ago, I baked a loaf of bread.  I found a recipe at The Simple Dollar that looked easy enough, so I bought a loaf pan and some yeast and tried it.  And you know what?  I freaking love to bake bread.  It's like therapy.  There are simple ingredients that you probably have on hand (except for yeast, because if you're not already baking bread you're not just going to have yeast in your pantry...), and you need about a 3-hour block of time where you can run into the kitchen for a few minutes at a time.  The benefits to my now weekly bread baking habit surprised me:

  • Homemade bread tastes SO.MUCH.BETTER. than store-bought bread.  There's no comparison.  The texture, the flavor, and you can throw in garlic salt or fresh herbs and you have fancy bread that will amaze your family.
  • Kneading bread is like punching someone.  You know how sometimes you just wish you could pop some jackass in the face?  This is the next best thing.  When your dough is the right consistency, you take it out of the bowl, put some flour on your knuckles, and you beat the crap out of that bread for 10 minutes.  Sometimes?  I name my dough.
  • Bread at the store is expensive.  Homemade bread is made from cheap, simple ingredients.
  • There is satisfaction in making something.  I come from a long line of quilters and crocheters and who knows what all is involved in making some of the crap crafts that some of them hang on every single wall in their homes.  That gene totally skipped me.  I have none of that.  I walk into Joann Fabrics, and it's like I'm on another planet.  But when I pull a nice warm loaf of bread out of the oven, I feel like Laura Ingalls Wilder making something from scratch for my family.
  • This amazing aroma fills your house from the moment you add water to yeast.  You can't smell anything else--not the dog, not the man cave, nothing.  Just the smell of home cooking.  And it lingers for hours afterward.  It's so pleasant and soothing and homey.  
And then you cut into this still-warm bread, and you see a little puff of steam, and you take a deep breath like you do (or at least I do...) when you open a bag of coffee and you just take it in and it's incredible.

You learn lessons from homemade bread, too.  You have to deal with it quickly, but not too quickly.  Because there are no preservatives, it needs to be either consumed (no problem here....) or frozen long before store-bought bread is.  But if you put it in the freezer too soon, it will steam itself into a sad, squishy lump, and you'll still eat it (um, at least I will because I'm like that...) but it won't be that perfect puffy bread you pulled out of the oven.

You need to respect the process of the bread from the first moment to the last.  It's the simultaneous application of attention and patience.  You knead it for 10 minutes, and then you let it sit for an hour.  You have to leave it alone, as much as you want to touch it and maybe even take a bite?  Because it's dough, and dough tastes so good... but you leave it to do its thing. And every week's efforts yield a different result.  Bread is affected by what's going on around it.  Temperature, humidity, how angrily firmly you knead the dough, are all variables.  Bread isn't about perfection, but the result is invariably some version of perfect.  


  1. I used to make bread with my mom before I got married. It always turned out perfectly. My mom was a bread-making queen! Then I moved out and I haven't been able to make a decent loaf of bread since! I have no idea what I'm doing wrong. I even use the exact same recipe. Your post has almost inspired me to try again. Once I get this editing work done.

  2. Mmmm, I sooooo wanna try this !!! :)