Thursday, April 3, 2008

Bread: Frugal staff of life

Some people are bread people; some aren't, just like some people love chickens or horses or fast cars and others are just not impressed.

I'm a bread person. I love to experiment with bread, and with the prices still going up (will it ever stop??), baking your own bread can be a money saver.

I said can be, but it isn't necessarily so if you use a bread machine, a bread machine mix or buy expensive flour and yeast. I have never used "bread flour," and I've never bought expensive specialty flour, either. I mill my own flour and my bread is always well received - and even asked for.

I use this basic recipe most of the time:

1 tablespoon (or one package) yeast
1 tablespoon sugar, or brown sugar, or maple syrup, honey, etc.
1 teaspoon salt or sea salt or flavored salt such as garlic or onion
2 scant tablespoons of fat: butter, shortening, lard, vegetable oil, olive oil, etc.
1 cup of liquid: milk, water, half water and half milk, potato water or even part cream.
Flour as needed, usually 3 - 4 cups per loaf, with extra for kneading.

Put the salt, sugar and yeast in a large bowl and mix together.

Warm the liquid with the fat in it until it's slightly warmer than is comfortable to put your finger deep into it.

Add to the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. Let it set 5 or 10 minutes for the yeast to start working.

Add flour, a cup at a time at first, then less until you have a fairly stiff dough. Turn it out onto a floured board and knead for 3 to 5 minutes, until it's smooth and not sticky, adding flour as necessary.

Let it rise once or twice, then form it into loaves and put it in loaf pans. Let it rise once more, then bake at 400 for 10 minutes. Turn the oven down and finish baking at 350 for 30 to 40 minutes more.

If you mill your own wheat, it makes a heavy whole wheat loaf. Bread is supposed to be heavy. Real bread is the staff of life, not a piece of fluff that you surround your meat and cheese with. Bread was originally (and can still be!) the major part of a meal.

Bread should be nutritionally important, not just white fluff. Leave the fluffy air for cake and other nonessentials and you'll fill your tummy for less - and be happy doing it.


  1. My mother baked our bread growing up with all kinds of whole grains. When I first moved out on my own I couldn't figure out why I could work my way through half a loaf of store-bought white bread in one sitting. Of course, I finally realized all I was eating was mostly air. Anyway, glad I'm not the only who loves good bread. When Jesus called Himself the bread of life, I don't think he meant wonder bread!:)

  2. I'd agree that bread is supposed to be "heavy". And anyway, its only really heavy when compared to the plastic white bread you can buy in shops, which has twice, if not more, the amount of yeast home baked bread has. The other problem with plastic "fluff", as you put it, is because there's more air in it, you have to eat more of it to feel full. with more filling. which leads to a weight problem.. the bread i make is a mix of white and brown flour, and has seeds it. Its a recipe handed down from my grandfather, so precious to me for that reason, but i find that in cutting the loaf, i can cut relatively thin slices of bread, which still holds together well for sandwiches, so you eat less bread per sandwich (and of course, it still fills you up, so less sandwiches all round than white plastic bread). My OH sulks when there's no home made bread available, and if the worst comes to the worst, he will either ask me to weigh out the amounts so he can make it, which he's done a time or two, or use ryvita rye flour crackers. he refuses to eat supermarket bread. The exception is certain specialist breads, that i can't really cook at home very well (e.g. very very good french bread :D) that we have as a treat once in a blue moon.


  3. I agree, bread should be heavy. You are not supposed to be able to make modeling clay out of it (white glue and white bread, makes great beads). BTW I also grind my own grain and use this basic recipe. Bellen

  4. Pat how do you grind your own flour? Where do you get wheat to grind? Can you get wheat in small enough amounts so that it is practical for home use, in a home that does not have a lot of storage? I thought it would go bad quickly unless you had a lot of good storage.
    I would like to make bread like this. As it is I have only made bread with white flour ( here in Canada I just buy all pourpose flour and it is fine for bread making) I have also bought whole wheat flour and mix them for bread.
    Pat in Kitchener

  5. I too love substantial whole wheat bread:-) And in the winter I find baking it can serve a dual purpose, not just providing an excellent food but also supplementing the heat and decreasing use of the furnace. On the other hand, I'm amazed to remember that my grandmother used to bake bread every day, even during the hottest part of the summer.

  6. Amen, Jayne! LOL
    Good bread is good food all by itself.

  7. Sounds like you get it, kethry. :) As kids, we used to smash a slice of white fluff and roll it into a ball. We could eat a whole slice in one not so large mouthful.

  8. Bellen, I made some really pretty "porcelain" roses from bread and white glue one time, so it's not an altogether useless product!

  9. Pat, right now I'm using wheat bought from the feed store in a 50 pound bag, but you can get it a some health food stores (Whole Foods - don't know if you have it there or not.) You can also order it online, mostly from organic stores. Ten pounds of wheat goes a long ways, so it isn't as expensive as it might sound. Maybe you could get someone to go in with you to buy it from a farmer or feed store?

  10. That's one thing I have to give modern conveniences - no baking when it's so terribly hot, or being able to cool the house with air conditioning when necessary. I have a portable oven in my garage, so I can bake out there without overheating the house in the summer.

    Our Grandmothers did a lot of things that I am too comfortable to want to do and sometimes I think that's not a good thing!

  11. Plus the whole grain is better for your blood sugar, waistline, and your digestive tract. Can't beat that!

  12. Yes, it's much better, cyberscryber! Real food usually is. :)

  13. I am just wondering how using a bread machine makes bread at home expensive? Does the machine use more electricity than I realize? I received a machine as a gift and often use it to mix the dough. I bake in the oven. Also, I get a great deal on 25 lb. bags of whole wheat, and 50 lb. bags of white flour. My next investment will be a grain mill,(I just purchased a pressure cooker/canner, will have to start saving up again). Thanks.

    Shawna from Summer Lake

  14. Just using a bread machine won't raise the cost of bread very much, if you didn't have to buy it in the first place. It does take electricity, but I don't know how much - probably not enough to raise the cost by more than a few cents. But why raise the cost at all?

    Many bread machine owners buy special mixes, which are ridiculously high.

    As to your good deals on flour, how much are you paying? I bought wheat for $7 a 50 pound bag. That figures out to 87 1/2 cents for 6 and a half pounds of very good, whole wheat, fresh flour.
    At almost 4 cups per pound that makes a loaf of bread for about 13 and a half cents. When I add other ingredients, I figure it costs at the most, 20 cents a loaf.

    Is my math right? No other costs, except to heat the oven to bake it.

  15. I paid $15 dollars for 50 lbs. of white flour. Even at a good price for flour it's more than twice as much, and it's inferior to your freshly ground flour. A grain mill has been at the top of my list. Do you have any suggestions for a good mill that is not overly priced? As for the machine, it saves me time, but I do knead by hand 20% of the time. Maybe I'll slowly increase that. And mixes! I loathe mixes, unless I make them myself!
    Thank you Pat for a great blog.


  16. Shawna, I use a Vitamix to mill grain most of the time, but sometimes use an old hand mill that I bought from Lehmans ( quite a few years ago. There are all sorts of grain mills, from small hand mills to large electric ones. Lehmans has a good variety as well as information on them - worth checking out whether you buy from them or not. Not knowing your circumstances (number in your family, health limitations, etc.) it would be hard to recommend one.

    Thank YOU for your comments! :)

  17. I would like you to know that I have linked to your bread recipe from my blog.