Thursday, October 18, 2012

Homemade bread

When I first became a mom I was working full time and barely had enough money for groceries and had no time or energy to cook much. Store bought bread and cereal and boxes of mac'n cheese and all the processed easy foods were our diet. As our financial situation got better, I was able to buy higher quality foods, but everything was still store bought. Occasionally I would bake and get adventurous for dinner. Before the ease of online recipes, I mostly relied on the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook (still love the banana bread recipe) and a few Pampered Chef books. Now I'm able to compare 4-5 recipes for the same thing and come up with my own version. Sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn't. I have learned that anything worth doing takes time and effort to master. Confession: I'm not the greatest cook, and have never enjoyed it, BUT I love to eat good food :) I guess this could become a discussion on what causes a person to better themselves or have the desire to become good at something. In my case it was a desire to eat better food and a gradual realization that processed food is unhealthy. We have also had several family members with indigestion and other stomach ailments that started to require expensive medicine. As I have gotten older it has become more important to evaluate what we put into our bodies to get a better outcome.

When my second son was about 2 we made the decision to become a one income family. All of the sudden I found myself with time on my hands and of course the need to get more "creative" with our budget. Buying in bulk and buying ingredients is way cheaper than buying store bought. You just have to decide that the time involved is worth it. Some days I'm not sure about that. The first thing that really was/is worth my time and effort? Homemade bread. No, I don't use a bread machine. At first I thought about it, but the cost and space required made me decide against it. Besides, my mother makes beautiful bread by hand, so why can't I? This recipe is adapted from a copy of a copy. We are not really sure where the original came from. I'm not sure what the rules are, but I figure if you change the recipe it becomes your own. Right? This recipe can be adjusted and mom does it different than I do. The most IMPORTANT thing is to practice and don't give up. It took me several months to get a decent looking loaf and the density and size I wanted. Even today's loaves cracked (mostly due to my daughter's help rolling them). The flavor and smell though will bring the family running. Who cares what they look like :) We usually eat half a loaf right away with peanut butter and honey. YUM!
Simply Perfect Setpoint Bread (Annie's version)
yields 3 loaves (or 2 loaves and a batch of sweet rolls)
2 TBSP dry yeast
2 TBSP dough enhancer
4 cps warm water (Getting the temp right was trial and error. I ended up liking it baby bath warm)
1/3 cp oil (canola or coconut)
1/3 cp honey or sugar (local honey is the best)
1 TBSP salt
Flour: I use 1 cp of Bob's Red Mill organic whole grain high fiber hot cereal mix
4-5 cps of white flour 
4-5 cps of whole wheat flour
How much flour you use depends on the temp., the barometric pressure, the humidity lvls, etc...

Mix yeast and DE in mixer bowl, add warm water. I whisk it for about a minute. Then I add honey and oil and the cereal mix and 2 cps ww flour. Whisk out clumps and let sit covered for about half an hour. This allows it to sponge. It will rise in the bowl. If it doesn't, you may have gotten the water too hot or too cold. It also won't rise if the ambient temp is too cool. Attach dough hook and turn your oven on warm. Also I spray loaf pans with oil at this time. If you wait, your hands will be a yucky mess :).Add the salt now and then start adding the rest of the flour one cp at a time. Watch the consistency.You want the dough to start pulling away from the sides of the bowl. My mixer can't handle all the dough so once the mixer has done all it can do, I dump it out on a floured counter top and knead by hand. You want it to form a ball and not be sticky, but not have so much flour it gets dense. Knead time is 7-10 minutes in a mixer or 12-15 minutes by hand. I have to knead about 5 minutes in the mixer and about 8 minutes by hand. Yes, my arms are stronger than they use to be. 

Lightly oil your hands and rolling pin. Slice dough into 3 equal parts. Take one and roll it out to about an inch thick. This part takes practice. Roll it into a loaf shape making sure you don't get air pockets. Pinch ends together and pat it (my kids like this part) into the right shape.

 Turn off oven. Place in greased pan and place in oven. During winter I have to keep my oven on warm to get them to rise. Let them rise for about 30 minutes til about double. Mom's are always bigger than mine but I really love the texture of a smaller loaf. Once risen, turn oven back on to 350 and bake for 30-35 minutes. Your house will begin to smell heavenly. Don't leave the windows open or you will have unwanted neighbors coming in. Mom butters the top about 5 minutes before done. I don't do this because my kids will eat the crust if I don't. It's softer.
 Hope you try this and enjoy. It truly is a labor of love. One that I love doing. These loaves freeze well and I freeze two as soon as they cool off. There are no preservatives so the shelf life is 3-4 days. Freezing even for just a day keeps them fresher. The first time one went moldy I cried. To thaw, just lay out on counter for a couple hours. 


  1. Good job Talia! (and Annie)
    Just a few comments:
    I put all my dry ingredients in first and then add the water, oil, and honey. With instant yeast, it does not need to activate in the water first. Also, try using your finger and making a slight dent in the bread before you bake. When the dent doesn't come back out, it's ready to bake. The cracks could be because it hasn't finished rising. Gluten development is critical and therefore the right flours are extremely important - remember all Bob's lessons on flour? One more thing I would try would be to add the white flour for your sponge and the WW and hot cereal mix afterwards, especially the cereal mix. And only use a total of 2 cups in the sponge. (I don't add my salt until after the sponge - you didn't say I don't think?) You make me proud! Love your blog!!! Can I be you when I grow up? (and Winnie and Liza and Petra?)

  2. Thanks Mom! I'll edit it to put the salt in. I have to say I'm usually in to big of a hurry to let it rise more. I'll have to start earlier next time :)
    And, You are my example. I want to be like you!