We’re “starting fresh” this January, completing 22 mini-challenges in 22 days for a cleaner, fresher and healthier kitchen and grocery budget. Just joining us? Read about the what’s and why’s on the mini-challenges, as well as the previous days tasks, and jump right on in!
There’s no escaping the smell of freshly baked bread. In a good-wife attempt to support my husband during his recent ten day fast, I went as long as I could without baking bread. I caved on Thursday, the fourth consecutive day both kids begged for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch. Their tugs at my heart strings were too much for me to bear saying no again.
I started the dough just after breakfast. My plan was to have the bread baked, cooled and put away so that when Mr. Crumbs came home, his nose wouldn’t have the slightest clue what happened in the kitchen that day.
4:30pm came and although the bread was done much earlier in the day, I had put off cleaning up the remnant crumbs from my afternoon snack of three extra-large slices of fresh bread and grass-fed butter. The self-imposed deadline of 4:45pm came and went with a clean kitchen in its wake.
A few minutes later, Mr. Crumbs pushed the front door open and without even fully entering, he stayed in the doorway with his nose in the air and eyes closed. “You made bread!” he stated, with both excitement and regret.
He had gone six days without food and for six days hadn’t wished for a morsel of anything. And then he was instantly tempted by the smell of bread. The scent lingered in his nose and for each of the remaining four days, it took all his will power to resist the urge to slice off a thick piece for himself and enjoy every single butter-laden bite.
That’s the power of freshly baked bread.
Day 8 – Bake Bread
Your challenge this happy Friday (and thus this weekend) is to scent your own home with freshly baked goodness. If I had to choose one single thing that has impacted our grocery budget the most, meal planning would be number one (good thing we’re talking about that on Monday!) and making bread would be a close number two.
One week last May we ran out of bread. Instead of making a trip to the grocery store, or even adding it to the on-going grocery list on the fridge, I figured I could at least make an attempt to make it myself. Everything needed for the recipe was in my kitchen so all I had to do was follow the directions. Sounded easy enough. I mean, how hard could it really be?
It’s not hard, that’s the thing! Working with yeast and the ever fickle “warm” water seems to make fresh bread an elusive mirage. That couldn’t be further from the truth! Baking bread is like riding a bike – once you get your balance, you’re good to go.
The type of bread you make this weekend is up to you, but I have plenty of recipes to get you started.
For the Beginner
Very Little Bother Oat Bread (can use all white flour instead of oat and omit the vital wheat gluten)
Focaccia, plus Four Variations
Potato Buttermilk Bread
Rosemary Olive Oil Bread
Dinner Roll, plus Four Variations
For the Advanced
If you decide to try a different recipe, here are a few pointers to ensure success.
- Warm water means 105-110 degrees. Water boils at 212 degrees. Use a thermometer if you have one, otherwise aim for really warm bath water. Boiling is too hot and you will kill the yeast on contact.
- Warm water + yeast + sweetener = beer-like foam. If you do not get beer foam, your yeast is either dead or not activated. In either case, your bread will not rise. Cut your losses and start over. Adding any other ingredients at this point is a waste.
- The more you knead at the start, the better the end result will be. Allow your mixer to work the dough for a full 10 minutes if at all possible. If you’re kneading by hand, reward yourself with hot cocoa (and toned arms) when you’re done.
- Allow the bread to cool before you slice it. I know it’s difficult to be patient these last 15 minutes, but the loaf will slice better and overall have a more consistent texture if you persevere.
- “Bad” loaves make great breadcrumbs. Don’t get discouraged and keep trying!
- Bread really doesn’t take as long as everyone makes it out to be. Live your life AND bake at the same time. It’s totally do-able.
- Recipes designed for bread machines can be made without the extra equipment. Here’s how.
Is Making Bread Really Worth the Effort?
If by “worth” you mean taste better than store-bought, um hello? Of course it does!
And if by “worth” you mean cheaper than store-bought, then I repeat – um, hello? Of course it is!
Shortly after we became hooked on homemade bread, I did a comparison of store-bought buttermilk bread versus my homemade version. One loaf of Orowheat’s buttermilk bread costs $3.19 at Target. By using the ingredients as listed in the buttermilk recipe, one homemade loaf cost $0.99. By using your frugal hat and making a minor substitution (using vinegar and milk instead of buttermilk), you can reduce the recipe to less than 75¢ per loaf.
Basic white bread recipes cost even less – as little as a quarter each!
Consider this scenario for a family of four. One loaf of sandwich bread for a week worth of lunches, one loaf of jalapeño focaccia for a one night dinner (plus leftover) minestrone soup and one package of hamburger buns for grilled tri-tip sandwiches.
Total cost if made at home? About a buck.
Total cost if purchased at the store? $8.
Which is better for your grocery budget?
Given the average list of added ingredients to commercial bread, which is better for your health?
Saving $7 on bread is nothing to scoff at. Consider the long term savings if you did the above every two weeks. You’d have $14 each month in your pocket (or $182 over the course of one year). That will certainly cover the cost of upgraded animal products!!
Day 7 Update
I try to think of yesterday’s assignment as a daily assignment rather than just a one-time occurrence, so much of what I did yesterday will seem insignificant, but I assure you it will add up greatly over time. Going down the list…
I earned 116 Swagbucks yesterday with 50 of those via my Kindle (you run the app and “watch” videos, earning up to 50 Swagbucks each day… but the app ran on the kitchen counter while we left to run errands ).
Opportunities to mystery shop have been exhausted for January, but new ones will be posted this afternoon. I plan to check the list and sign up for any that work with our schedule.
Running Swagbucks on my Kindle is a mobile app. Check!
I went through a bookshelf and pulled out some books that we’ve either read or won’t read and I started looking into selling them through Amazon or Half.com. I’ve successfully “traded in” books to Amazon, but I haven’t sold them before. I’ve sold on Ebay before though so that will probably be the route I take.