Simple, Cheap and Healthy Homemade Bread: A Tutorial

Growing up in my family, bread wasn’t just an everyday occurrence, it was an event. When it came straight out of the oven, we stood around as my mother tipped the loaf on its side and deftly sliced off the end, releasing a puff of steam into the air. No matter what time of day it happened to be, at least half of the first loaf never made it to the cooling rack. Bread, butter, cold glass of milk; this was my childhood.

You may think that I grew up knowing how to whip up a batch of my own, but that’s not the case. My mother never actually taught me or my sisters how to make bread, and it was always such a part of our lives that we never thought to ask. It was always just there. It sustained us.

This past year, I finally asked for a bread-baking lesson. And this is what I got.

Mama Jesse’s Homemade Bread

Rise in pans 10-15 min
Bake 25 min. at 350 degrees

Ingredients: 

1 T. yeast

1/4 c. sugar

1/4 c. oil

palmful of salt

5 cups white flour

5 cups whole wheat flour

(I added 2 eggs..optional! Mama Jess says you don’t need it.)

That’s it! Could it be easier? While this bread takes a few hours to make, most of that time is spent rising. Once you get the basic recipe down, you can have it going on in the background of whatever else you’re doing at home.

Step 1:

Dissolve 1 T. yeast in about 1/4 c. warm water with 1 tsp. or so of sugar in it. Don’t, I repeat DO NOT make the water too hot. It should be lukewarm. If it’s too hot it will kill the yeast and the bread won’t rise at all. Yeast is alive!

Set aside to foam.

look, foamy!

Step 2:

In a large bowl combine 1 qt. warm water, 1/4 c. sugar, 1/4 c. oil, palmful salt.

Add 5 c. white flour
Add yeast
Beat 100 strokes
Add (gradually) 5 c. whole wheat flour
Let sit 10-15 min.

Step 3:

Next, turn it out onto a floured surface. It should look like this:

Knead on floured board 5 min. or more (5-10)
If needs more flour, add white to board.

Knead? What is “knead,” you might ask?

Well, kneading the dough just means pushing and pressing the dough in a rhythmic way to work out all the kinks and get a nice consistency. It’s fun! My mom even says it’s meditative, but I’ll let her work on “Zen and the Art of Dough” by herself.

These are the steps to a good knead:

Push, Flip, Press, Rotate!

push!

flip!

Press!

Step 4:

Flour bottom of big bowl, add dough, oil top, put in warm spot to rise till double. This takes a while…like at least half an hour-45 minutes. Forget about it and go do something else!

Pre-rise

Post-rise…voila!

Step 5:

Now for the fun part…you get to punch something! This next step involves a quick second kneading.

First, punch down the dough. Give it a good wallop.

“how dare you!”

When you’re finished, it should look something like this:

Next, turn the dough onto your floured surface and knead it for a few minutes until it looks something like this. You old kneading pro, you!

Step 6:

Next, cut the dough into four equal parts and knead each part separately. Just knead it enough to form four little balls of dough instead of four triangles.

Next, shape your little dough balls into longer, skinnier, bread-shaped formations.

…put them into pans

Let them rise in the pans for 10-15 minutes, then bake for 25 minutes at 350 degrees.

…and that’s it! You now have four loaves of warm, delicious and healthy bread. Now take that $5.00(x4) that you didn’t spend on bakery bread and buy something cool!

If this is more bread than you need, you can freeze some for later. Just make sure you double-wrap it and check the bag for air-holes or my mom will yell at you.

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Easy Homemade Pickles

{pickles by Liisa VonEnde}

Did you know that it actually ridiculously easy to make your own pickles? I can’t believe that I’ve been buying sub-par, chemically brewed pickles from the grocery store all this time when this quick, easy method was right under my nose! There are a ton of ways to go about this, but for simple, quick pickles try this recipe. These are not the sweet variety, but rather the dill/sour kind (my favorite!)

Directions:

Wash jars: Run jars through the dishwasher or wash thoroughly.

Prepare your brine:  “Brine”…now doesn’t that sound like the element of a serious project?Nope, it’s just water, vinegar, and salt! To each quart of water that has been boiled and brought to room temperature, add ¾ cup of distilled white vinegar and 4 Tablespoons Kosher salt. Estimate how many quarts to make depending on how many jars you will pack with pickles. Note: Do not use reactive pots (like aluminum) for making brine. Stick with stainless or glass bowls/pots for pickling tasks.

Wash and pack small cucumbers  into clean glass jars, into which fresh dill has been layered on the bottom first.

Add 1 Tablespoon of pickling spice and lots of chopped garlic. (Up to you how much. Leave it whole or chop it up!)

Add a dash of crushed red pepper flakes, or 1-2 small hot red peppers cut open lengthwise, plus more fresh dill.

Cover with plastic wrap and let stand out until soured, perhaps a couple of days, then refrigerate with lids on.

The pickles should last for a few months only (hah, not a chance if you’re a self-confessed pickle fanatic like me). If you do want to store pickles all year, use a recipe that calls for water-bath processing (meaning vacuum-sealed lids). It’s not that refrigerator pickles go bad, necessarily, but they lose that oh-so-important crunch.

Added Notes

{Thanks to lovely Liisa for both the recipe and delicious pickles on a hot summer day!}

Five Minute Ice Cream

…right out of the blender!

This recipe is a dessert party trick that impresses both kids and adults with your magical ability to seemingly create luscious berry ice cream out of thin air. Just say the words “ice cream” and five minutes later (about the time it takes to decide who’s going to run to the store and get some) you’ve got a dish of creamy berry deliciousness.

No ice cream-maker needed.

I’m also a big fan of recipes that are pure (3 ingredients) and simple.

Here’s how:

Ingredients:

  • one 10-oz. package of frozen berries
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream

1. Get some berries.

                                                                                                                                                        2.  Dump the berries into a food processor or blender with sugar. You can decide how chunky you want the berries. I liked them kind of roughly chopped, but just blend longer for a smoother consistency. The original recipe called for more sugar, but I cut it by about 1/3 and still felt like it was a bit too sweet for me. However, I personally prefer tart berries, so you be the judge!

4. While the blender/food processor is still running, pour in the cream. Try to stop as soon as it’s mixed, since the longer you blend it, the less thick it will be.

…after freezing for half an hour

If you overdo it, just stick it in the freezer for a few minutes. I put mine in for 30 minutes and it had the consistency of “real” ice cream!
You can definitely eat it right out of the bowl, though. I gave my dad a taste and he ran away with the whole dish and wouldn’t give it back. True story.
Taste-test approved.
Enjoy!
xo Serenity
 * note: I also tried a batch with 2% milk. It came out good, but (obviously) less creamy. It was more like sorbet. Still delicious, though! I think you could also use vanilla soy or almond milk (If you’re looking for another non-dairy treat, try these fudge popsicles.)  And of course, I’d like to try it with stevia for a sugar-free version. 


Strawberry Chiffon Shortcake

Please excuse the green plastic lid that I have chosen to use as a plate here. Not very pretty…but I am living as an extreme minimalist this month as explained in previous posts and thus only posses one large bowl (with green lid) and 2 dinner plates that proved to be too concave for cake-holding purposes.
Happy Birthday Mama Jess!

I didn’t even realize it, but I’ve been waiting to make this cake since I was about seven. My mom had this calendar of cakes, and there was one luscious, towering pile of cake, whipped cream and strawberries that looked like the most unreal, delicious thing that I had ever laid eyes on. I used to ask all the time if I could have it for my birthday and …well, my mom has made many a fine cake in her day, but she never seemed to get around to it.

I had totally forgotten about this, but when I presented my mom with this cake today for her birthday (Happy Birthday Mrs. Bolt!) she immediately recognized it as the relic from my childhood imagination that it is, exclaiming “That’s the cake! The cake from the calendar!” Of course, she was right….and it was every bit as delicious and wonderful as I had always imagined.

Note:

You could *probably* make this cake a lot healthier. Maybe something involving stevia, chia seeds instead of all the eggs and oil, and yogurt as a topping? I think I’ll try that as a project sometime. In the meantime, here’s the all-out, birthday-approved version.

Recipe after the jump:

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Five-Minute Summer Barbeque

See? Nice and sticky.

It’s definitely summer here in Vermont and you probably want food that’s quick, light, and goes well with lemonade or, more specifically, {Stevia} Strawberry Lemonade. So, tonight I bring you two 5-minute items: magical, good-on-everything barbeque sauce and delicious sugar-free chocolate popsicles. Well, those are still in the freezer so you’ll have to wait…

Barbeque sauce awaits after the jump:

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{Stevia} Strawberry Lemonade

Strawberry lemonade

See how the strawberries float to the top? That’s the best part….

Mmmmm….the picture says it all. Frosty, icy, delicious.

What more could you want on a hot day? Oh, right, it’s sugar* and (mostly) calorie-free.

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