Homemade Bread

I was a poor college student when I started making bread back in 1990. 20 years later, I still save money and manage to eat well with this one simple recipe.

3 ½ cups flour

3 tbs. sugar

2 tbs. shortening

1 tbs. salt

1 tbs. yeast

1 egg

Mix together the flour sugar shortening and salt until the shortening is crumbly. Add 1 3/4c. warm water, about the temp of a baby’s bottle. Dissolve the yeast in ½ cup water of the same temperature. After the yeast is fully dissolved, add it to the mixture and stir. Your mixture should look like grey gloppy soup.

 Now comes the fun part!  J Add the egg and keep stirring (helps if you have an electric mixer…) now add anything you like! Some things I add to my bread are dried fruits, like raisins or dates. Or you can sauté up some onions and garlic in olive oil and add that to the mix. Add black or kalmalata olives.  Throw in some grains such as oatmeal, cornmeal, or wheat germ. You can add seeds such as flax, caraway, or sunflower seeds. You can add different flours such as rye or molasses for flavor. All of these things add texture and flavor to your breads. Feel free to be as creative and crazy as you like!

Now you should really have a gloppy soupy mess. We want this to look more like dough than mess, so to fix that, add flour. You can choose to add more white flour, but I like to add a high gluten flour at this point—either white or whole wheat. Add the flour to your mixture a little bit at a time. Keep stirring the dough. This will form the strands of gluten you need when the bread rises. When the dough won’t take any more flour, turn it out on to a lightly floured surface.

Knead the dough until it is smooth and slightly elastic. Place it in a greased bowl and add a little oil to the surface of the dough to make it soft and stretchy. Place the bowl in a warm place with a towel covering it to rise. This should take about an hour or two.

Once the dough has doubled in size, place it again on a lightly floured surface. Cut the dough into either loaves or rolls and roll it into a tight ball. Place the dough into a greased pan, and let it rise a second time. 

When the dough has risen, place it into a 400 degree oven to bake for about 15 to 20 minutes. If you tap the top of your bread and it sounds hollow, it is done.

Bread Baking Tips

  • Be sure your yeast is active

Yeast is a spore that eats sugars and releases gas. These burping farting spores are what cause the bread dough to rise. Baking the dough releases the gas, killing the active spores preventing you from eating burping farting food.

  • Be certain to thoroughly mix your dough

Wheat flour, when wet, will make strands of protein. Mixing the flour builds the strands making then strong enough to hold up risen dough or batter.

 

  • Eggs are Protein

Eggs add strength and elasticity to your dough.

 

  • Keep your dough warm and moist while it rises.

Like all “living” things, yeast wants a warm and cozy place in which to exist, such as near a pot on the stove that is steamy or the top of the dryer.

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What I did for Love

This week at the Food Bank I received Brown Rice Syrup and stone ground whole wheat flour. I remember working with Brown rice syrup before, when my ex-husband went on a whole food all natural non-processed non-fat nothing that tastes right all substitute diet kick. It has a consistency similar to molasses without the strong distinctive flavor. It CAN be used as a sugar substitute, but I would do so sparingly, and in places where sugar is used for a reaction (like in bread recipes) instead of where sugar is used for flavor like a muffin or coffee cake.

I remember that kick of my hubby’s though. It was a long string of pasty tofu sausage substitute patties, pale yellow-y egg beaters, thick brown soy milk, rubbery cheese substitute, protein powder, soy powder, sugar substitute powder, and put this miracle powder in your food so that you will become skinny because food won’t taste good enough to want to eat it. He would introduce these food adventures such as NutriSlim, Slim Fast, high fiber, low carb veganism to alleviate the guilt he felt for secretly binging on Wendy’s Value menu and  Supersized Slushies from the 7-11. It was his own brand of narcissism that caused him to believe that his guilt plagued everybody, and so, I had to participate in the suffering too.  

I, because I suffer from Good Little Girl Syndrome, would swallow the stuff down thinking that I was being a good and dutiful wife by eating the inedible. Always, I smiled sweetly and thanked him for offering me artificially flavored paste for breakfast. I suppose I believed it would demonstrate supportive loving to him. Maybe I believed that it would help him to love me too. The only thing I do know is that if it is a choice between love and bacon, choose bacon.

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Life is like groceries

Life is like groceries. We go around gathering raw ingredients. We make choices, based upon what our circumstances will allow. Some of us are able to shop at gourmet foods, while others buy dented cans from the food warehouse. We can choose to invest a lot of care into our groceries, and purchase lovely organic fruits and vegetables. Or we can grab huge bags of Doritos and six packs of Pepsi Cola. The choices we make affect the outcome: our meals, our daily diet, our general health and well-being are the result of our groceries. It is all up to us what we put into the bag.

Like so many things in life, we have times when we are not in control of our choices. We have to deal with the things that other people have chosen for us.

On October 17, 2008, I stood on the edge of my living room at two o’clock in the morning watching my husband embrace and kiss another woman. Now, I can tell myself that I didn’t choose this, but maybe I did? I was the one who chose to live in a horrible marriage that I hated for fifteen years. I was the one who chose to have children with him, when I knew he wasn’t available to parent them. Maybe I was the one who chose the brand name life of a house in the suburbs when there was an equally as good generic one available that I was afraid to try.

Regardless, that night changed all of my life choices, right down to my groceries. For a while, that night sent me seeking substance from the kindness of strangers, and I got my groceries from the local food bank. But what I learned is that while life may hand you raw ingredients, such as lemons, it is up to you what you do with them. It is in this way, that I became the Food Bank Gourmet.