We’re talking about bread again this week, but this time it’s actual bread, the hot and fluffy kind that makes those on the Atkins Diet squirm. I know many people assume they don’t have time to make bread and settle for the “fresh” alternatives at the supermarket. But making homemade bread is easier than you think.
It offers a taste and texture that can’t be matched. It also gives you the opportunity to control what’s in your bread in case you want less carbs or if a family member has a specific food allergy. If you’ve ever read the label on a package at the grocery store you’ll usually notice high fructose corn syrup and then a guessing-game of words will follow. Less bread, more other stuff.
Some complain that fresh bread doesn’t last as long and they’re right. But if you want your bread to last five months or survive a nuclear explosion, I have one word for you… ew. To extend the life out of homemade bread I usually place fresh loaves (that have fully cooled) in a secure bag in a dry, cool place (under 68 degrees) like a bread box. It’s a toss up when it’s summer since loaves left in hot kitchens will mold and those put in the fridge will go stale faster. Experts say to eat it or freeze it, though I will confess I’ve put bread in the fridge before and it was perfectly fine. But usually if I make multiple loaves, I let them cool, slice, and then put them in a bag in the freezer. Thaw at room temperature.
The major complaints with bread relate to kneading and waiting for it to rise. If you have a bread machine, you won’t need to knead. And there are some great no-knead recipes out there if you dread working the dough. I don’t have a problem with kneading. It’s kind of nice after a bad day to take my frustrations out on the dough. Try it and you’ll see. As far as rising, some take more time than others, but you can always make breads on a slower night, and then freeze for later use. I let the dough rise in a wooden bowl in a warm/dry room and cover it with a slightly moist tea towel. It should swell, look pock-marked and smell yeasty after it’s done. If I’m in a rush I’ll turn the oven on to the lowest setting and let the loaf slowly rise in the baking pan.
If you’re looking for more shortcuts there are plenty of store-bought bread mixes that will suffice. I recommend Bob’s Red Mill bread mixes (www.bobsredmill.com). You can find them at any Save Mart and Watson’s in downtown
. Bob’s mixes come in a variety from Gluten Free to organic, rye bread to Irish soda bread. Quick breads are another option. I use a basic quick bread recipe and then add corn meal to make corn bread, pumpkin puree for pumpkin bread or mashed bananas for banana bread. So on and so on. Visalia
If you want tasty homemade bread, but don’t want to make it yourself Lady Bread Bakery is your answer. You can catch Owner Jennifer Harvey at both
and Visalia Farmers Markets and at Monet’s baking away on Mondays. She offers more than 18 varieties from her garlic sourdough (my favorite) to the Tuscan Sunrise bread (my husband Will and the Sun-Gazette Editor Reggie Ellis’ favorite). Jen also offers bread making classes and sells her breads online (www.ladybread.com). Exeter
I called Jen to get some bread making tips for beginners since she bakes at least 150 loaves a week (I’m pretty sure than lands her in the expert category). And this is what she said. First she said make sure you have everything you need before you start. Once you mix in the yeast, you may not have time to run to the store. Second she said to work with your environment. If your kitchen is too hot, turn on the a/c, but at the same time a warmer kitchen makes bread rise faster. Third, find something else to do so you don’t rush the bread. From bills to laundry, give the bread time to rise and fully bake. She said lots of people get anxious and they end up with an undercooked loaf.
You’re probably waiting for me to give you a recipe. Well, what I’ll give you is a few links and suggestions as to where you can get recipes that I’ve found to work well. For a delicious, country white bread recipe visit www.farmgirlfare.com. Go to Recipe Index and find, Farmhouse White: An Easy Basic White Sandwich Bread Recipe. Blogger Susan walks you through the process and provides pictures. This bread is soooo good (hence all the extra o’s). You can also Google homemade bread and get more recipes than you ever wanted along with YouTube videos on how to bake various loaves. Pita bread, Indian fry bread, garlic bread sticks, the list goes on and on. You’ll find bread recipes everywhere from in the Better Homes and Gardens cookbooks to best sellers. A very popular book is Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day (www.artisanbreadinfive.com). I haven’t tried any of their recipes yet, but thousands of other people have and rave.
Well, there you go, bread at its best. It’s time to roll up your sleeves and bring out the flour. And feel free to drop off a loaf at the paper. We reporters get hungry.