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Created by Leeann Culbreath for the South Georgia Growing Local Food Conference on Nov. 13, 2010 at the University of Georgia’s Black Shank Farm in Tifton, Ga.

 

Good bread is the most fundamentally satisfying of all foods;
and good bread with fresh butter is the greatest of all feasts.
James Beard from Beard on Bread, 1980

 

Why make homemade bread?

  • It tastes better
  • It doesn’t have preservatives
  • It’s cheaper
  • It’s good therapy
  • It smells great baking

 

The Problems with Industrial Bread (from www.thesimpledollar.com:)

Most people in the United States today view the bread purchased at the supermarket as what bread should be. The actual truth is that the bread you buy in the supermarket has the texture and substance that it has for one reason and one reason alone: so that it can be made on an industrial scale and not grow “old” on the shelf at your supermarket.

 

There are two big explanations for this. The industrial scale process is designed to maximize profit while still producing an edible loaf of bread on the table. This is done by using an excessive amount of yeast in order to create lots of air bubbles in the bread, hence the “light” texture of store-purchased bread. It also allows for the use of lower-quality grains because of this yeast abundance, thus the bread is far from nutrient-rich. In the United States, most recipes are trade secrets, but in the United Kingdom, the standard recipe, known as the Chorleywood Bread Process, is widely known.

 

The goal of this process is to make a loaf of bread as cheaply as possible, foregoing flavor, nutrition, and texture along the way.

The other bothersome part of industrial breadmaking is the appearance of a healthy dose of preservatives. These preservatives are there solely to extend the shelf life of the bread, again reducing costs for the manufacturer. Every time you eat a piece of store-purchased bread, you’re getting a healthy dose of preservatives with each bite.

 

HELP RESTORE AND PRESERVE A BEAUTIFUL CRAFT, ONE SLICE AT A TIME! A few pointers:

  • RELAX. It’s just yeast and flour. You can do this.
  • Bread baking is sometimes like riding a bike—it takes a few tries to get going, but then you’ve got it.
  • Watch the temperature of your liquid. Hot liquid kills yeast. Cold prevents activation. Go for tepid.
  • Work it with your hands at least a little. Bread seems to absorb love.
  • Follow the recipe until you have mastered it—then start tweaking.
  • Honey source matters. Gallberry and Orange blossom are sweetest.

 

Recipes

Honey Wheat Bread (from the More with Less Cookbook)

(makes two sandwich loaves)

 

Combine in mixer bowl:

  • 3 c. whole wheat flour
  • ½ c. nonfat dry milk powder
  • 1 T. salt
  • 2 pkg. active dry yeast (or 6 tsp. instant)

Heat in saucepan until warm (not hot! Cool if it gets hot!)

  • 3 c. water
  • ½ c. honey
  • 2 T vegetable oil (canola, etc, not olive)

Pour warm liquid over flour mixture. Beat with a whisk or electric mixer for a few minutes. Stir in:

  • 1 additional cup of whole wheat flour
  • 4-4 ½ c. unbleached white flour

Mix with spoon, then with hands. Get it into a ball and knead for five minutes or so, until it is smooth and elastic and a little bit blistered looking. Use additional flour if needed. Place in bowl greased with more veggie oil, and flip over so top is greased. Cove bowl with damp towel. Let rise in warm (not hot) place until double in size (about 45 min-1 hour). Punch down gently. Divide dough in half and shape into loaves. Place in greased 9×5 loaf pans and let rise, covered, until double again (about 30-45 min.). Place in preheated 375-degree oven and bake for about 30 minutes until golden brown all over and sounds a bit hollow when tapped.

This bread is perfect slathered in butter and/or honey and/or jam. Great as toast or for PB&J, and as cheese toast. Serious comfort food.

 

Tip:
If somehow you don’t consume ALL your bread and it gets a little old, consider,

  • savory bread pudding
  • bread crumbs (toast crumbs)
  • croutons
  • french toast (sweet OR savory!)


 

Focaccia (Italian flat bread) (adapted from allrecipes.com)

Makes one big or two medium loaves

  • 5 ½  c. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. white sugar
  • 2 T. active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 2 tsp. tried thyme
  • 2 tsp. dried basil
  • 2 tsp. fresh or dried rosemary
  • 2 T. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 c. water
  • More olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 T. grated parmesan (not the powder!)

In a large bowl, stir together the flour, salt, sugar, yeast, garlic powder, oregano, thyme, basil and rosemary. Mix in the olive oil and water.

 

When the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead until smooth and elastic. Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl, and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp cloth, and let rise in a warm place for 20 minutes or until double. You can keep punching down a few times if it gets big and you aren’t ready to back yet.

 

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C). Punch dough down; place on greased baking sheet. Pat into a 1/2 inch thick rectangle. Brush top with olive oil. Poke at it with your finger. Sprinkle with a dash of kosher salt and Parmesan cheese. Bake in preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown.

 

It goes without saying that this is perfect with Italian food. You can also split it in half horizontally to use as pizza crust. Makes killer croutons. Very good for dipping in good olive oil and herbs.

 

More tips:
Note: Both of the above breads work great with freezing and reheating. You can even freeze at the dough stage! To freeze dough, let it rise once, then put in a ziplock bag. But immediately in a very cold spot of freezer. Take it out at least 5 hours before your next rise or baking. When it is room temperature, if it’s honey wheat, shape into a loaf and place in loaf pan for second rise. Proceed as usual. If it’s focaccia, wait til it’s around room temp, shape into loaf on pan and process as usual.

 

To reheat baked bread: For sandwich loaf, defrost overnight or all day in fridge or cool place. Wrap in foil and warm at 350 for about 30 minutes. For focaccia, defrost fully, then place directly on pan (do not wrap) for nice, crunchy exterior. Wrap if you like it softer.

 

 

 

No-knead Buttermilk Bread (from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day)

This recipe makes 2 loaves.  It can be doubled or halved.

  • 2 cups lukewarm water
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons granulated yeast (2 packets)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 6 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (I usually use 7 or more if it seems too wet)
  • butter or neutral-tasting oil for greasing the loaf pan
  1. Mixing and storing the dough: Mix the yeast, salt, and sugar with water and buttermilk in a 5-quart bowl, or a lidded (not airtight) food container.
  2. Mix in the flour without kneading, using a strong handled spoon, a 14-cup capacity food processor (with dough attachment), or a heavy-duty stand mixer (with dough hook).  If you’re not using a machine, you may need to use wet hands to incorporate the last bit of flour.
  3. Cover (not airtight), and allow to rest at room temperature until the dough rises and collapses (or flattens on top); approximately 2 hours.
  4. The dough can be used immediately after the initial rise, though it is MUCH easier to handle when cold.  Refrigerate in a lidded (not airtight) container and use over the next 7 days.
  5. On baking day, lightly grease a 9 x 4 x 3-inch nonstick loaf pan. Dust the surface of the refrigerated dough with flour and cut off a 1 1/2 pound (canteloupe-size) piece.  Dust the piece with more flour and quickly shape it into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go.  Elongate the ball into an oval.
  6. Drop the loaf into the prepared pan.  You want to fill the pan slightly more than half-full.
  7. Allow the dough to rest for 1 hour and 40 minutes.  If using fresh dough, only about 40 minutes. Flour the top of the loaf and slash, using the tip of a serrated bread knife.  Brush the top with melted butter.
  8. Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
  9. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until golden brown.
  10. Remove from the pan.  Allow to cool completely before slicing or it will be nearly impossible to achieve reasonable sandwich slices.

This is really good for savory sandwiches, especially tomato or sweet onion sandwiches. Mmmm.

 

A note from the blog, Simple Daily Recipes:

“You should know.  I don’t make & bake bread dough all in the same day.  That’s too much work.  I usually figure out when we need the bread then make up the dough one or two days before that time.  Once the dough makes that initial rise, I throw it in the frig until I’m ready.  Sometimes, I don’t wait for the rise.  If I know that I’ll be 2 or more days out from baking, then I’ll mix the dough and immediately refrigerate it.  It will still rise in the frig, just at a slower rate.”