It's the Little Things: Baking Bread

Last fall I started baking my own bread and realized it was actually pretty easy. I worked my way slowly into it, beginning by just dumping the ingredients into the bread machine. The bread was ok, but if this was going to become our main source of bread, I'd need to get a bit better at it. Then I started just using the dough function and baking the loaves in the oven. That improved the density of the bread (most of the time), but I was needing to bake twice a week to get the roughly 4 loaves my family goes through.

Around the same time my bread machine broke, my stand mixer (a lower end model) did too, so I took advantage of a Costco sale on the KitchenAid Stand mixers and decided if I was going to spend $300 on an appliance I better use it for more than just cupcakes! I bought 2 more loaf pans and increased my recipe a bit so I could get away with making bread just once a week.

Since then I've challenged myself to not buy bread and have been curious how much it saves on the grocery bill. Yesterday I calculated it out and figure it saves roughly $6/week ($300/year) with my bread costing about 50 cents per loaf vs. about $2 for a store bought loaf. Time wise it takes me about 20 minutes of hands on time, so not a bad hourly return on investment. Other benefits include reducing our plastic bag consumption by re-using other people's bread bags as ours wear out, fresher tastier bread and well, it makes me feel like a baking bad-ass as not many others actually bake their bread.

Here's the recipe I've been using, adapted from my bread machine recipe book:

60% ish Whole Wheat Bread

1 TBSP Yeast
3.5 cups of hot water
1/3 cup of sugar

6 1/4 cups (900g) whole wheat flour
3 cups (400 g) white flour
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tbsp salt

Mix hot water, yeast and sugar in a measuring cup or bowl and let stand till the yeast puffs up.

Meanwhile dump remaining ingredients in mixer then add the liquids and mix on lowest setting

 Enjoy your coffee and supervise the mixing adding a bit more flour or water as needed till nice dough ball forms.
 Cover the bowl, I find a dinner plate works perfectly, and leave bread to rise for an hour or so. For me I leave it until the plate starts lifting up.

Greece the plans with some vegetable oil. Split the dough into half and then half each part again giving four balls. Flatten them out then roll up and pinch the edges together and pop in the loaf pans.
Cover with a towel  and let rise for another hour or so in a warm spot, until doubled in size. Pre-heat oven to 375 F and bake for 35-37 mins. I let cool then slice up and pop in the freezer for the week as the bread does go stale quicker than store bought with no preservatives. 

While the bread was rising, it was the perfect time for us to head out as a family to go skating at a local outdoor rink. It was lovely and activities like this are helping me to start to enjoy winter. I figure with at least 6 months of winter like temperatures life is much more fun if we get outside to play rather than sitting at home complaining about it. Slowly but surely trying to embrace the Scandinavian Philosophy of "No bad weather, only bad clothing".


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