Dana and I had been talking about the high prices of groceries and the poor quality of so many things that you buy in the stores and I was telling her that I had been making homemade bread for a couple of months now. She asked for the recipe that I use most often so I thought I'd post it here. I enjoy making bread (and enjoy eating it more...) and for the last couple of months have made all the bread we've eaten. Marc said one day if I'd slice the bread just a little thinner he'd make his lunch sandwiches with it. Since then we've only had homemade. The bread I like in the store is almost $4 per loaf. I should figure out what homemade bread costs, but haven't. I know it's cheap though.
I have a Kitchen Aid Mixer (which Caroline gave me years ago for a Mother's Day/birthday present!) that does a great job of mixing and kneading dough (in fact, I made home made pizza dough with it last night), however, nothing beats the convenience of a bread machine. There's no rolling dough out on a floured board, shaping, rising, etc., not to mention washing and drying the bread board. Marc got me a Sunbeam bread maker one year and at first all I made was mixes from the store. They were really expensive and there are only so many to choose from. Then I found a couple of bread machine cook books that have some really good recipes.
My favorite is pictured here. It's called The Complete Guide to Bread Machine Baking by Better Homes & Gardens. I think I got it at Barnes & Nobles. Mary found one on Ebay (for much less than I spent). My machine makes 1-1/2 pound loaves and this book has both 1-1/2 lb. and 2 lb. recipes. So, my favorite everyday bread recipe in this book is called Oatmeal Bread. I've made it many times and have now improvised the recipe somewhat.
Here's the way I make it (recipe for a 1.5 pound loaf):
Spray the pan & blade with Pam if you want, it helps the blade come out easier, then place the following ingredients in the pan:
- 1 cup oats (the recipe calls for quick cooking, but I've used regular as well. The recipe also says to toast the oats in the oven but I never have.)
- 2/3 cup milk
- 1/3 cup water
- 1 Tablespoon butter (recipe says you can use margarine or shortening)
- 2-1/2 cups bread flour OR here's where I've improvised.... I use about 1 cup whole wheat flour, 1/4 cup flaxseed meal, and the rest regular flour)
- 4 teaspoons wheat gluten (the recipe doesn't call for it but I add it because since I'm not using bread flour, which has more gluten, and I use whole wheat and flax it will rise better)
- 3 Tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon active yeast
Place those items in the pan in that order, then put pan in machine. I use the regular (white) setting and light crust color. When it's done I immediately take it out of the pan and rub butter on it. When cool I use an electric knife to cut it into very thin slices. That way it makes a good sandwich. I eat at least one of the ends while hot, with butter..... I bought a plastic container that is about the same size and shape of the finished loaf to store the bread. I got tired of using gallon zip-lock bags. This bread also makes great toast in the morning.
Two other recipes in the book that make great sandwiches are Jalapeno Cheese Bread and Sun Dried Tomato.
Grinding the Whole Wheat Flour ....
I can remember reading issues of Mother Earth News back in the early 80's and I really wanted a grain mill but couldn't afford one. The one I wanted was the Excalibur grain mill. It was somewhere around $280 or about $50 less if you bought the kit and assembled it yourself. Still too expensive... So I never got one. Fast forward to 2007 - I found one on Ebay. It was (supposedly) never used and I got it for $35. It came with the instructions and it really didn't look like it had ever been used. This particular grinder is housed in a wooden cabinet, which helps to keep down the dust while you're grinding. Anyway, the thing works great! And it's so easy to use. Here are a couple of pictures.
In this pic you can see the wheat berries in the hopper (on the left). The wheat is gravity-fed into the stones and ground between them and then the flour falls into a pan below (not in picture). You can change the settings for more coarse or fine flour. You can use it to grind corn and other non-oily grains too.
In this pic you see the freshly ground flour in the pan under the grinding stones. Until I ground wheat berries with this grinder, I'd never had truly FRESH whole wheat flour before. There's really no comparison to store-bought. It's got a nutty taste. It has all the parts of the wheat kernel - including the wheat germ, which is removed from commercial flour so as to avoid spoilage. I buy organic wheat at the health food store in bulk for about 79 cents per pound. It takes about 1 cup of wheat berries to make the amount of flour needed for one loaf of machine made bread.