If you have followed with me so far, you know that we have made homemade bread for some 15 years. And while we do buy some bread at the store, it is more often than not the specialty bread and rolls. Crusty French rolls or a tangy rye loaf can really make the difference between a plain dinner and a special treat.
Long story short, I sort of bumped into specialty baking after all these years. I had an awe of those yummy baked goods that kept me from attempting them. I guess I figured that there are just some things you leave to the bakeries to do – as if there was a “higher level” to ascend to in baking before you could achieve such things.
Must be because I turned 50, I don’t know, but I recently just decided to learn artisan style bread baking. And man, I was totally wrong. Talk about simple!! No kneading. No honey or sugar. No oil or other fat. Perfect definition of SimpleFrugal bread baking!
But to show you how “chicken” I was, I had my 14-year-old daughter mix up the first batch. To say the least, it turned out perfect to our standards. Since it was so simple (and frugal!) I decided not to wait to share the idea of “artisan-style” baking.
So, here is a recipe that I adapted from a cookbook I fell in love with – My Bread: The Revolutionary No-Work, No-Knead Method by Jim Lahey. What a fun read!! Anyway, since we like wheat bread, here is my rendition of what I call “Off White Bread”:
Note: The original recipe calls for a 4 1/2 quart heavy covered pot or dutch oven. I don’t have one but I do have a pizza stone. So I “threw” the bread onto the preheated pizza stone. The bread turns out more “flat” but still very authentic. I’ll put a clay pot on my wish list but for now the pizza stone works great!
Off White Bread – SimpleFrugal Style
makes one 10″ round loaf
Combine the following in a medium bowl:
2 cups bread flour
1 cup whole wheat flour (freshly ground is best!)
1 1/4 teaspoon salt (I use Real Salt)
1/2 teaspoon yeast, instant or active dry
1 1/3 c cool water (about 60 degrees F)
Use a wooden spoon or your hands to mix this together until it is a wet sticky dough – about 30 seconds. Cover with damp towel and sit at room temp until the surface is speckled with burst bubbles (the dough will have more than doubled) – about 12 to 18 hours.
Once the dough has risen, generously dust your counter with flour. With a scraper, gently pull the dough/batter onto the counter in one piece. Gently handle the bread, tucking the edges under giving it a rounded shape. (Did I say NO kneading!)
Pick up the round loaf and place it seam side down on a pizza peel or breadboard that is floured with brad, cornmeal or flour. If the dough seems too sticky, dust lightly with flour or bran. Place this in a warm place to raise again approximately 1 – 2 hours or till nearly doubled.
About 30 minutes before the bread is finished rising, preheat the oven to 475 degrees F with the rack in the lower third of the oven. If you plan to use the 4 – 5-quart pot, put it in the oven now to preheat, too. I use a pizza stone.
When the stone/pot/oven is preheated, “throw” onto the stone with the peel (or carefully drop into the pot – seam side up – and cover). Bake 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes, the bread on the stone should be done. If you are using the pot, remove the lid and continue to bake for another 15 – 30 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on a rack. The pot baked bread will have a “burnt’ look.
I can’t say how pleased I am with this recipe. Get his book! Borrow it from the library but get this book. It will be one of those smart investments that can save you money many times over.
Part of having a SimpleFrugal home is also deciding what things are useful and what things just take up space or are “eye candy”. If you have a large kitchen that has lots of storage behind closed doors, then bless you, you may not need to be as particular here (though you may still find your life more simplified if you “lose” some redundant or kitchen “candy” that is gathering dust).
The thing is, we often buy kitchen tools because of some well-crafted advertisement that makes some gadget seem indispensable. We soon become enamored with the idea of owning that nifty (is that word used anymore?) tool. We buy it; use it once or twice and then it is relegated to the back of the counter or stowed in the pantry. Then when our sister in law mentions she is having a garage sale, you dig through the closets and pantry for likely fodder and out goes the electric tortilla press, noodle maker or whatever.
So how do you evaluate the usefulness of a tool or appliance? For me any tool has to have regular usage and a simple obvious example is a kitchen knife set. Even then you don’t need the big block full of fancy knives. I have found there are three basic knives you need: the Chef’s knife, a general purpose slicer and a smaller peeling knife. Since we bake our own bread, we also have a good quality bread knife. I have two of each because I have a kitchen full of helpers – but you may only need one set. Other than that keep your knife inventory simple.
Here is a look through several items I use to give you an idea of what to keep:
Food Processor – I use this daily. At first I thought it was just a big space user but I found a dozen things to do with mine very quickly. I prepare large batches of food daily for my large family. It just plain makes slicing and chopping so much simpler. Additionally I would puree the food my mother in law needs (she has trouble swallowing).
Tip: While it may be tempting to use a food processor for onions, a knife still works best (something about over processing the onions make them bitter).
Vita-Mix – This is used for a dozen different things. Leftover rice is blended more smoothly into cream of rice cereal. I use it to stir together the wet ingredients for nearly all recipes: milk, eggs and oil for pancakes; water/milk, honey and eggs for breakfast cake; scrambled eggs (yes, just turn it to medium low to get a uniform blend). Of course we make, smoothies daily too. Some might say I could use it and get rid of the food processor but some things just turn out better using one or the other.
Grain mill and Bread Mixer – We make bread twice a week. So it stands to reason we keep these specialty items.
Toaster – we toast our bread for nearly every meal (just a preference)
Apple peeler/slicer – Even though we only use it for a few weeks out of the year, it makes quick work of all those windfall apples that neighbors offer us (now, I am talking wheelbarrow loads!!) We could do without it but it is such a huge time saver and the kids love to use it (and I say if it makes work “fun” then by all means keep it!)
Juicer – I use my juicer twice a week for my vegetable drink. But in times past I only used it say once a month. Since I believe fresh is best, I juice my own.
Rice Steamer – we use brown rice but it tends to be tough for my mother in law so I make a batch of steamed brown rice. Then I cook it a second time in the casseroles or soups. This way she can eat it and we like how much more like white rice it becomes (meaning more tender).
Those are just some of the items I use daily or at least several times a week that make meal prep so much simpler.
Tips for deciding what to keep
Is it eye candy? Perhaps all you really want is a microwave and a few mixing bowls fine. Just don’t feel obligated to purchase a whole kitchen full of stuff just for looks.
Do you use it, really use it? If you use a tortilla press or a noodle maker on a regular basis then, by all means, keep them. All I am suggesting here is that we keep our lives simpler. If your noodle maker is getting dusty, then maybe you really bought it on a whim.
Do you know – I or someone in my family has baked bread for over 20 years. I can’t even remember when we ate exclusively store-bought bread. At the time we explored the idea of baking our own bread, I was one of those moms who intended to feed my family the best I could afford (which was pretty tight for us). Continue reading