Bread Baking (So You Want to Be a Homesteader Series- Day 9)

For the past ten years or so we have purchased very little that is electronic, instead opting for hand cranked or self powered items.  Oil lamps, a hand cranked coffee grinder, food processor, and cast iron that can be used on a wood stove if necessary fill my cupboards.  After reading Jim Lahey’s great book, My Bread, I have baked many a loaf of good bread.  I don’t remember when I gave away my bread maker (when we became raw foodies for a short time?  When we were trying to go off grid?) but when I plugged in the one from Grandma’s house that Grandpa sent me home with, a big smile crossed my face.  All I had to do was layer the ingredients into the pan, slide it into the oven, press 7, and go about my chores.  It mixed, raised, kneaded, and baked a heavenly loaf of bread for supper while I got laundry, gardening, and housework done.  What have I been missing all these years?

Now that we are 100% solar powered, I tend to plug a few more things in (but not much!).  The bread from the breadmaker is delicious.  If I want a good boule, I will whip some up myself in mixing bowls and over hours, and bake it in my Dutch oven.  It’s nice to have options.  And nothing beats coming home to a house smelling of fresh bread.

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By making your own bread for sandwiches, toast, croutons, pizza crust, and bread crumbs, you really cut down on the food bill and can control what you are eating.  Flour, salt, yeast, and sugar do not cost much.  I recently read what is in “dough conditioner”…well folks, let me just tell you that we won’t be eating take out pizza or processed bread any longer.

I bought my daughter a breadmaker for her bridal shower.  I think it is the best of both worlds between convenience and homemade.  A little homemade butter and you have heaven on a plate.

Here are a few recipes of mine from over the years on this blog if you want to try your hand at a homemade loaf.  But do consider a breadmaker.  I bet there is one at a second hand store by you!

Grain Mills and Rye Bread

Maple Molasses Whole Wheat Bread

The Delicious and Versatile Homemade Crouton

I try to bake bread each week.  The first few days the bread is delicious and soft.  The next few days it needs to be toasted.  The next few days we forget about it.  Then I make croutons!  Croutons are a great way to preserve stale bread and can be made with store bought bread as well.

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Simply cut into half inch pieces and place on cookie sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Use a large spoon and stir while flipping the pieces over (the best you can, don’t do every single piece, you’ll go crazy) and drizzle with a little more oil and salt and pepper.

For these I used a little sage and onion infused olive oil from Drizzle and Dip in Southlands along with good olive oil.  Rye bread was made into croutons this week and it goes very well with strong flavors like garlic, sage, and onion.  You can also add minced herbs if you wish.

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Bake at 325 degrees for 20 minutes.  Shake the pan after 10 minutes.  Then again when it comes out of the oven.  Let cool on pan completely.  Store in a paper bag.  These are delicious on salad, in soup, or as a snack.  These crispy, salty, savory croutons taste great with a little holiday red wine.  Add a few slices of good cheese and you have fast hors d’oeuvres.

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Here is a link to one of my bread recipes. Click here

Maple Molasses Whole Wheat Bread

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This bread turned out delicious!  It has a touch of sweet and slices well.  I slice one loaf and put it in the freezer to toast or to use for French toast. The other loaf we eat fresh.  I used to avoid kneading bread.  I have mastered the art of bread baking without kneading but have realized, like so many other homesteading activities, that the actions become soothing and methodical, a type of meditation and calm.

We love grains and find that they provide the energy we need in our daily active life.  I always use organic, unbleached flour and organic, freshly ground whole wheat.  Real butter and rich molasses with sweet maple make this bread a real treat!

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Mama’s Maple Molasses Whole Wheat Bread

5 teaspoons of yeast added to 1/2 cup of warm water, set aside

Warm 2 cups of goat’s milk, 1/4 cup of molasses, 1/4 cup of maple syrup, 1/4 cup of butter, and 2 Tablespoons of brown sugar over low heat.

Meanwhile blend 6 cups of white flour, 2 cups of whole wheat flour, 3 teaspoons of vanilla salt, and 1 teaspoon of ginger as a fun surprise.

Add half the liquid ingredients, blend then add yeast and remaining liquid and blend.

Knead one cup of flour in for 6-7  minutes.  (Press palms of hand into dough, fold in half and turn a 1/4 turn then press palm in again.  Repeat.)

Let rise 1 hour in a greased covered bowl in warm spot.

Divide into 2 loaves and place in 2 oiled bread pans.  Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes.  Brush tops with butter (and sugar and cinnamon if desired).  After a half hour or so pop bread out and let cool completely on rack.  (Without the cinnamon and sugar this bread can be used for savory sandwiches or meals as well as sweet.)

Easy Baking Day

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Farmer’s wives before us had Ironing Day, Washing Day, Mending Day, Cleaning Day, and Baking Day.  I see why!  I had designated Tuesdays for baking day.  In the six hours I was home, between laundry and cleaning, I was able to get two loaves of delicious, fresh baked bread done, flour tortillas, corn tortillas, and scrumptious biscuits made.  Plus some red chile to dip into for the week.  I sliced the breads, placed them into freezer bags and popped them in the freezer for use all week.  Take a piece out, toast it, instant breakfast!  I took out the tortillas as needed, same with the biscuits.

Come the next Tuesday I still had a half a loaf of bread, and a bag of tortillas.  I figured I was good for the week, but when Friday came around and there were no staples to be found, my whole plan was foiled.  Out to eat we went.  Because when Friday comes, I have worked the shop, been in the garden all week, and have taken care of everything else, but baking.  I don’t have time any other day of the week for baking day.  I think….maybe I just need better planning.

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I need to stick with a schedule or my farmstead will be in chaos (more than usual)!  Baking Day can be split up cleverly though so that one always has a loaf of bread in the freezer or on the stove.

If you are having a super busy farming week, place bread dough to rise overnight.  Then finish it in the morning.

If you have a good part of the morning you can whip up some tortillas in between.  Biscuits don’t take much time…but they are hard to save.  My goodness, I love biscuits!

You can make as many batches as your mixing bowls and hours allow then simply freeze them until you are ready to use them.  You can also make pasta this way.  Pre-make it and let it dry over a large pot.  You can place 2 cups of beans in 6 cups of water with some onion and garlic and place in the crock pot overnight on low.  Transfer to the refrigerator and for five days you have ready-made beans.  You can also freeze them.  Make mayonnaise, red chile, mustard, or any other condiments and sauces, even gravy, to eat during the week.  That way, when you are tired and need fast food, your fast food is healthy, homemade and delicious.  And you can brag all the way through dinner!

Corn, Lemon Thyme, and Honey Bread

2 cups of white flour (unbleached, organic)

1 cup of cornmeal

1 T yeast

1 t salt

2 T honey

A few sprigs of torn lemon thyme leaves (or basil, or rosemary, or…)

1 1/2 cups of warm water.  Blend well.  Let sit for 2 hours to overnight.

Top with 1/2 cup of flour, blend, knead 15 times, let sit another hour.

Plop into greased bread pan and bake in hot oven for 40  minutes.

You can find these recipes under the Food/Wine category.