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Ontario, Canada
I am a wife, mother and grandma who enjoys the many aspects of homemaking. A variety of interests and hobbies combined with travel keep me active. They reflect the importance of family, friends, home and good food.
Cook ingredients that you are used to cooking by other techniques, such as fish, chicken, or hamburgers. In other words be comfortable with the ingredients you are using.
--Bobby Flay

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Monday, December 08, 2008

Frugal Kitchens 101: Breads (1)

The holiday season is upon us meaning more people are baking so I debated which Frugal Kitchens 101 article to post first. As one reader guess from the poll the topic of breadmaking would be featured at some point. Who can resist the urge to cut a thick slice of piping hot bread just out of the oven? Of the 65 who participated 35% did not make any bread at home and the majority 49% made 1 to 3 loaves of bread weekly. Bread in some form is a fundamental part of many meals and snacks. It is the first choice for lunches eaten at home, taken to work or school and when eating out. One of the most popular ways breads are used is in the form of buns for the American favourite hamburger. The reason bread has been such a staple throughout history and continues to be a staple is because bread is inexpensive to make with a few simple ingredients making breads one of the best budget stretching foods possible.

Despite this making bread at home has for the most part fallen out of favour although breadmachines has brought some of that back over the past decade. It's just too easy to stop at the grocery store and buy a loaf of over priced bread conveniently sliced and stuffed into a plastic bag. If you really want that homemade aroma you can buy the over priced refrigerator rolls or dough in the freezer section or over priced bread machine mix. More discriminate buyers will opt for the often over priced specialty breads. The common theme here is over priced. You are really paying for that convenience while buying products in most cases heavily laden with preservatives.

Breads fall into three categories:

  1. unleavened breads - These are simple breads that do not rise. Examples: flat breads - naan, pita, tortilla, pocket breads
  2. yeast breads - These breads use yeast as a leavening agent. Examples (click links for recipes): sweet breads (cinnamon rolls), pumpernickel, twelve grain, 100% whole wheat, bagels as well as several others in the archives for this blog
  3. quick breads - These are breads that use baking powder or baking soda/buttermilk as leavening agents. Examples: soda breads, pancakes, muffins, zucchini loaf, banana bread, corn bread
Why is making your own bread a good budget stretching strategy? The most expensive ingredient in most breads is flours. All other ingredient (salt, sugar, yeast, oil) costs are so low that they barely more than a couple of cents to the overall cost of the bread. Time to do some math. If we do a cost comparison of my French bread that makes 2 large loaves or 3 large baguettes the store bought equivalent at our prices would cost me $4.47. The cost to make the loaves myself including the electricity for baking 32¢ for the flour, < href="">basic white bread is more expensive to make because it has an egg (10¢) and milk (5¢) as ingredients that at my costs add an additional 15¢ to the overall cost of that loaf. However, this loaf of bread is far superior to the cheap, sandwich bread in the stores. It is more in line with the more expensive packaged breads or bakery type breads that cost anywhere from $2.49 to $3.29 per loaf so even though this breads cost me under 73¢ to make I am still saving a considerable amount of money. Similar saving can be shown for quick breads and flat breads. In short, there are very few breads that you can buy that cannot be made cheaper at home. If you substitute just one loaf of store bought bread for homemade per week you will be saving money.

People often use the excuse that making bread at home is too difficult or time consuming. For quick breads there is nothing more involved than measuring and mixing the ingredients then baking. Quick, easy and budget stretching! Yeast breads involve a little more prep work but need not be difficult or time consuming. Once the dough has been kneaded, the only time involved is waiting for proofing and baking of which you can be doing something else while you wait. First, the dough can be made:
  1. by hand - This involves manually mixing and kneading the dough. It is the most time time consuming but is cheaper because it eliminates any special equipment or additional electricity.
  2. breadmachine - These little workhorses take the guess work out of breadmaking. Simply dump the ingredients into the baking pan, hit the desired setting and the machine does the rest. However, I highly recommend you watch the dough to ensure it is not too dry or too stick after the knead and adjust the flour or liquid if needed. Many people are using breadmachines on dough setting only then baking in the oven because they don't like the bread baked in the machine.
  3. KitchenAid® stand mixer or similar - A stand mixer gives you the greatest degree of control without the time involved by hand. It allows you to increase or decrease the knead time as desired. It also allows you to make the dough for more than one loaf of bread at a time.
I've discussed the monetary savings so now will give some tips on ways you can save time to make breadmaking an enjoyable experience. Did you know that you can make yeast bread doughs then refrigerate up to 4 days or freeze for later use? Well you can and that can be one of your biggest time savers. Make a batch of yeast bread dough for two to four loaves. Bake one or two then put the rest in the fridge or freezer to use as needed. Do the same thing with pizza dough or any other sweet dough. Allow to come to room temperature then shape as desired then proof and bake. You can even make muffin (one recipe here) and pancake batter ahead of time and keep it in the refrigerator to use later. Now here is the beauty of keeping these kinds of doughs in your refrigerator or freezer. For a fraction of the cost of store bought and with in most cases under 10 minutes prep time you have created a convenient way for you to enjoy homemade bread throughout the week.

*this is a general estimate for basic low cost ingredients (salt, sugar, yeast, oil)

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