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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.
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Monday, May 28, 2012

Frugal Kitchens 101 - Bread

Frugal Kitchens 101
Years ago when I was knee high to a grasshopper my Mom make homemade bread by hand, bought from the local bakery and very occasionally bought a loaf of bread at the grocery store.  Prior to that, bread was homemade made, baked a couple of times a week.  Bread baking is a very frugal thing to do especially if making specialty breads but even plain white homemade bread is less expensive than store bought.  Back in the 1980's I bought a bread machine to save a bit of wear and tear on my wrists.  It ended up being a glorified bread dough mixer and proofer with the actual baking done in the oven but I still made a fresh loaf of bread almost daily.  A few years ago I bought a KitchenAid® stand mixer and now use it for making fresh, homemade bread two or three times a week.

Homemade bread really takes very little time to prepare.  Seriously, mixing and kneading the dough takes only about 7 minutes using a stand mixer.  Once the dough is ready, the real time eaters are proofing and baking but nothing beats homemade bread in terms of flavour and price. Or, you can shorten the prep time by making a batter/quick bread that takes only a few minutes to mix and no proof time. Here's a few tips on how to save a bit extra when making homemade bread.  Don't forget homemade breads can be either quick beads or yeast breads and both are very good!

  • buy in bulk - Yeast is sold in 2 lb packages at some grocery and warehouse stores for considerably less than the price of those little packets or jars  so if you make a lot of bread buy yeast in bulk.  Watch for flour to go on sale then buy in the largest package possible with the lowest unit price.  The bulk food stores are ideal for buying other ingredients like lecithin granules as well as some sugars and flours.    
  • keep it simple - You can use the same recipe yet make it into loaves or rolls.  The shape doesn't matter all that much so keep it simple.
  • fancy it up - Ok, this is quite contrary to the last point but you can easily make a homemade bread taste like a gourmet artisan bread by simply tossing in an extra ingredient or two into your regular white loaf of bread dough.  If your recipe calls for water substitute juice, stock or milk  Brush the top with a little butter which softens the crust then sprinkle sesame seeds or oat flakes over it.  Toss in a quarter cup of fruit or vegetables for a wonderful flavour burst. Toss in a couple of cherry tomatoes and tsp of Italian seasoning for a delightfully pinkish yet savory loaf of bread.  Combining a bit of shredded cheese and onion pieces results in a delightful loaf of bread.  The possibilities are endless and need not be expensive either.
  • soft insides - Certain ingredients make the bread softer.  These include lecithin, milk or powdered milk, potato flakes, yogurt, sour cream and egg.  Add a tbsp of powdered milk to the water in the recipe or substitute the same amount of fresh milk.
  • crusty crust - The trick to a crusty, chewy crust is adding steam when the loaf of bread is cooking.  The easiest way to do this is to place an oven proof baking dish with about 2 - inches of water in the oven on the rack below where the bread will be baking.  
  • salt - Salt is balances the flavour in breads but it inhibits the growth of yeast.  Do not use iodized salt as the iodine will kill off the yeast.  Do not increase or decrease the amount of salt in a bread recipe.
  • sweeteners - Sugar supports the growth of yeast.  Honey will add to the moisture of the bread.  Maple syrup and molasses can be used in bread making as well.  Artificial sweeteners should not be used as the yeast will not react properly with them.
  • liquids - Any liquid used in bread making should be luke warm before adding to the dry ingredients.  You can be creative with the liquid substituting milk, stock, potato water or juice for the water.  If using juice, use unsweetened.  Water alone gives a crispier crust while milk gives a smoother texture and softer crust.  Juices add flavour.  For example, apple bread made with water is very good but apple bread made with apple juice is divine!  If using stock, use de-fatted stock that will give flavour without extra calories.
  • flours - A wide range of flours can be used to make breads and you can grind you own if desired.  I prefer using unbleached flour for white breads.  Whole wheat flour is lower in gluten content so is usually mixed with white flour but if you want to make a 100% whole wheat bread add gluten flour or lecithin to the dry ingredients to increase the rise.
  • the rise - Bread recipes give a timing for the dough to double but that is not carved in stone.  Let the dough rise until double even if it takes an extra half hour or so.  In particular, sour dough bread doughs benefit from a longer rise than most recipes state.  The longer rise helps to develop the sour dough flavour.

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