All green, nature, and sustainability posts have been moved to Loving Nature's Garden

Monday, January 12, 2009

Why Homebaked Bread is a Necessity

Sometimes it's funny how you learn things. For instance, I recently discovered that while 2 members of my family love mushy food, the other two won't be satisfied with a meal unless it contains something chewy. Now, people may have a vision of homeschooling as an idyllic lifestyle, you know, mom, dad and the kids all living in perfect harmony, learning together around the kitchen table. Let me tell you though, when all 4 members of your family effectively work from home as well as living and sleeping there you have to be good at compromise. It's a daily necessity for getting through both lunch and dinner together without some kind of meltdown.

In our home freshly baked bread, or more often, so far, biscuits, is a kind of glue that keeps us together, or maybe it's grease to keep us running smoothly. Either way, I serve it with soup or stew and we have both mush and something to chew on. It leads to happy homeschoolers and a happy family :-) You know, there's a reason why baking bread is the number 1 item on Julie's 10 Point Bluffers Guide to Being a Homeschool Supermom. And I'm pretty sure it applies equally to being a non-homeschooling supermom. The only problem is making something baked in time for lunch while juggling things like blog writing and homeschool support tasks. Should you be game for the challenge though, I do have a few suggestions.

I tend to subscribe to the theory that variety is the spice of life. There are tons of fine recipes available on the web, but I still think it's better to have a tried and true book you can pull off the shelf when you're ready to dig into the flour pot. It wouldn't be enough for me to master making one kind of bread, therefore "Flour Cooking Naturally" has been my bread bible. I only use two other books for bread-like baking. One of them is a Betty Crocker booklet which I got for 10 cents at a garage sale and the other explains how to make tortillas.

Early on in my years of independent living I somehow acquired a small set of essential cookery books which have followed me everywhere. It's a plan I'd recommend. Using this book you can learn the secrets of everything from hot cross buns and crumpets to Danish pastries, bannocks, rye crispbread and challah. It covers every kind of basic cake and biscuit, puddings, all sorts of pastries and even homemade pasta. More impressively, every recipe I've tried has worked! Just be aware that since this book was published in London all recipes are given in weights rather than volume measures so you'll either need a set of scales or a conversion chart.

Just in case purchasing a British book for the economical sum of $0.40 cents doesn't appeal, or you just can't wait to get started, here are some learning links related to baking bread and biscuits:
  • My favorite biscuit recipe uses oil rather than shortening. What could be better? When the main part of your meal is a bean soup, you need something with some fat to fill you up. An oil-based biscuit is ideal and much healthier. I make mine with olive oil, salt, pepper and some Italian herb mix. Here's the secret to healthy, fluffy biscuits. There are many ideas for using biscuits at I'd just substitute the oil-based recipe for the Bisquick mix she suggests.
  • How does an engineer write recipes? Find out how to cook the engineers' way and make cornbread. Now, I'm not talking about high-tech or using a lot of grease! This recipe format makes SO much sense to me. I've never quite mastered the art of understanding recipes, which means I usually read my book over and over and over to make sure I get it right. I'm not an engineer, but I still like it!
  • Like many people I've tried wholewheat bread recipes and ended up with a brick-like result. At Smitten Kitchen I found a recipe for a light, wheat bread. I'm willing to give it a try once more. Deb over there even claims to bewitch breads!
  • Natashya at Living in the Kitchen with Puppies has been writing about soup and bread and she just wrote about the book pictured at the top of this page "Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day". It worked for her and now I just have to check it out! I had found it at when I was looking around for a bread picture today. I read the first few pages online and was really intrigued. It goes on my wishlist. In fact I'm off to check my library for it in just a moment.
  • Not everyone has the luxury of being home with the chance to make their own bread. I know that many enjoy bread from in-store bakeries. For my family this is not a choice - we have a member with peanut allergy and in-store bakeries are just a risk we can't take. I highly recommend the Farm to Market bread company. It's not much use to you unless you're in the Kansas City area, but their bread is really great. Don't expect it to last more than one meal though because it's much too delicious! They have some recipes at their website which you could use with your own home-made bread, or in-store baked if that works better for you.
  • There are plenty places to read the story of bread online. Here is a pretty detailed history of bread making for those who like to read. For the more visual you can watch a bread story slide show.
  • Here's a Flowerpot Bread recipe for cooking with your kids. I'd never heard of bread clay, but I found a recipe and it sounds like a fun craft project. Personally I think it's about all store-bought, sliced white bread is good for, but maybe your kids would disagree!
May all your loaves be edible :-)

Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day at - you can read the first few pages online. Flour Cooking Naturally is available used - it contains a wealth of wheat based recipes from many countries. Bread machines are wonderful if you have the space and funds.


Natashya said...

It is funny how a house full of related people will have such varying tastes.
It would be difficult to feed my family soup without an accompanying bread, bun or biscuit.

I admire your ability to teach your children at home, quite a commitment.
I find the more I learn about bread, the more I realize I don't know. It really is both earthy and magical, and if it brings the family together - all the better!

Alison said...

Hi Natashya, thanks for stopping by.

The more I learn about everything the more I realize there is to learn! We can talk about giving up eating meat and I admire those who do. I just wonder, what would be harder to give up, meat, or bread? For me it's a texture thing. Yes, I'm one of the ones who likes/needs chewy. Where does the chewiness come from without meat and bread? Thankfully most people who give up meat probably can continue with wheat bread. To me home-baked bread is what might make a vegan diet possible.

Scribbit said...

Oh how much I love homemade bread--and while I'm not good at doing it the old-fashioned way I LOVE my bread machine.

Alison said...

Hi Scribbit. It's nice to meet another bread fan :-) My bread machine has to compete for counter space with my crockpot and a number of other items so it's recently been relegated to the basement. However, I'm on a definite quest to cut our grocery costs so our bread machine will be resurfacing soon. Just as soon as I can clean off my unused kitchen desk. The stuff on that desk is just gathering dust. Obviously it has no purpose in being there so I need to liberate the surface and use it for something productive!

jugglingpaynes said...

I enjoyed making miniatures when I was a teenager, so I'm very familiar with the bread clay recipe. It was perfect for forming miniature food!

This is probably cheating, but I love my bread machine and the fact that it takes no effort for me to make dough now (I still shape it by hand and bake it in the oven). It's probably my most used appliance!

Neat links. Off to learn about Flowerpot Bread...

Peace and Laughter,

Alison said...

That's another vote for bread machines from Cristina at Homespun Juggling :-)

Now that is interesting about the bread clay being good for making miniature food. I love to look at those miniatures but I missed the genetics for that kind of detail. My dad, sister and Artist Girl all like to do tiny stuff, but not me, I just don't have the patience!

Janet said...

My mother used to make homemade bread, especially in the winter. I love it, but our bread machine died a slow and painful death years ago and we haven't replaced it. I don't mind doing the kneading (it's actually good for my arthritis), but I have real trouble finding a warm spot in my house for the bread to rise. So it doesn't. But the Mountain Man makes biscuits with the kids all the time using his grandmother's recipe. And we make a lot of banana bread and that kind of thing.

The Intellectual Foodie said...

I think we overlook the importance of good quality bread and so mnay people in the industrialised world today simply do not know the taste of good quality home-baked bread. Getting children to learn about baking bread is a wonderful gift to give them---something very fundamental!

Alison Kerr said...

I waited 4 months and was given the book "Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day" for my birthday. Now I just need to catch up in my schedule and try it out!

FutureExpat said...

Hi Alison,
This post brought back fond memories -- not of homeschooling, which I haven't done, but of the 10 years or so when I baked all my own bread. I literally never had a loaf of bought bread in my house all that time. When my oldest son was little, I bought him a mini-bread pan, and would give him his own little piece of dough to knead and bake.

Life has gotten way too hectic!

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