You Should Bake Your Own Bread...Yes You Do Have The Time!
During my younger years I was caught up in raising my children, advancing my career, and making sure there was a little time to pursue some of my personal interests. It's a good thing that those interests settled around creative endeavors like cooking and sewing, but it wasn't until a few years ago that I realized how much of the food I cooked was really about convenience. For instance, there's nothing like home made mashed potatoes made from real potatoes or zucchini bread made from scratch. Unfortunately, like most other adults with a busy schedule, I saved creating those treats for special times. The rest of the time I simply tore open a box and added water before cooking or baking.
Years of consuming preservatives and additives created havoc with my slowly aging body. I thought I was eating right...no huge helpings, not much for any kind of sweets, and definitely wasn't into greasy foods. In fact, I ate mostly vegetables and fruits. I like meat, but never seemed to have the time to do much more than throw it in the oven so I could get other things accomplished while it was baking, broiling, or roasting.
Even so, these measures didn't prevent me from all manner of mysterious aches and pains. I had blood pressure that was all over the place and started having problems with my thyroid. I began to look for answers and soon learned that others were suffering in much the same way. Chemicals in our environment, chemicals in our food, chemicals in our hygiene products. The list goes on and on. I became determined to get rid of as much of that poison as possible.
One day my boyfriend came home with a package of hotdog rolls left over from a function he had attended. I don't eat hotdogs and so I tossed them to the back of the bread shelf and forgot about them. Several weeks later I came across them and was shocked to see that there wasn't a bit of green or fuzz to be found on them. Out of curiosity I tossed them back to wait and see how long it would take before they became the shade of my kitchen curtains. It never happened. After three months, they looked the same as when they first arrived in my home. I've been baking my own bread ever since.
There are many reasons for baking your own bread. First of all, it's much more nutritious than anything you could buy in a grocery store or even a bakery. I bought some rolls baked in the bakery at a local supermarket. Apparently, even they have resorted to using frozen prepared dough purchased from a manufacturer. Much to my dismay, the tasty healthy loaves from a few years ago have been replaced by poison that is much cheaper for them to produce. The sad thing is that they are charging almost twice what you would pay for the same thing wrapped in the manufacturers packaging.
Home baked bread is much more flavorful. You control what ingredients are put into each loaf you bake. It's very easy to take a basic bread recipe and add other items to give added texture or different flavors. Fruit breads are delicious as a dessert that isn't loaded with sugar. Not only can fruits and whole grains be added, but I'm partial to adding finely chopped nuts for a crunchy texture and nutty flavor. I often spread fruit breads with a complimentary nut and cream cheese mixture made in my own kitchen. Pizza and stromboli dough is extremely easy.
I use my bread machine primarily for mixing and kneeding the dough. I much prefer to make small mini loaves. The slices toast just as easily as larger ones, but they can be sliced much thinner without risking the bread tearing and they're great for making small tea sandwiches. On the occasion I make a regular size loaf, I use an electric knife. It's easier to keep the slices uniform and there are less crumbs. What few crumbs there are, I use in my own bread crumb mixtures.
For a basic recipe I use:
1 ½ cups of water
4 ½ cups of bread flour
2 Tbsp milk
2 tsp dry active yeast or one package
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp sugar
To add a whole grain mixture, I increase water just a bit and add ¾ cup of whole grains. Almost all my grain breads have chia seeds added for an additional nutritious punch. I'm also partial to oat bread. I add oat bran to the bread flour or even better, I make my own flour out of rolled oats with a food processor. The flavor is just out of this world.
For fruit breads I've added dried cherries and chopped almonds with just a few drops of almond extract. I often save the juice from canned pineapple (the kind with no sugar and no preservatives), remove the water from the recipe and add pineapple chunks. There's nothing like toasted pineapple bread topped with walnut cream cheese. It's yummy! The combinations are only as limited as your imagination.
Another reason for baking your own bread ranks right up there with the nutritional value. It's cheap. I did the math on just a basic loaf of bread and the cost was only $.85, compared to $2.39 for the chemical filled trash passing as bread in the stores. When I make whole grain breads, or fruit breads the price is increased mainly by the type of grain or fruit. My 7 grain bread is only costing about $1.00. I haven't been able to find a commercial 7 grain bread for under $4.00 per loaf.
I know you're thinking you just don't have the time, but I know that you do. If you have a bread machine, you just dump in the ingredients, push the appropriate buttons and it will do the work for you. Depending on your machine, you'll have a warm ready-to-eat loaf of bread 3 to 4 hours later. I take my dough out of the machine after all the mixing and kneading is complete. I place it in a lightly greased bowl, cover with a dish towel and let it rise for the next hour. Off I go to fold the laundry or run the vacuum cleaner. Then I come back, punch down the dough and shape it for what ever size pan or pans I'm using. I let it rise in the pans just a bit more (about another hour), then into the oven. If it's a traditional size loaf, I'm ready to put it in the oven within a few short minutes. If I'm doing the mini's, it takes about a half hour. Then off I go again to finish something else.
I tend to bake all my bread for the week, at once. I'm usually completely done in about 3 hours. That may sound like a lot of time, but very little of it is spent actively mixing, kneading, and shaping. There's an hour wait for it to rise, about 45 minutes to an hour to let it rise (prove) in the pans, and then another 40 or so minutes baking. Compare that to the time spent running to the grocery store every time you run out, the cost of gas to get there, the inconvenience of having to go at the most inopportune times, and the chemical concoctions buried inside your purchase. Trust me, you've got time.