Friday, August 14, 2009

My Voyage Into Bread-making

I recently learned about Fight Back Friday, and thought that this would be a good opportunity to share about how I have recently embarked on an adventurous voyage into the world of making my own bread. :) And, while the primary focus of this blog is the changes I’m making going forward, I’ve been wanting to tell you about this recent change that I made prior to embarking on my journey into Life Zone changes. I told you before how I was inspired by a friend’s blog. In particular I found it intriguing that she made bread for her family on a regular basis. At first I thought it was interesting, but at the time I never thought I would ever make my own bread. For one, as much as I love cooking, making anything with yeast, especially bread, always intimidated me. (Yeast – such a terrifying little monster…) You have to get the water temperature just right to bloom the yeast without killing it. You have to mix everything just right in the right proportions so the bread won’t be mushy or too tough, and then you have to let it rise, and rise, and rise. I thought it would take a big chunk of time out of my day. Plus, a failed pizza dough experiment a few years ago didn’t do anything to relieve my aversion to making bread products, either. (If this turns you off to making bread, too, please keep reading. It’s really not so bad, I promise!) So, when I read my friend’s posts about making bread I just thought, “Well, isn’t that special?” and went on with my day, and didn’t think much more about it until months later.

The thing is, I like good, grainy bread that doesn’t stick to your teeth or poison your body. I had read the South Beach Diet, and heard all the stuff on conventional media about the importance of whole grains. (I now know what a fallacy the South Beach Diet is, but at least it made me somewhat more conscious of my health and pointed my thinking in the right direction.) I tried a variety of “whole grain” breads that are sold in conventional grocery stores. Most varieties I found to be lacking in terms of flavor and many seemed like little more than dressed up white bread. The breads that I really liked, and that I felt were healthiest for my family, cost almost $4.00 a loaf! And we’re not talking about loaves as long as your arm, either. These loaves weren’t even as long as my forearm! And as quickly as our family goes through bread, we probably spent nearly $100 a month (yes, that is a “one” with two “zeros” behind it) on bread alone! Well, as I mentioned before, we started restructuring our budget a few months ago and discovered that we really needed to cut back on our food spending. I thought about my friend who lovingly makes bread for her family. So, I decided to tackle the yeast monster and start making my own bread. I could do it if only I tried, right? I just needed practice. After all, people have been making bread for thousands of years and haven’t been conquered by the dreaded yeast monster yet, at least as far as I knew. So, it couldn’t really be all that hard. I just needed to start doing it. So, I did, as simple as that.

Well, not quite. I searched out a bunch of whole grain bread recipes on the Internet, and got all the ingredients that I didn’t already have (like yeast). I even went to Whole Foods and got some rye flour, and a few other things. So, I read the recipes and the how-tos and started measuring and blooming and mixing and kneading and waiting and baking. (Though, for my very first attempt I used the bread machine for the mixing and rising and then baked it in my oven so the final loaf would be a bit more practical than the giant cube that the bread machine produced. The funny thing is that the bread machine – which is borrowed from my in-laws – has been sitting nearly untouched in my house for years because I had great intentions of making bread, but never followed through. Now that I’ve tried the thing, I don’t want to use it. It over-kneaded the dough.) Let’s just say that my first few attempts fell short of being the best bread you’ve ever eaten in your life. We bravely choked down those loaves anyway. I certainly needed practice – and help! I have a friend who is an accomplished baker come over and help me out. I couldn’t seem to get the final consistency quite right. I could do all the reading I liked, but I really needed someone to show me. Since her wonderful instruction (Thanks, Terry!) each batch of bread has gotten better and better. It really doesn’t take as long as I thought it would. Is it less convenient than buying bread from the store? Certainly; but really, only a little. Plus it’s soooo much healthier than pretty much any bread you can buy in the regular grocery store.

About the time I started making real bread was also when I started reading various “domestic goddess” blogs, and I started learning more about nutrition and real food (which is how I found the Food Renegade blog). My bread isn’t quite the most nutritious it can possibly be yet. Bread made from freshly milled flour is far superior to bread made from flour that you buy in the store, as 90% of 30 nutrients found in wheat grains disappears within 72 hours after the milling is complete (see this article). So I’m saving up for a grain mill so I can mill my own flour. You’re probably thinking that I just went from being a nut (albeit a likeable nut) to a freak. Well, the more I learn about the state of food in the Standard American Diet (SAD) and what it is doing to our bodies, the more of a freak I’m willing to be. Around 100 years ago it was quite normal for families to grind their own wheat, or at least get flour that had been ground that day from a local mill, and make their own bread. God says in Hosea 4:6, “My people are ruined because they don't know what's right or true.” (The Message) How many of our bodies are ruined because we eat the poisonous food products from conventional grocery stores because we don’t know the truth about those products or what our bodies need to function as God created them to? Because of convenience and ignorance we eat food products sold to us by mega companies whose main goal is to feed their wallets instead of nourishing our bodies. Anyway, that’s another post entirely. I encourage you to do your own research and feel the scales fall from your eyes, as I have. The more I learn, the more empowered I feel to take charge of my life and my health and the health of my family.


Catherine said...

AMEN to that. Good for you (literally!)

Millie said...

Adventures in Bread Making! I enjoyed reading of your Voyage.

foodrenegade said...

At least *I* don't think you're a freak!

Thanks for sharing this in today's Fight Back Fridays carnival.

Blessings & Peace,
(AKA FoodRenegade)

Crystal said...

You are most certainly not a freak! :) I'm trying to save up for a grain mill too. I have not made whole grain bread yet, but I have made some sourdough that was pretty tasty. I would love to bake all of our bread, but I'm very much intimidated by the whole process. Thank you for this post!

A Joyful Chaos said...

There is something very satisfying about making homemade bread!