Baking Bread and Why You Should Do It

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Oh boy.  The smell of fresh baked bread is amazing whether you are at the local bakery or in your own home.  Actually, fresh baked anything smells good but there is something special about that yeasty aroma created from the mixture of flour, water, yeast and salt.

I don’t know about you but here on San Juan Island, the cost of a freshly baked loaf of bread is over $5  and even the store-bought, mass produced stuff is almost $4 a loaf.  Crazy, no?  Well, we eat a lot of homemade Panini’s here in our house which means we go through a lot of bread but cripes, the cost can cripple my food budget.

A few years back I picked up the book Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day and never looked back.   (Well, I did have to look at the scale a few weeks later but that’s another story!)  In case you have not heard of this book, the basic process is to put some flour, yeast, water, and kosher salt in a bucket, let it rise for a couple of hours, then stash it away in the fridge for up to two weeks.  Whenever you want some bread, pull out a glob about the size of a grapefruit, shape it (no kneading), bake it, then eat it.

The first time I tried it my Mom was visiting and we ate the whole loaf shortly after it came out of the oven – it was that good.

Take a look at this video from the authors as they talk about the whole grain version of the bread from their book Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day.

Still not convinced?  Consider this.  When the doo doo hits the fan, the power is out, and all you have to cook with is a camp stove or barbeque, you can make this bread!  Really.  It cooks up swell in a closed grill and there is even a version that can be made on the top of a grill.  Talk about the ultimate comfort food.

More reasons?  (No worries, the basic recipe is below.)

1.  Baking your own bread saves money.  I have not run a precise calculation, but as far as I can tell, the cost is only 40 to 60 cents per loaf, depending in whether or not you purchase your ingredients in bulk or on sale.

2.  Homemade bread is healthier.  There are no fats (or very little), no chemical additives, no hydrogenated oils, no unhealthy preservatives, and no sugary sweeteners.

3.  Taste is king.  Homemade bread tastes better than store bought.  No contest.  Even boo boos taste good.

4.  The aroma is captivating,  Your house will smell good; this is the ultimate in aromatherapy.

5.  You friends, family and neighbors will be impressed.  Okay, maybe this is not important to you but you yourself will be impressed and that does count.

Ready for the master recipe?

The Master Recipe: Artisan Free Form Loaf.

From Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery that Revolutionizes Home Baking by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois (Thomas Dunne Books, 2007). Copyright 2007 by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois.

Makes four 1 pound loaves.

  • 3 cups lukewarm water
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons granulated yeast (about 1-1/2 packets)
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 6-1/2 cups unsifted, unbleached flour, measured with the scoop & sweep method
  • Cornmeal for pizza peel or parchment paper

1. In a large bowl or plastic container, mix yeast and salt into 3 cups lukewarm water (about 100 degrees). Stir in flour, mixing until there are no dry patches. Dough will be quite loose. Cover, but not with an airtight lid. Let dough rise at room temperature 2 hours (or up to 5 hours).

2. Bake at this point or refrigerate, covered, for as long as two weeks. When ready to bake, sprinkle a little flour on dough and cut off a grapefruit-size piece with serrated knife. Turn dough in hands to lightly stretch surface, creating a rounded top and a lumpy bottom. Put dough on pizza peel sprinkled with cornmeal; let rest 40 minutes or up to 90 minutes. Repeat with remaining dough or refrigerate it.   (Or skip the peel and use parchment paper on a baking sheet.)

3. Place broiler pan on bottom of oven. Place baking stone on middle rack and turn oven to 450 degrees; heat stone at that temperature for 20 minutes.

4. Dust dough with flour, slash top with serrated or very sharp knife three times. Slide onto stone. Pour one cup hot water into broiler pan and shut oven quickly to trap steam. Bake until well browned, about 30 minutes. Cool completely.

Here are some of the breads I have made.

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It’s so simple, you just stir up a big batch of  dough (remember, you don’t have to knead it) put it in the refrigerator for up to two weeks, then when you want some bread, you take out a blob what ever size you want your loaf to be, and bake it up fresh.

It’s so easy!  You’ll amaze yourself at what you pulled out of your own oven-the bread looks like something you bought at a local bakery!

Enjoy your next adventure, wherever it takes you!


Backdoor Survival Tip:  The expiration date on your yeast may say that it has expired, but if you have stored the yeast in the refrigerator, or better yet, in the freezer where it will remain active even longer, it may still be good beyond the expiration date. Here’s an easy way to test the yeast to see if it is still active.

Mix 1 tsp sugar into 1/2 cup of warm water (110° to 115° F), then mix in 2-1/4 tsp yeast. If mixture has risen to the top of the cup by the end of ten minutes, yeast is very active. If not, it needs to be replaced.

Bargain Bin: Are your ready to do some baking from scratch. It really is easy, you know. Here are some items to get you started.

Lodge Cast Iron Loaf Pan: This is next on my “cast iron that I covet list”. As you know, cast iron heats up evenly and retains heat for super cooking results. Mmmm . . . think of the quick breads, meat loaves and more from a cast iron loaf pan!

Ove’ Glove Hot Surface Handler: These oven gloves withstand extreme heat up to 540 degrees F. If you could see the scars that I have from my pre-Ove Glove days, you would know why I endorse them. They can be used by both left and right handers and are washable in the washing machine. A Survival Woman must have if you do any cooking at all.

Artisan Pizza and Flatbread in Five Minutes a Day: This is the latest edition in the Artisan In Five series and possibly the best. And yes, I need to write about and review this book. But that takes longer than five minutes LOL.

Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking: At an average cost of 50 cents a loaf, this bread is easy, delicious and inexpensive to make.

Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day: 100 New Recipes Featuring Whole Grains, Fruits, Vegetables, and Gluten-Free Ingredients: Ditto.

Danish Dough WhiskThe Secret Art of Making Pizza At Home Backdoor Survival: Besides the book, this is the one must-have. This gizmo makes mixing up the dough a lot – and I mean a lot – easier.

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Baking Bread and Why You Should Do It — 10 Comments

  1. Nothing beats home made bread. Nothing.
    I’ve been making bread for the past 10 years, and cannot imagine going back to store bought processed plastic bread.
    Bread is the reason I buy flour 100lbs at a time. We go through 3 loaves a week, and Monday is designated “bread day” in our house.

    Besides, bread doughs can easily be turned into pizza crusts-roll flat, and top-or cinnamon buns-roll flat, add sugar and cinnamon mixture, roll, proof and bake-or regular buns. I have even deep fried flattened pieces, brushed them with a bit of butter and added toppings-cinnamon sugar, garlic, or parmasan cheese-for a tasty treat.

    Yep, home made bread is, IMHO, the only way to go!

    • The bread sounds yummy, but I just want to mention that there are nutritionists that say that too much bread in our diet is a possible cause of muscle and bone loss. It has to do with PRAL (potential renal acid load.) Grains (and many proteins) cause a lot of acid in your bloodstream and your body leaks bone and muscle to make your system more alkaline. The best thing to counteract the acid is to eat lots of vegetables and fruits, which are alkaline. I read about this in Nutrition Action Newsletter, Nov. 2010.

  2. I found that “Artisan Bread” book several months ago;agree completely, no-brainer, artisanal bread. I figured out how to copy the $6./loaf cranberry-pecan bread from a local baker and I think mine is better! Do it!

  3. Since you mention being able to bake this bread during, shall we say, an interruption in the current program, shouldn’t we also consider the availability of store bought yeast?

    I’m wondering how to use this recipe with a sourdough starter? It seems like the bucket ‘sponge’ is very similar to the sourdough starter: pull out a cup of starter to make bread with, then replace it with flour/water back to the fridge for up to two weeks…

    I would love to be able to make these breads with a sourdough starter!

  4. I like the idea of no-knead sourdough. The more we learn to do for ourselves, the better. I already make bread at home, but have yet to try a no-knead recipe or any sourdoughs. Sourdough is good for some things other than bread. I have had some great sourdough biscuits, and once my in-laws served us breakfast at their house and made sourdough waffles. They were fabulous. Maybe it is time for me to give it a try.

  5. FYI: Mike Adams, the Health Ranger, has info on his site regarding unsprouted grains having enzymes that negatively affect our health because they interfere with digestion. Check it out.

    Peace Love Joy & Harmony,

    P.S. Thanks for the easy-to-make bread info.

  6. I remember my grandpa making bread when I was little. When I first started prepping, and conserving so that I could afford to prep, making my own bread was one of the first things I learned to do. My family actually eats it instead of letting it get moldy.

  7. I would like to suggest a solar oven. Whether it is for when the power goes out or when it is too hot to turn the oven on inside, it is a wonderful alternative. Baking time for bread is same as in the oven.

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