Now that we’re all settled in at the new Runamuk homestead, I’ve finally been able to unpack my kitchen and cook-wares and get back to my regular baking routines. With a new mortgage, maintaining our budget is more imperative than ever before, so I spend time each month to plan out meals ahead of time, then on Sundays I make it a point to spend the day baking my breads, rolls, tortilla shells, muffins, etc. in preparation for the week ahead. What is made and baked is dictated by the menu, and then what is not needed within the next day or two is put into the freezer to maintain it’s freshness.
Why bother to bake?
It may sound like a lot of work, and I confess that baking–like other household tasks–is not my most favorite thing to do–that would, of course, be beekeeping and gardening, and practically any other chore out of doors! lol But the benefits are worth the time and effort; once you’ve learned the skills you’ll be surprised how quickly you can whip up a batch of muffins, or make a pizza dough–even baking bread takes less time once you gain the experience and know how!
Homemade breads and baked goods simply taste better; you can make them to suit the taste preferences of you and your family, use fresher ingredients, include more grains and increase nutrition, and significantly reduce or even eliminate preservatives altogether. By making your own, you can be sure–if you so choose–that you’re avoiding high-fructose corn syrup, GMOs, and using only the best organic ingredients.
Baking your own breads definitely saves money. I’m not going to go and do the math, but I know that when you consider that a half decent loaf of bread at the grocery store is currently running $5 a loaf (and that’s not organic or gmo-free for sure!), and if you’re going through at least 2-3 loaves a week like we do–you’re bound to save money by doing it yourself. Then when you figure in some of the other breads and baked goods you use in a week–such as bagels, english muffins, burger or hot dog rolls, tortilla shells, cookies and crackers–that list and expense really begins to add up.
The breads you find at the mainstream grocery store have been made on an industrial scale and engineered not to grow old while they are shipped and then sit there on shelves waiting to be taken home. It stands to reason that bread you bake at home is going to be fresher. But you can also include fresher ingredients like your own fresh eggs if you raise chickens, or farm-fresh eggs from your neighbor or the local farmers’ market if you don’t raise your own chickens. You also have the opportunity to use locally produced grains, raw milk, lard or butter rather than oil–the possibilities are endless and open to your creative experimentation.
Here are 2 of our favorite bread recipes:
Amish White Bread
2c. warm water
- 2/3c. sugar
- 1-1/2 tbsp. yeast
- 1-1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/4 vegetable oil (extra virgin olive oil is my go-to vegetable oil)
- 1 egg
- 1/4c. powdered milk
- 6c. all-purpose flour
In a large mixing bowl dissolve the sugar in the warm water and stir in the yeast. Allow to sit until creamy and foamy. While you’re waiting, take a separate bowl and put your oil, egg, and powdered milk into it–whisk together til well combined. Set that aside and measure and sift your flour and salt. Next–when you’re yeast is ready, add the egg and oil mixture, whisk together to combine. Now use a wooden spoon to gradually stir in your flour and salt. When the dough begins to pull together, turn it out onto a well floured surface. Knead for about 7-8 minutes, or until the dough becomes smooth and elastic. At this point place the dough into an oiled mixing bowl, cover with a cloth or towel and allow to rise until doubled in size. Punch down the dough and turn it out to knead again to work out any air bubbles before cutting into loaves or forming into rolls.
Note: The original recipe calls for this to make 2 loaves, but I’ve found that those loaves come out very large. When cut into slices they do not fit well in a toaster, and since the boys like to have toast for breakfast, I’ve gotten in the habit of cutting the dough into 3 and making slightly smaller loaves–which, if you ask me–are still plenty large.
I bake my breads at 450-degrees for the first 5 minutes, and then reduce the temperature to 350. The bread is done if it sounds hollow when you tap on the top of the loaf.
Honey-Wheat Oatmeal Bread
- 1c. quick or rolled oats (the quick oats give the bread a smoother texture, while the rolled oats at more substance).
- 2c. boiling water
- 1/4c. butter
- 1 egg
- 1/4c. powdered milk
- 1/2c. honey
- 1/2c. warm water
- 1-1/2 tsp. yeast
- 2 tbsp. sugar
- 1 tsp. salt
- 3c. white flour
- 3c. wheat flour
This is my go-to bread recipe, my sister raves about this bread and always asks for it for her birthday and holidays. It is nutritious and flavorful, and delicious.
In a large mixing bowl place your oats, and cover with the 2 cups boiling water. If you choose to use the rolled oats you will want to let them sit for 30 minutes before proceeding. When the oats are “cooked”, proof your yeast (in a separate, smaller bowl, put the warm water, sugar, and yeast–leave it to sit until frothy. While you’re waiting add the butter, powdered milk, egg and honey to the oatmeal. In another mixing bowl sift together your salt, white and wheat flours. When the yeast is ready, use a whisk to add it to the oatmeal combination. Then use a wooden spoon to gradually stir in the flour until the dough pulls together. Then–much as described above–turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead 7-8 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic. Place the dough into an oiled mixing bowl and place in a warm, draft-free spot to rise until doubled in size. Punch the dough down and turn out to knead and eliminate air bubbles from the dough. Cut into 2 or 3, depending on how large you prefer your loaves, and form into loaves, place in bread pans or try your hand at artisan bread!
There’s not a single perfect method to baking great bread. What works for one person may not work for another. I confess that I still consider myself a novice bread-maker, though I have had some luck–there is still much to learn about bread-making that, given the chance, I would love to discover. The beauty of bread-making though, is that there is a depth of knowledge and history to the art that we can draw from, since bread-making is an ancient art-form that has sustained mankind for thousands and thousands of years. Feel free to try new recipes, methods, and learn as you go along–you will find your family willing participants in your experiments!
What about you? Do you bake? What is your favorite thing to make for your family?