Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The beauty of bread-making

I've always been impressed with my grandmother's stories about her mother, who always made her own bread for their family of nine. Her descriptions of the warm, delicious smell prompted me to give it a try.

Lately, baking our own bread has become a norm around here. Here is a simple, tried and true recipe I've been using for ages. It makes for a delicious bread with crispy crust, and doesn't require a bread machine. To be honest, right now I can't think why I'd need a bread machine anyway.

I've always assumed bread-making must be a lot of work. But in fact, if you are using good, active yeast, nothing could be easier. I freeze my yeast, then activate it with some warm water and a bit of sugar. I don't add the yeast to the dough until I see nice bubbling.

Bread-making doesn't take a lot of time, either. Sure, rising of the dough can take several hours - even up to half a day, if I knead and let rise twice - but in the meantime, I just go about my business. It's not like I need to pay constant attention to the bread. As for mixing and kneading - I doubt it takes over fifteen minutes, honestly. And there you go, my bread is ready to be popped into the oven!

Bread has become awfully expensive around here lately. Last time we had a store-bought loaf, I calculated that I could make half a dozen (!) loaves for the same price. And the taste of homemade vs. store-bought bread? It's surprising how my simple bread tastes so much better. Not to mention that it's more filling, so we don't need to eat much of it to feel satisfied.

The only drawback, perhaps, is that my bread doesn't remain fresh for a very long time, compared to store-bought. But of course, that's because I don't add any preservatives. My solution for now is to make just one loaf at a time, and frequently enjoy the wonderful aroma of freshly baked bread.


Natasha said...

Hi Anna,
this is Natasha (Lena's older sister, used to live in Israel in early 90s if you remember:). Lena sent me a link to your blog. I just want to wish you lots of happiness and joy in your marriage and upcoming motherhood. Your blog is very interesting to read, your writing is very eloquent and beautiful. I got married myself a little over a year ago, and I understand this concept of "domestic felicity" (without the religious aspects for me though). It really is wonderful.

~*Laura*~ said...

I always freeze all of my loaves except for one, and then I just bring one out to thaw when I notice the other is getting "low". I enjoy reading your blog, it's so neat to see Israel from a Jewish perspective.

Rose said...

fresh-baked bread is bliss. I have a buckwheat loaf in the oven as we speak! :)

One tip--if your kitchen is cold and you want your bread to rise, you can place the dough in the (off) oven, with the oven light on. The heat from the light is perfect for bread to rise.

Anonymous said...

Hi, we've been making all of our own bread for 22 years now. Stale bread can be made into alot of tasty dishes: bread pudding, stuffing dishes, croutons for salad etc. Keep on baking. Carolyn

Anonymous said...

Now, Anna--you can't tell us all that and not give us the recipe! :-D

Anonymous said...

I don't know how much freezer storage you have there, but bread freezes beautifully. When I was baking our bread (and now when I shop) I put all but one loaf in the freezer. This worked well for me, as my oven would hold four loaves of bread.

I miss breadbaking!

Mrs. Anna T said...


For a basic bread recipe, just follow the link at the beginning of the post.

Mrs. Anna T said...

Hi Natasha. :-) Of course I remember you. It's lovely to hear from you!

Mrs. B. said...

Possibly you don't want to have additives in your bread. But I've heard that adding a crushed vitamin C tablet can prolong the freshness. Usually this isn't so much an issue for us: there are six of us, so bread doesn't last very long around here, anyway.
Mrs. B

Beth M. said...

My mom has always made home-made bread. The only time I had store bought bread while growing up was when we were traveling. Every few weeks she has a big bread baking day, where she makes tons of bread, and puts it all in the freezer - labeled with the date and recipe name. It keeps quite well this way, and defrosts easily.

Lori said...

Panzanella salad is another tasty way to use up the leftovers, and french onion soup too. And both vegetarian, too!

HC said...

Hi Anna,

I followed the link to your one-loaf recipe, but you didn't add what temp the oven should be at! I'm a REAL newbie to baking bread, so I kind of need my hand-held!


Anonymous said...

I have a small-sized family and we frequently do not use up a loaf of my homemade, freshly ground wheat bread before it would go stale. I normally bake 2 loaves at a time. But then I may have a variety of other breads in the freezer (pumpernickel is one of our favorites). I even freeze half loaves, pre-sliced. This makes it very easy to easily remove a slice or two for toasting. I do recommend that you double bag them for the freezer though. Also, when thawing leave the bag open to prevent the moisture from making the loaf soggy.

And I love your new blog photo!
~Evelyn Mae

Mrs. Anna T said...


The reason why I didn't include the temperature is because I, myself, play A LOT with temperature when baking bread, and it also differs between my old and new oven. Try with lower temperatures and go up if you feel baking goes too slowly.

H and S said...

Olive oil added to the loaf helps it keep longer.

I use an old bread machine just for the rising stage, because my house is not heated.

For amazing bread (with more effort) get 'The Bread bible' by Rose Levy Berenbaum. You won't believe the results!

Anonymous said...

I bake all of our bread products. When I bake loaves of bread, I make two at a time. I let them cool and then I slice them and make sandwiches for my husband to take to work and freeze them all. The night before I will take one out and it will be as fresh as the day I baked it for my husband to enjoy at work. I think I am going to start freezing plain slices of bread as well to go with dinner meals like soup. I used to leave the loaves in a bag at room temperature but have found that freezing them makes it stay oh so much fresher and nice. I hope to one day have a large freezer, but for now use the freezer compartment above the fridge. Also, using honey instead of sugar helps prolong the freshness of home baked bread naturally. I enjoy your blog.

Tracey McBride said...

Anna, your writing is so gentle and inspiring...you make the ordinary seem extraordinary...it is always such a pleasure to read. I especially enjoyed this post about bread making--the comments are also so helpful! Thank you.
P.S. I enjoyed browsing your photos on flickr---especially loved the kitty pics!!

Anonymous said...

Ah yes, homemade bread. I always used to think it was too time-consuming and too difficult for me to make. However, once I tried it for the first time, about 5 years ago, I cant stop! My recipe for white bread makes 3 loaves at once. For our family, it last about 2 days, so no worry of it going bad! My wheat bread recipe only makes 2 loaves! There is nothing like the aroma of homemade bread baking! The aroma calls out to my family and I will find them waiting in the kitchen for me, asking "how much longer?"!

Linda said...

You wouldn't believe it, but up here there are certain types of bread that are actually cheaper store-bought. I don't get how they manage to sell those and make a profit either.. :S

I absolutely LOVE homemade bread.. and The only thing I can think of using the breadmachine for is kneading. It saves you the effort, and your kitchen will be cleaner than when you knead by hand ;)

I never bake in the breadmachine though.. somehow it just doesn't taste right..

Greetings from the netherlands!

p.s. If you want a natural 'preservative' for your bread, just add a little more fat that normal (oil or butter, all the same) and it'll stay good for another 2 days or so.

Ewokgirl said...

I really enjoy the bread-making process. My favorite recipe is for white bread, and it makes 4 loaves at a time. I usually replace half the all-purpose flour with whole wheat, which works just fine. I freeze or give away the extra loaves. My friends go nuts whenever they're the recipient of a loaf of my bread. :-)

Homemade bread, once a bit stale, makes the BEST French toast!

To the commenter who wasn't sure about the baking temperature, I'd say that setting the oven at 350 (Fahrenheit) is a good place to start.