(NaturalNews) Home made bread saves money both at its production and in the long run. Using fresh ingredients will cost less than a store-bought loaf. The bread which results will be nutritious and tasty, with endless variety. Many people fear that making bread is a long and complicated process. Instead you will find it leisurely and relaxing, requiring attention for short periods of time throughout the process. Adding bread baking to your routine will reap health and economic benefits for years to come.
All of us are budget conscious these days. Food prices remain high because the prices were negotiated last summer and fall, when gas prices went through the roof. Like everything else, the cost of bread is rising like the yeast-laden dough from which it is made. News reports estimate, the cost of bread is up 10.7 per cent in the last 12 months. Unless you cave in and buy empty-calorie white bread (we used to call it Balloon Bread), you find yourself paying over $2.00 a loaf. The price can be twice as much, if you want something fancier and more exciting.
Homemade bread is much cheaper, once you invest in the ingredients, a couple of pans and baking sheets. Even using organic whole grain flour, bread will cost about $1.67 a loaf, and it tastes like a million bucks. Buy in bulk, and the cost per loaf decreases dramatically (as low as $1.09). Your nutritious home made bread, then, will rival the cost of white balloon bread - and you and your family will be happier and healthier in the long run.
Beyond the dollar cost, look at the list of ingredients on the bread label. Does bread really need more ingredients than flour, water, and yeast? Perhaps a bit of sweetener and some fat to support the structure of the dough might be called for. Yet the list of ingredients on the label goes on and on. What might that list of unnecessary ingredients cost in terms of deteriorating health?
The highly processed sweetener, High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) is ubiquitous. It seems to be in every loaf you pick up. Recently, it was revealed that almost half of the HFCS produced is contaminated with mercury, leading to concerns over birth defects and neurological damage. Far from being a natural product, several chemicals are required to make HFCS including caustic soda, hydrochloric acid, alha-amylase, gluco-amylase, isomerase, filter aids, powdered carbon, calcium chloride, and magnesium sulfate. Diabetes may be linked to consumption of HFCS. Fructose interferes with leptin, an important digestive-system hormone that tells your brain that you`re full and should stop eating.
Most bread has a long list of additives.
Citric acid and sodium benzoate are also often produced at manufacturing plants that use mercury as part of the manufacturing process.
According to www.foodsafety.gov, chemicals in monosoduim glutamate (MSG) were believed to be unsafe to the nervous system. MSG hides in such ingredients as glutamate, glutamic acid, gelatin, monosodium glutamate, calcium caseinate, textured protein, monopotassium glutamate, sodium caseinate, yeast nutrient, yeast extract, yeast food, autolyzed yeast, hydrolyzed protein (any protein that is hydrolyzed), hydrolyzed corn gluten, natrium glutamate (natrium is Latin/German for sodium).
And the list goes on....
What can a person do? Why not take control of your health by making your own bread? It costs much less and you know what ingredients are in it.
The practice of making bread has been around for six thousand years. Yet, many people feel intimidated at the prospect of making bread.
Baking bread does not have to be a fussy or time consuming business. You can fit bread making into your schedule, rather than becoming a slave to the task. It really only needs a few minutes of attention here and there. As you get more comfortable with the process, you will find that your bread choices are limited only by your imagination.
Always make more bread than you think you will use. Bread is a very sociable commodity. There is always someone to share a loaf of fresh baked bread.
Liquid ingredients which are slightly acidic support the growth of the yeast:
* Of course, plain water can be used. Add a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice per cup for the yeast. * Rejuvalac (water in which wheat or rye berries soaked for 2 days) gives the yeast an extra enzyme boost. * For extra protein, soured milk or whey makes a delightful loaf. Naturally soured milk works very well, but if you do not have any, a tablespoon of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar in the bowl will produce just what you need. * Use left over water from cooking beans. Soy beans, however have chemicals that inhibit yeast growth, so any other beans will be a better choice. * Adding fruit juice makes a moist, sweet loaf that needs no additional sweetener. Dilute half and half with plain water. * For `pizza bread,` use half water and half tomato juice or tomato paste.
The fats in the dough help to support the gluten. They seal in the little bubbles, so the loaf does not deflate as easily.
* Butter actually is best to provide support for the gluten. * A mild tasting vegetable oil, like sesame, grape seed, or coconut works nicely. * If you are making an herbed Italian loaf that will allow a stronger taste, try olive oil.
Be careful with oils that turn rancid easily, like safflower and sunflower. The heat required for cooking your loaf may be too much for them. Rancid oil gives the bread an off flavor that is none too pleasant.
Yeast requires a lot of energy for its growth. For that reason, some sort of sweetener is necessary. Yeast gets some of its energy from the natural sugars in the grain, so practice moderation, a little goes a long way. Use anywhere from a quarter to half a cup in this recipe.
* Blackstrap molasses provides both the yeast and the final consumer with the best nutritional profile. It is often used to grow the yeast commercially. Sometimes you will not find `blackstrap` in your grocery store, it may be labeled `robust` or `full flavored.` * Honey will act as a natural preservative. Your loaf will keep a day or two longer. Honey is also sweeter than molasses, so use less. * Stevia (use the green powder) sweetens without adding calories. The yeast seems to like it. The bread rises quite nicely with smaller amounts of other sweeteners. Stevia is more intensely sweet than anything else. Add a teaspoon at a time until you produce your preferred level of sweetness. * Agave nectar works well for bread as well. It gives a taste more like sugar than any of the others, so if you have people who do not like change, agave is a good choice to start. Once they get hooked on the variety of home made breads, you can branch out to other sweeteners. * It is not necessary or desirable to use white cane sugar for your bread. It provides no real nutritional value for you or for the yeast. * Never use artificial sweeteners in bread. They are fraught with dangers to your health. They will not support the growth of the yeast.
On the baking ingredients aisle you find pre-measured yeast in little yellow and red foil-lined packets. It is certainly convenient to use this product. At times, however, this is not as active as buying it loose and measuring it yourself. Buying it in bulk is more cost effective and decreases the amount of packaging required, resulting in less waste to dispose. The yeast stays active for a very long time, as long as it is kept out of extreme heat.
Many, many seeds can be used for bread. Enhance the texture and flavor of your loaves by mixing different flours. Feel free to experiment with different combinations of flours to find just the right loaf for any occasion. Vary the flours you use for each batch for an endless assortment of flavor and texture.
Of course, the best flours are made of whole, ground, organic seeds. Whole grains make a denser loaf than what you may currently be eating. You know you have really eaten something, when you finish a slice of whole grain bread.
If you must use white flour at first, mix it half and half with any other flour. Each batch you make, reduce the amount of white flour until your family`s palates are trained to eat `real bread.` Sometimes, it takes a while to work up to this.
* For the sake of the texture of your bread, wheat is far and above the best grain for the majority of the flour in your loaf. Gluten in wheat captures carbon dioxide bubbles produced by the yeast. These bubbles make the bread rise. Sixty to eighty per cent whole wheat flour in your mix gives the best results. * For a lighter loaf, add some gluten flour, especially if you are using less gluten rich flours. One tablespoon of gluten flour per cup of any other kind of flour is generally sufficient. * Rye is a traditionally used for dark, heavier loaves which remind many of `the Old Country` for those of European descent. It contains a fair amount of gluten, although not as much as wheat. So, you can use a greater percentage of it in your loaves than those below - up to forty percent of the flour can be rye. Rye bread dough tends to be a bit more sticky than wheat when you knead it. * Oats provide a moisturizing influence on your bread, making a nice soft loaf. They, too contain some gluten, although in rather small amounts. As much as a quarter of your flour can be oats. Oats absorb more moisture than other flours, so increase the liquid in your recipe or decrease the amount of your dry ingredients. * Rice flour also absorbs moisture, so keep this in mind when measuring. There is no gluten in rice, so use it for an eighth or less of your flour. It gives the bread a crispness that can be delightful, especially if you intend to eat it toasted. * Buckwheat is used (along with rye) in pumpernickel bread. It is darker and more dense than most other flours. Use a small amount. Buckwheat makes a nice `warming` loaf that is satisfying in the cold winter months. * Garbanzo beans can be ground easily in your blender to make flour. They give a slightly nutty flavor to the loaf. It is also a nice way to get a complimentary protein into the mix. * Soybeans are often touted for adding protein to bread. However, there is much controversy over the use of soybeans. This is not the place to address the controversy, so we will leave that for another time and place. Soybeans contain an enzyme which inhibits the growth of the yeast, so its use should be minimized. On a side note: much of the soybean crop is genetically modified, so it is mandatory that you use only organic soybeans. * Carob powder is often used in pumpernickel bread, too. It darkens the loaf and provides a mellowing influence.
Here, the real fun begins. You can add all sorts of flavor and nutrition to your bread. Amounts are for the recipe below, which makes three or four loaves. Adjust to the size of your batch.
* Salt controls the growth of the yeast. Too much or too little salt will not allow the yeast to grow properly. Half a tablespoon of salt is optimum for this size batch. * Half a tablespoon of ginger enhances the digestibility of the bread. * For traditional rye bread or pumpernickel, sprinkle in four tablespoons of caraway seeds. * A Swedish rye results from adding 2 tablespoons of anise seed, 2 tablespoons of fennel seed, and 2 tablespoons of grated orange peel. * An omega rich loaf can be made by adding 3 tablespoons of flax or chia seed. * That pizza bread will want Italian spices: a tablespoon of thyme, two tablespoons of oregano, and three tablespoons of basil. Do not add garlic or onion to the dough, because they will retard the growth of the yeast. More later on adding flavors that are less yeast friendly. * Throw in a half cup of raw sunflower seeds. * Put a cup of raisins or other dried fruit in for a sweet bread. * Add two to three tablespoons of rosemary. Better yet, roll your loaves in the rosemary after they are formed. * If you want a sweeter bread, add a teaspoon to a tablespoon of green stevia powder.
The Basic Process
The following procedure makes three or four loaves, depending on how much it rises and the size of your loaves.
Start with a quart of room temperature or slightly warmer liquid. Add one-fourth to one-half cup of oil and an equal amount of liquid sweetener. Measure them both in the same cup. The oil helps the sticky sweetener to slide out of the cup much more easily. Then run a rubber spatula around the inside of the cup quickly to get the rest of the oil and sweetener out.
Now that you have all the liquid ingredients assembled, it is time to introduce a tablespoon of active dry yeast to them. Recipe books from the past couple of generations ask you to soften the yeast in one half cup of warm water. That can still be done, if you desire. If you skip that step and add it directly to your liquid ingredients, the yeast gets a jump start on absorbing the nutrients that will allow it to be strong and healthy as it builds your loaf. It takes ten minutes or so for the yeast to come out of its dormant state and begin to grow again. Since it is in a medium that feeds it, you do not have to be strict about attending to the next step. It can be left for an hour or more without damage. You will come back to see lots of frothy bubbles.
Finally, it is time to add some flour a few cups at a time. Begin by adding four cups of flour to your yeast mixture. At this time, add your salt and ginger as well as whatever extras you will put in your loaf. Mix it in until it is smooth. It will still be a very wet batter.
The next four cups of flour do not have to be wheat. If you want rye bread, add that flour - all four cups if you want. Other flours with less gluten need to be used sparingly - no more than a total of two cups in this recipe.
Once these are mixed in, add the final two to four cups of flour, one at a time, mixing and observing the consistency of the dough. At this point, the dough should be firm and still a bit sticky, but not gooey.
This part of the process offers the ultimate in flexibility. Cover your bowl of dough with a damp towel and put it in a warm, draft free place: Near the range is often nice and warm, if you are cooking something else. Put it on top of the refrigerator, to take advantage of the warmer air near the ceiling. Some people place the dough inside an oven which has a pilot light, without turning on the oven.
Allow the mixture to sit for an hour or more before kneading. It can sit for several hours, even overnight, until you get some time to spend kneading it. In the past, women often mixed up the bread dough, and left it to rise and fall several times before baking it. A longer resting time can increase the digestibility of the bread and increase the availability of beta glucan, from the yeast. Beta glucan may improve the functioning of the immune system.
If it is left longer than eight hours, it starts to take on a delightful sour dough type flavor which gets stronger the longer it sits. It will also be less sweet, the longer it waits. One advantage to such a delay is the easier digestibility of the finished loaf.
During the down time, the gluten, bran, herbs, and seeds absorb the amount of liquid that they will need during the rest of the process. When it comes time to knead your bread, you know pretty closely the final texture of the bread and can adjust the moisture accordingly. The additional benefit is the fact that it takes less (actually about half as much) time kneading to achieve the right elasticity of the loaf.
Kneading is the most fun of the whole process -- except for the eating part, of course.
Place your ball of dough on a clean counter top. If the dough sticks to the surface, dust the counter lightly with flour, or rub a layer of butter on it. For dough that it too stiff to work, flatten the dough and sprinkle it with water. Then continue with the kneading process.
Place the heels of your hands in the middle of the ball. Push down and away from you. Hook your fingers over the far side of the mass of dough. Roll it all back toward you, again pushing toward the counter. Repeat the process, turning the dough a quarter turn every so often. After a bit, you develop a rhythm, pushing and pulling the mass, that comforts and satisfies some deep place in your soul.
Notice the change in the dough as you knead. It becomes smooth and stretchy in short order.
Return the dough to its bowl, or let it rest on the counter. Cover again with the damp towel. Let it rise until it doubles in size, perhaps another hour. Punch the dough down with your hand to redistribute the bubbles. This gives the yeast more time to work, and creates more bubbles.
On the other hand, you may proceed directly to forming your loaves.
It is time to form your loaves. When dividing the dough, cut off pieces with a sharp knife so you do not tear the gluten.
Grease the insides of the pan either with butter or with a light vegetable oil. The spray on kind works well and does not leave a big mess.
Loaf pans get filled halfway, so there is plenty of room for the bread to rise and form a nice rounded top.
Without a pan, you can make the ever-popular artisan loaf. These can be round or oblong. Many slice a series of gashes across the top. For an extra fancy presentation, try braiding your dough: Cut three of four sections of dough that fit in your hand; roll each into a long, thin shape, like a log; place them next to each other and weave them together.
On the other hand you can make individual serving sized breads like rolls or buns of various sorts. With a rolling pin in hand, you can make cinnamon rolls, pizza shells, pitas, or flat breads.
Once your bread is in the form in which you want it baked, you can add extra flavor by adding herbs, seeds, or grains to the outside of the loaf. Many times, the outer decoration adds more flavor to the loaf than they would if you mix them into the dough.
* Press into its crust those tasty morsels that do not get along with the yeast: onion, or garlic. * Mmmm! Time for some cinnamon rolls!!!! Roll out the dough to half an inch thickness. Spread with softened butter. Layer honey over the butter. Sprinkle a generous coating of cinnamon over the surface. Then start at one end and roll the yummy mixture inside a spiral of bread. Place the whole thing in a bread pan, or cut across the roll to make half to three quarter inch tall spirals. * Sesame seeds add a nice nutty flavor to the loaf when pressed into the bread. * Adding Italian herbs to the outside of your loaf gives you a ciabatta or foccacia-type bread. * You might want to decorate it with rolled oats and/or corn meal instead. * Try poppy seeds for the beauty of their tiny round shapes. * For a more tender crust, apply a little water to the top of your loaf. Be careful not to soak the loaf, only apply enough water to make the top look glossy. A pastry brush will be helpful in controlling the application of the water. * Brush on some beaten egg or egg white for a shiny top. * If you want a golden brown top. Spread a thin layer of melted butter on top of the loaf.
Let the formed loaves rise one more time--about half an hour, depending on your indoor weather conditions.
If you are in a hurry let them rise in the oven as it warms. Many sources warn against this action because with white bread, the yeast will grow too fast exhausting the gluten and your loaf will collapse by the time there is sufficient heat to kill the yeast. However, with the well fed yeast and additional support you loaves will rise nicely and bake up fluffy.
Bread that has already risen will take 35 to 40 minutes in a pre-heated 325 degree Fahrenheit oven depending on the size of your loaves. Rolls, of course will cook faster, more like 25 to 30 minutes. If you allow the loaves to rise as the oven is heating, allow 45 minutes to an hour for them to bake.
Test for done-ness by dumping the loaf out on the counter and thumping the bottom. An unfinished loaf will respond with a dull thud. Put it back in the oven immediately and cook for another five minutes, then test again. The fully baked loaf sounds hollow.
Let your loaves cool on the counter for ten minutes before cutting them.
To keep the crust moist, put them in their bag at this time. However, many people feel that packaging them before they are cooled makes the crust soggy. Try it both ways and decide for yourself which way you like best.
Enjoy pampering your family and friends with fresh baked home made bread. This method allows you to put it together on your time, rather than becoming a slave to the dough.
Maryann Marshall is a fourth generation herbalist. She taught "Herbs and Your Health" classes for 25 years. Currently she is developing these classes into an online course. See http://www.grainsofhope.com for more information. Eight years ago, her eldest son suffered a severe brain injury in an auto accident. His journey to wellness continues today. The family struggles through the government and medical labyrinth to assist his healing through prayer, nutrition, herbs, and other natural methods. Maryann is currently writing a book about the accident and its aftermath. You can read it in progress at: http://MiracleBoyArif.blogspot.com/ . Her websites can be found at: http://www.agglom.com/agglom/36788/Maryann_M.... Also check http://www.mymoxxor.com/grainsofhope for the most powerful concentrate of all-natural omega-3's and antioxidants on the planet and http://www.youngliving.com/grainsofhope for therapeutic grade essential oils.