Sunday, March 13, 2011

Knead That Bread

So, in this tight economy, what do with all that time on your hands now that you've canceled your TV service and stopped going out to eat. Well, you get a hobby, of course! What's that you say? Painting fantasy figurines isn't your thing? And scrap-booking will break the bank? Never fear, dear reader, have I got the hobby for you!

Bread making! It's fantastic, I swear! Now I'm not talking about making bread with any fancy, smanshy bread-making machine. We're engineers (at heart, if not by degree). We don't need no stinking hunk of junk and soon-to-be-paper-weight slash cupboard-space-eater (Seriously, do you know anyone that uses their bread maker with any regularity after the first 3 months of use?). No, we have our own two hands, a few slices of time from our busy day, and, the most important ingredient - our brains!

I enjoy bread-making because it gets both the creative and scientific juices flowing. It's Chemistry (baking) with a side of Biology! It's *ahem* BIO-CHEMISTRY. And boy is it yummy!

Most of you can guess the Chemistry element in baking, but how often does it occur to you that the tender, fluffy innards of your buttery roll is due to the, well, farts of our beloved single cellular baking buddy Yeast.

Sometimes when I'm mixing up a batch of bread dough I can't help but smile as I think of those little yeasties (what I have fondly called them since my ethanol plant days) munching away on sugar molecules, fluffing up my gluten blob with their CO2 toots.

Why wouldn't that bring a smile to a wife's face? I mean, isn't that what our husbands/babies do: Eat, toot, and make our otherwise misshapen blob of a life light and purposeful? No? Well, mine do.

All philosophizin' aside. Making your own bread can be a real joy and bring a lot of out-to-eat class to your eat-at-home-table. Boring bean soup? Pair it with a loaf of fresh herb bread. Pot roast again? How about some earthly whole wheat honey bread to soak up the gravy? And Ham planned any time soon? You know there'll be left overs. So why not make a double batch of rolls and pair the leftovers with the sliced ham for melt-in-your-mouth simple sandwitches the next day. You just can't beat the flavor and impact of a from scratch yeast bread at supper time.

As far as bang for your buck goes, this is it. A bag of flour will make 4 - 6 loaves (depending upon the recipe) and a jar of yeast will match it as well. It takes very little to customize bread - no fancy or expensive ingredients to get different effects. Much of a yeast breads' variety is determined by the type of flour, how long it is allowed to rise, and what conditions it is exposed to during the rising and baking time. So basically, with a few ingredients, you can get all sorts of artisan goodness.

My favorite to make lately has been a simple country loaf. Big and round, it looks like the cliche bread you'd see on a wooden table in some medieval English village. Pull that piping hot baby out of the oven as your husband strolls in and he'll discretely make a bee line for the family calendar, frantically wracking his brain for the significance of the date. You'll just smile you're 50's Stepford wife smile as you cut him a slice and say, "It was nothing." Because it wasn't.

Making your own yeast bread, from scratch, without a bread maker is not as hard as your breadmaker owning neighbor would have you think. Indeed, if you mix things up, try out a different recipe every weekend, and take time to relax and enjoy each step, you'll find you've discovered a truly enjoyable, money saving, and life enhancing way to win your man's heart (again) while keeping everyone fed on a trim budget.

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