Dear Starving Artists,
I am about to share a secret that will halve your grocery bill and allow you to ride out this recession with finesse and style. Get yourself a good, simple cookbook and learn the work the grocery store to your advantage. Prepared foods cost more per unit than basic ingredients and are definitely less healthy. Cook from scratch from bulk ingredients.
This may sound difficult if you don't cook at all, or if you hate to cook but it will definitely protect your health to cook your meals from the best ingredients you can afford. For example: bread is a healthy staple and a lot easier to make yourself than you might think.
If you turn on your oven to bake, it does cost something, but your house gets warmer, and delightfully fragrant in the bargain. Not only that, but your bread will be so much more delicious and you have control over the ingredients.
So many of the brands of bread contain corn syrup which in NOT GREEN (google KING CORN, the documentary) or healthful. I put ground flax seed meal and all kinds of healthy stuff in my bread, and minimize the fats and sugars. I buy my flour from the bulk bins at WINCO (a very affordable grocery store) and when I am rich, I buy organic flour. We do the best we can with the dollars we have, right? (Please don't scold me; buy something from my Etsy Store and I will buy organic flour in your honor!)
So, I'm going to share my easy and excellent bread recipe here. It makes four beautiful loaves, and as you improve as a baker you can vary the ingredients. From time to time I will share more recipes, especially Hispanic ones that my family has passed down for ages.
FOUR LOAVES OF GOOD BREAD
5 cups flour
3 Tablespoons yeast
1/3 cup sweetener (honey, brown sugar, or molasses) or less to taste (must have 1 tablespoon)
5 cups warm water
Mix above ingredients quite well: no lumps or clumps. Allow to rise about 1 hour, or until the sponge is bubbly and doubled.
Later add: 1/3 cup oil
1/4 cup flax seed meal
2 Tablespoons good salt
enough flour to make dough (about 4-5 cups, so that you can knead and it's not sticky)
- After the sponge has risen for about 45 minutes to an hour, add the oil, salt and continue to stir in flour until you can no longer stir with a heavy wooden spoon.
- Dump the dough out onto a floured board and knead the dough. You do this by pushing and stretching the dough with the heels of your hands and then folding and turning the dough, each time pressing the dough forward with you hands and refolding until the dough becomes smooth and elastic. How do you know the dough is ready to shape into loaves? When you pinch it, the dough will feel like your earlobe! Add flour as you need to to keep the dough from sticking.
- Divide the dough into 4 equal parts and cover with towel as you shape each loaf and set it into a greased bread pan. The best size for this recipe is about 6 by 9 inch pan. You can grease with butter, PAM spray or shortening. Oil doesn't work well.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Allow loaves to rise under a light towel until they're curved about 1/2 inch above the top of the bread pan. Be sure it's a warm place, but do not place loaves too near heat as they will rise too fast and the yeast will die. If the place is too cold, the yeast will sleep and rise sluggishly.
- Before you place loaves in oven, you might choose to brush with egg and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
- Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes in center of oven. The bread crust will look browned and the bread will sound hollow when tapped if done.
- Remove from pan and cool at least 15 minutes. (Use willpower; it wrecks the loaf to cut it too soon!) If you must leave the bread out for awhile, cover the loaves with towels to keep them from losing too much moisture.
- To store unused loaves wrap and place in freezer. Bread defrosts fast!