our daily bread

Recently we decided to try a wheat free diet in hopes that it would solve a multitude of low-grade health issues within our lives.  It was fine; a wee bit expensive, but fine.  Gluten free all purpose flour with added xanthan gum worked like magic in most of my tried and true recipes like cookies, tea biscuits, and pizza dough.  I liked how if pushed me further into making more of our food from scratch and kept us out of the processed foods we can tend to fall back on.

All that being said, neither of us noticed any great changes and I mourned that I would never eat homemade bread again.  There is just something so womanly and anciently delightful about making your own bread.  The smell must be embedded in our genes as I’ve yet to meet someone who doesn’t swoon at the scent of yeast and sweetness.  It makes me think of my Gramma’s hands, shiny with butter, kneading dough and tearing little bits off for me to eat.  Like hanging clothes to dry on the line or the heat of a woodstove, there is something so deliciously comforting about bread and all that it requires from you and generously gives back.

Now, I love and respect a good loaf of bread, but until recently I had been incapable of making one.  I can make a mean sweet dough for dinner rolls, but all of my attempts have resulted in dense, under-cooked bricks of blech.  A couple of weeks ago, I was able to get some pointers from a dear friend as I watched her make her own bread.  The next day I did as she had done and what do you know, I had made a decent, fully cooked loaf of bread!  Last night I tried another recipe and it turned out even nicer; still not perfect, but good.

Two of the most valuable things I learned was 1.) to use my beloved KitchenAid mixer {named Gretel} and leave it mixing for way longer than I would have thought and 2.) use a meat thermometer poked through the bottom when I am tempted to take it out to ensure the core temperature is at least 200 degrees.  If not put it back in.

I will persevere + perfect.

Bread changes with the seasons and temperatures; it reacts to humidity and even the slightest jar; it absorbs moods and tensions; and like the rings of a tree, tells a story.  Every loaf must contain the love of a good woman {or man} to be worth eating.

Basic Bread Recipe from Storey Country Wisdom Bulletin

2 cups milk

3 tbsp butter (divided)

2 tbsp sugar

1 tbsp salt

2 packages of dry yeast

1/2 cup lukewarm water

6-6 1/4 cups flour (I used white, but will be playing with spelt and others in the future)

1.) Heat milk.  Stir in 1 tbsp of butter plus sugar and salt.  Stir until dissolved.

2.) Stir yeast into warm water in main mixer bowl.  Let proof for 5 minutes.

3.) Add milk mixture to yeast mixture.  Beat in flour 1 cup at a time.

(here it says to turn out and knead by hand, but I just left the mixer going until it looked smooth and elastic)

4.) Place in a greased bowl and turn so its greased on on all sides.  Cover.  Let rise in a warm place until doubled.

5.) Punch down and knead once more breifly.

6.) Divide and shape into two loaves.  Place in two well-greased loaf pans.  Cover.  Let rise once more.

7.) Preheat oven to 400*F.

8.) When loaves have doubled in size, slash tops two or three places.  Melt remaining butter and brush half of it onto the loaves.

(I skipped the above step)

9.) Bake for 40 minutes (use the meat thermometer if you’re unsure/inexperienced).  When done brush with remaining butter

10.) remove from pans and let cool on a rack.

{Makes two large loaves}

go gently + be wonderful


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  1. Posted December 21, 2011 at 8:32 am by Amy G | Permalink

    It sounds wonderful. How many cups of flour do you need? I think today would be an excellent day for baking bread. Thanks for sharing :-)

    • Posted December 21, 2011 at 8:51 am by erin | Permalink

      Whoops! That is rather important…
      6 to 6 1/4 cups.
      Thanks for bringing that to my attention 😉

  2. Posted December 21, 2011 at 9:13 am by Stephanie K. | Permalink

    You said it…baking bread is a basic and primal human activity! I miss it too, but don’t bake it anymore because my son can’t eat it and that would be too cruel. Of course, the kneading + gluten is what creates bread…so subbing in gf flour just won’t do. Sigh. I’d KILL for a slice of my nanny’s homemade bread with butter! Maybe some night I’ll make it when he’s asleep…I think her recipe made 10 loaves!

  3. Posted December 21, 2011 at 10:36 am by Ana | Permalink

    When I first moved out on my own I lived with a girl who had a breadmaker. It was magical because you’d just pour in all the ingredients at night, and wake up in the morning to fresh bread. Certainly not as magical as putting all the hard work into it yourself, but we had fresh bread all the time and saved so much money.

    If you really want to understand the science behind breadmaking I definitely recommend Alton Brown – I do not bake or cook anything complicated without first referring to him. He teaches you all the tips and tricks for perfect, fluffy bread with crispy crust. Here’s his bread episode:

    Part 1

    Part 2

    • Posted December 21, 2011 at 11:18 am by erin | Permalink

      I am actually really interested in the science of good cooking and baking! Did he write a book years ago? I remember seeing it and have wanted it ever since.

  4. Posted December 21, 2011 at 10:53 am by Wendy Scott | Permalink

    I have always grown up with Homemade bread in our house. My Mom has it down to a science, I asked her what the recipe was one time and in typical Newfoundlander fashion she replied….”a little bit of this and a little bit of that” (not helpful)…..so i sat down one day and watched what she did and took notes….I wrote page(s) upon pages….I have made bread under her watchful eye twice, but never on my own….I need to master that art before my resources are no longer here….(I actually have her “bread tins” willed to me!!)

    • Posted December 21, 2011 at 11:17 am by erin | Permalink

      There is so much more to it than a recipe! I love that you get her bread tins :)

  5. Posted December 21, 2011 at 11:19 am by cindy baldwin | Permalink

    For many loaves, you can also gently knock on the top of it with your knuckles. It takes a little practice to hear the difference, but fully-cooked bread has a “hollow” sound when it’s tapped like that.

    Also, some bread recipes (generally denser/savory breads, like French breads) actually need to cool for a few minutes before they are sliced. The final stages of cooking actually happen AFTER they are removed from the oven, so if you cut into it as soon as it comes out it will be slightly doughy (especially in the middle of the loaf). Sometimes I can’t resist, though, so I just slice of the heel and savor that while I let the rest cook! :)

  6. Posted December 21, 2011 at 3:27 pm by Sara | Permalink

    What a great post! One of my goals for the New Year is to learn to bake homemade bread. I asked for good loaf pans and a bread baking book for Christmas. Thanks for sharing the tips your friend passed along and the recipe, too.

    • Posted December 21, 2011 at 5:50 pm by erin | Permalink

      good luck + merry Christmas

  7. Posted December 21, 2011 at 4:55 pm by Ana | Permalink

    Hm I tried to leave a comment through the facebook link but whenever I do that on your blog the internet seems to swallow up the comment! So trying again from my regular computer:

    Yes he has written several books actually – one on cooking (I’m just here for the food) and one on baking (I’m just here for more food). They both explain the science behind the recipes in a very detailed way. There’s also some other books he’s recently released that contain all the recipes from his shows (Good Eats: The early years, Good Eats: The middle years, and Good Eats: The later years). I have not seen these last three books but I’ve read the recipes have all the science stuff in them too. I’m partial to them just because I want to have *every* recipe he’s ever done.

    But maybe for you I think I would recommend his baking book to start (I’m just here for more food), just because the cooking one did not have a lot of things in it that I would actually make, but the baking one has a lot of the “basics” like chocolate chip cookies, pie, etc.

    I think his shows are actually better for understanding just because of all the fun visuals… but there’s always YouTube for that! :)

    • Posted December 21, 2011 at 5:51 pm by erin | Permalink

      I got two comments like like this so I will delete your other one.
      Thanks for the info Ana!

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