Making and Breaking Bread

Today’s Lesson: Take Time for Your Health

I feel like I must start all of these from scratch recipes out with the disclaimer that if I can do this anyone can.  I’m impatient and never want to follow all the steps for any project, I just want to skip to the end result.  Well all that changes when you start to make your own food.  You get caught up in the details, in a good way.  You learn how capable you are to do things you thought only factories and people who grew up in the 40’s know how to do.  You make the time to make the food that will feed your body and your family’s.  It wasn’t until I started to focus on cutting down on processed foods that I realized I deserved the time to make healthy food.  Being a full time student, working, having a husband, a dog/child and friends leaves me little extra time and one thing that’s usually forsaken in our busy lives is our health.  We don’t give making and cooking delicious healthy food the time and credit that it deserves.  But we must if we are going to refocus our priorities and make ourselves and or world healthier.  When you start to focus on what you’re putting in your body a ripple effect happens.  You start to focus on where your food comes from, you want it from healthy sources.  You realize that a healthy farm is one that practices organic farming, because the farmer, the animal and the land all affect one another; if we poison one of theses we poison everything.

When we start to take the time to look at where our food comes from and how it’s cultivated a new world opens right before our eyes.  We suddenly see choices we never knew existed, like supporting local farms, producers and businesses.  Humane animal practices become important, and the land from which all of this deliciousness sprung up becomes our temple, our mother, our goddess, god or at least a life-sustaining well of nutrients.  Either way when we pay attention to what we eat we learn that everything we put into our bodies should be healthy.  Currently our industrialized food system is anything but healthy, it isn’t good for us not to mention the world.  There is already a movement to bring back real food, food that is healthy for everyone including the land and animals.  So take the time to make some bread this weekend, and then break bread with your loved ones filling them and the world with health and love.   Start to pay attention to the choices you do have with food because there are so many good ones if we look a bit deeper.

Best Bread Ever!

I love this bread recipe because you only make as much as you need and then you can store the rest in your fridge during the week and make a fresh loaf whenever you like.  This bread is delicious it’s like a combination of French bread and Ciabatta.  I use if for bread, rolls, and even pizza dough.  I usually make the dough Sunday morning and then it’s ready to bake by dinnertime.  I got this recipe from Mother Earth magazine quite fitting I must say.  I know the recipe below looks lengthy but after doing this once you’ll be a bread making pro!

What you’ll need:

3 cups lukewarm water

1 1⁄2 tbsp granulated yeast (1 1⁄2 packets)

1 1⁄2 tbsp coarse kosher or sea salt

6 1⁄2 cups unsifted, unbleached, all-purpose white or wheat flour

Add the salt and the yeast to the water in a large mixing bowl, then add the flour a few cups at a time, making sure to level the measuring cup off with a knife.  Mix with a wooden spoon or fork.  If you need to use your hands to mix that works to just don’t kneed the dough.  Getting your hands wet helps keep the dough from sticking to your fingers.  You may need to add a little more water or a little more flour to get it to the right consistency, you want it to be doughy and a bit sticky.  This dough is kept moist, so you don’t want it to be dry.  Cover loosely like with a hand towel and let stand at room temperature for about 2 hours.  The dough will rise significantly so make sure you are using a pretty large bowl.  You can use the dough anytime after this period though working with colder dough is usually easier.  I recommend putting it in the fridge for at least an hour before using.  You can just cover the bowl with plastic wrap and store it in the fridge.

When you’re ready to make a loaf, spread some flour on a portable cutting board and some on your hands.  Take about a grapefruit size piece of the dough from the bowl.  I just get my hands in there and tear off a good hunk.  Now just gently form that into a circular shape using your hands and then press the dough out a bit at the edges.  Don’t be afraid to do this wrong, the first one is always a learning experience.  You want the dough to be round and it will be fairly thick.  Now let it sit for 30 min to rise.  Preheat your oven to 450 and place a baking stone or pan on the middle rack; you want this to get hot.  Place another pan or broiler tray on the bottom rack you, will add a cup of water to this when you put the bread in.

When you’re ready to bake the bread dust the top with a little flour and make some slits in the top with a knife, this helps the bread expand and it looks beautiful, you can do a whatever pattern you like.  Take the bread pan from the oven and place it on the stove, bring over the cutting board with the dough on it and slide it onto the pan.  (Note if you find your dough sticking to the cutting board making it hard to transfer from the board to the pan, try using either more flour under it or cornmeal).  Place the pan back in the oven and carefully add the cup of warm water to the pan below it, this creates steam.  Bake for about 30 min or until you can see the top and edges beginning to brown.  Take the bread out and move to a cooling rack or cutting board.   Now while the bread is still warm cut into it and enjoy the steamy, yummy goodness you’ve created and thank yourself for taking the time.

You can store the dough in the fridge and make a fresh loaf whenever you need. I find it keeps for about a week, or you can freeze the access just wrap in plastic wrap first.  To make rolls just get smaller amounts of dough and follow the same routine.  For Pizza dough it works better if you make smaller pizzas, these turn out a lot like flat bread.  Just follow the regular instructions and then before baking stretch the dough out with a rolling pin our your hands.  Put on a baking sheet or pizza pan, drizzle with olive oil and bake for about 7 minutes, then add your toppings and bake for about another 10.  Bon appitto!


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