Bread therapy

My first loaves (above), it doesn’t look that appealing, but was fantastic.
The gluteny inside
The second two loaves (that’s flaxseed meal in place of
cornmeal — it got toasted), one went to Grandma’s house
Sun-dried tomato bread for Mr. Q
I can make my own bread. It’s quite the shock for us all. And I love it. There is something magical about holding my own bread in my hands. It’s heavy and takes up space and I did it. The best part is handling the raw dough and forming it into something.
I bought Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day after the guest blog post about making bread at home. It sat on the shelf for months.

It’s so easy to make bread. Who knew? I even impressed my own grandmother. I brought her a loaf and she was dumbstruck. “You made this?” I felt so proud when she told me she loved it.

I didn’t realize when I bought the book that it recommends that you have paraphernalia including a “pizza peel” and a “baking stone.” The authors say it’s ok to bake the bread on a flat cookie sheet. You can see in the pictures above, I have one small cookie sheet with big edges (I have a small oven). It looked like I was doomed to fail right from the start.

The authors also recommended an over thermometer to make sure that your oven is cooking at the temperature it says it is. Well, I don’t have one of those either. I just figured that if I was going to fail at making bread, at least I could blame it on the lack of proper equipment!

So I followed their recipe until I saw they required cornmeal for the bottom of the bread. I know that at some point I had cornmeal, but it was nowhere to be found. I did have flaxseed meal though so I thought that could work instead.

I guess you could say their standard bread recipe is idiot-proof because I MADE BREAD. It was a watershed moment. I wish I could say that I will never buy another store-bought loaf, but with school back in session and the blog project very much underway, there’s a very good possibility that my new-found bread-making skills will go under cover through the end of the year.

Truthfully the only hard part of making this bread is it takes a little time: you have to have time to let it rise for two hours. This particular recipe doesn’t even require kneading. And don’t forget to put a cup of water in a dish under the baking bread (because it creates steam that helps bake the bread).

My bread only has five ingredients (water, yeast, flour, salt, cornmeal) compared to the store-bought loaf (I realize that some of the ingredients enrich the loaf with vitamins):

Here’s the exact recipe I used (I found it online) from the book, but I own the book (see below picture). In fact, here’s a look at just one shelf of the cookbooks I own. I must own about 30 cookbooks (I buy them both new and used, but also receive many as presents as it is an easy gift for me). It’s an indulgence to have this many. I love to cook, but lack the skills to “wing” anything or “tweak” something…so I need recipes, right? But I had never baked bread until this summer…
I have made the original/basic bread recipe a few times, but I also made the sun-dried tomato bread (pictured), olive oil bread, and jalapeno bread. I should do a cost calc on the bread, but it is very, very cheap. I still have tons of flour, yeast and salt left.
I’d also like to say that I’m only an ok cook, but that baking has always been a strong suit of mine. I prefer baking a casserole-type dish than to frying something on the stove. Baking bread is a perfect next step for someone who is a competent baker. If I can do it, so can you!
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42 thoughts on “Bread therapy

  1. My son began to learn measurement at school last year and we went to the storage area and pulled out the old bread machine. He could easily follow a recipe to make bread for us. (Well, once we dealt with the results that mixing up t. and T. cause when you're measuring salt!) I prefer to put it in a pan to cook in the oven or he'd be able to do it completely alone now. But he's gotten into adding herbs from the yard to the loaves and inventing his own "pizza bread". The reward is hot wonderful bread for everyone- and better math skills too!

  2. When I was little and my parents were out for the night, I always used to try to con the babysitter into letting me make Turtle Bread:

    The recipe is similar to that one at the link above, except we used copious amounts of green food coloring! Now that I'm older and doing a lot of babysitting of my own, I've found that making bread with my charges is a great way to let them burn some energy (kneading is hard work for a 6 year old) and win points with the parents. I mean, seriously. Who doesn't like coming home and finding that your babysitter has taught your child a valuable life skill that will enable them to feed themselves? I submit that the answer is "no one."

    A quick search has produced the cookbook that my brother and I loved when we were kids (the same one with the turtle bread): .

  3. Kudos! Way To Go Mrs. Q! How does your son like it? I need to get on the bread baking train. God, blogging really gets in the way of all my cooking time! LOL!

  4. I have a school-lunch related story about no-knead bread! For six weeks every winter for the past several years, several of us volunteer moms have made soup and a bun for sale at the school at lunchtime.

    Since I love to make bread, I really enjoyed the opportunity to throw together 4 batches of the same recipe you wrote about, Mrs Q. My preferred proportion is about 40% wholewheat : 60% plain flour. Doing it over and over again allows you to improve your technique very subtly, so I got a great personal benefit that didn't go to my own waistline! The recipe adapts itself very easily to buns – after the first rising, form into buns and leave them to rise about 45 minutes. Bake at about 420 degrees for about 20 minutes.

    We let the children tell us what kind of soup was their favourite, and chicken noodle won out hands down every week. So we would make a giant pot of soup (totally from scratch of course), and amazingly enough, we were able to operate the program at a small profit – even at only $1 a generous portion. We also encouraged the children to bring a container and spoon from home, so we didn't have a lot of cleaning up to deal with.

    I am firmly convinced that great food doesn't have to be pricey. Imagination and the energy to put it together are what makes it work. But somehow that energy is infectious and it has never been difficult to find volunteers to participate in this project. Every school should do things like this!

  5. Good for you! I have my own baking business that grew out of making homemade bread for my family, and I find it extremely therapeutic! Enjoy your new skill!

  6. Cool! I think I'm inspired to try making bread again. Their recipe is the only homemade bread I ever got good results with. I couldn't make a good whole wheat loaf though, so if you figure that out, please let us know.

  7. I love my bread machine. LOL It's great for making pizza dough and rolls. If you can get a "baking stone" I HIGHLY recommend it for your breads. It makes it so much better.

    Congratulations on trying something new! Enjoy!

    1. I too have made bread ‘forever.’ While I really enjoyed the kneading and waiting, arthritis has made me turn to the bread machine! I transitioned about 10 years ago. My original died out over a year ago, but my daughter bought me the Breadman TR2700 for Christmas last year.

      What a hit! I can make gluten-free, sour dough, and pizza dough in speedy time. Often I’ll just let it do the kneading, then shape myself and put in oven.

      As Mrs. Q noted, there are few ingredients needed and I’ve never thrown out homemade bread. In fact, what isn’t eaten in day 1 becomes bread crumbs in the freezer. Parmesan? Cheddar? Herbed? I’ve got them all. 😉

  8. I even have a breadmaker and hardly ever make bread. It is so easy – I need to do it more often.

  9. Mrs. Q, your bread looks yummy!!

    Instead of a pizza stone, you can use unglazed ceramic quarry tiles (floor tiles), the institutional red ones that are about 6×6 or 8×8. If you place them on the oven rack, heat them up to the temperature directed in the recipe for about an hour. The tiles absorb some of the moisture creating a crispier crust. They can also be used for home made pizza.

    If you sprinkle the corn meal (or seminola) on the pizza peel (or a flat cookie sheet without edges) the bread or pizza will slide right off of the peel onto the stone.

    When the kids were younger, every Wednesday was pizza night. I think we need to do this again.

  10. I've been making my own bread for a few months now. It's very satisfying, every step in the process. I do bread the long way, not the Artisan, but my Mom makes the Artisan bread every now and then.

    It's all fun and you can't beat the taste. Grocery store bread tastes so fake and "fluffy" after real bread.

  11. Isn't making bread fun? Mark Bittman's method in the How to Cook everything books is pretty easy too, and he has a good black bread recipe. I'm glad to see you didn't use a bread machine either, so many people are scared off of making their own bread because they're convinced they need the gadgets first.

    Soon you too will have 5 types of flour in your house :\

  12. Congrats! We have recently been making our own bread as well, Even grounding up the whole wheat ourselves. It is so yummy, and inexpensive. I freeze a lot of food for easy access without all the processed junk and the bread is one that freezes very well.

  13. Hey Q…I know this isn't the point of the blog, but I love the post on baking your own bread and how cheap it is. What would you suggest for someone who's baking extent is a reheatable dinner from Trader Joe's? And eating a bear claw for his morning pastry?

  14. Oh, yum, they look fantastic! I recommend adding some grated zucchini to your sundried tomato bread… the higher moisture means it's a little slower to bake, but you end up with a dense and chewy loaf that's unbeatable.
    I love making bread – kneading dough is not only a great workout for my arms, but it's a great way to get out any frustration! I hope that you keep it up when you find some spare time. Nothing beats the comfort of warm, homemade bread… 🙂

  15. I have always made bread, and I suppose I saw that it was easy because my mom made most of our bread as I was growing up.

    This is my absolute favorite bread recipe:

    I know that during the school year it is hard to fit things in like baking bread, because of the rising time, but I hope in the summer you'll have time to expand your bread-baking experiences! There is nothing as yummy as home-baked bread.

  16. I just bought this book for my boyfriend and I to try. I want to get a dutch oven and try some over the campfire this fall too! I'm a recipe follower just like you and I've subscribed to relish relish because I get new recipes each week which generally are good. I only own two other cookbooks, so that site has been a help to me in cooking each week.

  17. Yum! I really want to try that too.

    I also have a pasta maker attachment for my kitchen aid mixer that I have never opened. Seemed fun to add to the wedding registry many years ago, but always thought I'd screw that up.

    I think I'm going to add "bake bread from scratch" and "make homemade pasta" to my to-do list in the next few weeks.

  18. Wow, that's awesome… I'm completely jealous of / inspired by your bread. I may have to give this a running start, although I'm not sure if I own enough kitchen utensils to pull off preparing something like this. Maybe I do… I've got my one cookie sheet, and a fork. And my hands. I think that would be all I'd need…

  19. Hooray! Good job! It feels good to make bread doesn't it? I make all our bread by necessity. (Food sensitivies in the kids means I need to have complete control over the ingredients.) My girls love to stick their fingers in the soft dough and even chew on a piece now and then. And I love that I can make it as healthful as I want. I think their all time favorite is sourdough. Keep it up, you can be as fancy or simple as you want!

  20. I got started baking bread (without the bread machine) after getting Alton Brown's "I'm Just Here for More Food". My early success with that got me to move on to sourdough. After some early struggles with the starter, I now have a pretty viable starter living in my fridge which I use to make bread every other week or so, as well as wonderful sourdough waffles. Ms Q, if you're ever in the Washington DC area, I'd be happy to share some (either the bread or the starter).

  21. Congratulations! I love baking bread, but usually don't have time to do it (except sometimes on weekends) because of the whole rise-time thing.

    My current favorite loaf is a medieval recipe- just flour, water, yeast, and salt, but I use about 1/3 spelt (because I love spelt, it's so much yummier than wheat), and no special equipment needed.

    And don't worry about the lack of vitamins. Most of the vitamins used to enrich flour aren't actually usable by the body. Whole grain flours lose their nutrients within days of grinding, so I wouldn't worry too much about that either, except for the fiber/slower digestion/flavor.

  22. Baking bread is time consuming, but fun! I find it to be good stress relief. I've never had luck with the no-knead breads before. Not sure what I'm doing wrong, but the loaves never rise. The dough just flattens out while it's supposed to be rising. It ends up looking like a ciabatta, which is tasty but not always what I was going for.

    I gave up and just make regular bread recipes using my KitchenAid mixer to knead it. That seems to work just fine. I also just expanded my horizons by starting up a sourdough starter. Now I can grow my own yeast for my own bread! THAT'S homemade!

    I don't have a pizza stone either. It helps to make the bottom crust crispy, but you still get decent bread without it. I have a pizza stone on my Xmas wish list.

  23. Mrs. Q said, "I can make my own bread. It's quite the shock for us all."

    Mrs. Q, YOU are funny! Didn't you know that the uglier the loaf, the better it tastes. You've inspired me with this post. I haven't tried making bread in years but aim to try again as soon as I get over this cruddy flu (been sick almost 2 wks., grab your family and get your flu shots RIGHT AWAY). Let's just say that at least you're able to slice the bread you make. Thanks for sharing your inner domestic goddess with us!

  24. How scrumptious! I'm here by way of Viki (Fiber Labyrinth) and I have to say I'm intrigued by your experimental adventure. Also read a bit about your respiratory weaknesses and the next time you feel something coming on, try this (it cannot hurt, and it works for me): right before bedtime, slather on some Vick's VapoRub on your feet. Yep, you read that right. For sure on your soles and between the toes, on the top if you want. Then put on some thick cotton socks that will absorb and contain the slather. This is an old wives tale that my grandmother and my dad have sworn by. It contains thymol, and it performs like oil of oregano. If you have any fungal stuff going on, it helps there too. But it really helps with the respiratory health. Thought I'd pass that on. Thanks for a great blog read. xoxo

  25. Breadmaking is very rewarding . . . I could tell you stories that would really make you laugh!!! I have used cornmeal on a baking stone for homemade pizza dough. As someone previously commented, kids LOVE to help with baking bread. I remember my niece and nephew staying for a weekend and we were going to make bread. The anticipation built with every step . . . mixing and kneading, letting it rise, punching it down, dividing it, letting it rise *again!* (much to their consternation at the time!), and finally baking . . . they loved the smell and were so proud that they made bread . . . the second loaf had to go home with them to Mom to show her what they did! I have an Irish soda bread recipe — three ingredients . . . flour, buttermilk, baking soda (the buttermilk and baking soda act/react as a yeast agent). Very easy to make, and very moist (because of the buttermilk) and a firm–but not too hard–crust. Let me know if you would like the recipe.

  26. Thanks for all the great comments!! I can't wait to bake bread again and I'm so happy that you were inspired too!

  27. Me, too Mrs. Q! Me too!

    I made bread for the first time EVER last winter one cold, rainy day when I had nothing better to do, and while my first loaf was wonky as could be, it was DELICIOUS and remains one of the crowning achievements in my life thus far. It was just a plain old loaf of white bread made with white flour and I had NO IDEA how to knead properly, but it smelled like bread, it looked like bread, and by golly! It was bread!

    I have since baked five or six more loaves (including focaccia which was so easy I kind of felt ripped off), and have since re-made the white bread recipe–it was spectacular this time around. A bakery couldn't have done better! It's a great feeling when people walk through your front door, sniff the air, and make excited squealy noises because they realize there's fresh bread for dinner. 🙂

    You should try making Irish Soda Bread (google will yeild a billion recipes). You just slop it together, toss it in the oven, and dig in when the timer goes off. So easy, and sooo good!

    There are also recipes out there for bread you can make the night before and don't even have to be kneaded. I haven't tried them yet, but apparently they're so easy that even people with time constraints don't have much of an excuse.

  28. Mrs. Q, your post on baking bread made me so hungry! I bought "Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day" and am looking forward to enjoying some nice, crusty homemade bread with dinner tonight. Yum!

    — Susanne

  29. I just got a bread machine for my birthday. I like the idea of making bread myself from scratch, but my oven hasn't worked in a year and I am not sure when it will be fixed. And while I love home-made bread, what really drove me to ask for the bread machine was my failed quest to find a decent, commercially available whole grain bread that did not include sugar in the first 4 ingredients. When did sugar become a major ingredient in bread? I finally threw in the towel and decided to make it myself, albeit with a bread machine. The first two loaves of simple white bread were fantastic. I am moving on to the 100% whole wheat this weekend. 🙂

  30. Correction: The only hard part about making bread is having a working oven. Which I have not had in oh, roughly ten months, and it is beginning to WEAR ON ME.

    Okay, done griping, your bread looks awesome and has me longing for my OVEN.

    Ooops. Guess I wasn't done griping. Sowwy.

  31. Does your bread recipe have the nutritional breakdown? I've been wanting to try one of these fabulous no-knead recipes but need the nutritional info if it's something I'm going to eat regularly.

  32. I don't know if there is a nutritional breakdown. It might be online. It is not included in the book! Thanks for all your comments! 🙂

  33. I have quietly read your blog for several months now and I join my voice in praising you for bringing attention to the problem of school lunches.

    I had been baking my own bread for a long time but a family illness took priority for a while. Now I am back to baking and the main motivation for the switch back is that for 2 hours on a sunday afternoon and about $2 in ingredients I can have bread for the whole week. While store bought bread is less filling, less nutritious, and ranges from $1.50 on sale to almost $3 a loaf.

    If you happen to be able to obtain wheat berries at bulk price through a co-op, I would advise investing in a grain mill. The nutritional value of fresh milled flour versus store bought is amazing. The cost per loaf drops to under a dollar and pays for the mill in a very short time, and a good mill will grind enough for 3 or 4 loaves in under 5 minutes.

    Anyway, happy baking.

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