I have shared my desire to become more self-sustaining. Most times when I want to do something I tend to jump in head first. This time around I haven’t done that, for more than one reason. For one thing, it is a huge under taking that can feel insurmountable so you have to tackle it in smaller portions. Or as Stepdad likes to say “You can only eat an elephant one bite at a time”. With that in mind I took on the challenge of learning to bake our own bread.
I went nuts before Thanksgiving, making the dinner rolls, pita bread that I know Mom and Stepdad love to eat with hummus, whole wheat and honey-oatmeal wheat breads for wrapping around leftovers for lunches and even a whole wheat baguette for the base to blue cheese, caramelized sweet onions and fresh thyme, Delish!
I will admit, I cheat, I have a bread machine, have had it since they were all the rage some dozen or more years ago. This beast has spent the last decade sitting at the back of a cupboard never so much as getting dusted. Just when I recently got bit by the homesteading “bug” did it finally get puller out, washed off and plugged back in. Now it lives sitting out in plain view, getting used at least once a week as I now bake all our breads fresh. In the beginning I was content with the large square loaves with the funny hole in the bottom from the mixing paddle since, for the life of me, I couldn’t find my loaf pans. Just as I was about to break down and buy new pans I found them staring me in the face, literally at my eye level for the entirety of a year. As Mom would say “If it had been a snake I’d a been a goner.” Now that I located my beautiful blue pyrex loaf pan, I only use the bread machine to do the hard part, the mixing, kneading and first rise. This leaves me to punch it down, shape it, place in desired pan, let it rise and bake it. Easy Peasy!
This week I decided I wanted to try a few different loaves, so after making THE BEST Honey-Oatmeal Wheat to date (this is our staple bread) I set out and made a pumpkin-yogurt bread, apple spice loaf, potato (the Kiddo’s Fave!) and a jalapeno-cheddar loaf. Here is what I think of the original recipe as well as my thoughts on what would be great uses for each and how I plan to tweak the recipes, if I think they could use some tweaking.
Like I said before, this is the staple in our house. Midge is not a fan of whole wheat bread, I am not a fan of white bread. This is our compromise. It is half whole wheat and half white with a handful of rolled oats thrown in for good measure. I call it Honey-Oatmeal as the recipe it was derived from uses honey for the sugar, I use agave nectar. It’s what I had on hand the first time I made this bread and it works. Most times I have made this loaf it came out a little dense, of course most homemade bread is bound to be denser than store bought, mass market, breads, but it shouldn’t be multi-use as a door stop or paper weight. This last loaf came out most exquisite in texture, light and fluffy but not riddled with holes so big you filling falls through. Absolute perfection. We use this bread for all things bread, it is the utility loaf.
This is not sugar laden sweet bread. This is savory, yeast bread that baked up so light and fluffy it could actually rival the mass market breads in the light and fluffy category. Wonderful bread that I imagine wrapped around Thanksgiving leftovers for the best turkey, stuffing, and gravy and cranberry sauce sandwiches. Oh how I feel the urge to cook a Thanksgiving spread right now. Hmmm I do have roast chicken on the menu for tonight; I see a future for some of the leftover chicken. I digress. This bread could make a delightful variation of French toast. It would also be wonderful as sandwiches and toast. I have no plans to modify this recipe in any way. Perfect as is.
Apple Spice Loaf:
Ok, this one, to me, was a flop. I waited for the dough cycle to chime in when I should dump the chopped, dried apples in only to never hear a chime, seems the dough setting doesn’t call you for mix-ins like the other settings. Oops. So I figured I just roll them up in the dough before the second rise. I thought adding some more of the spice mix would also be a good idea at the time of rolling up. Both ideas failed. The bread is rather lacking in flavor. The dry spice mix is just that, dry and powdery. The apples, they fall out of the slices. That said, I am not throwing in the towel on this recipe. Next time I plan to get the apples stirred in before the first rise so they will actually stick in the bread. I think this bread would make a great French toast. Midge suggested it might be good paired with a brie cheese, I could totally see that.
I covet jalapeno cheese bread that comes from a little bakery in Bishop, Ca. It is some of the best bread. I don’t get to Bishop, ever, but have been treated to this delightful bread whenever my brother makes a pass by that area on his way to and from any of his backpacking adventures. Not often enough for this family and not a short drive by any means. So I decided to attempt to recreate their bread. I started with a basic white bread recipe. At shaping time I rolled it out, sprinkled on some shredded cheddar and thinly sliced jalapenos. I rolled it up, placed it on a cookie sheet, brushed it with an egg wash and topped it with a few more jalapeno slices and a little more shredded cheddar. The results? Heaven, pure heaven! Every bite of this delightful bread has just the right amount of jalapeno and cheese. Grilled cheese, fried egg sandwiches, warm with butter, meatloaf sandwiches, mmmm. I cannot complain about this bread though I do intend to try it again using a sourdough bread, just as soon as my starter is done fermenting!
I followed the directions and used the instant mashed potato flakes, um yuck. But in this bread they worked just fine. Potato bread would have to be Kiddo’s #1 favorite bread. Being a white bread it is hardly ever around. Such a shame too, as it really is a delightful bread. We have been enjoying it for afternoon sandwiches but I can see it turned into hamburger rolls to wrap around our turkey burgers. After using canned pumpkin in the pumpkin-yogurt loaf I have decided I will try cooking up a little Yukon gold potato to replace the less than desirable instant potato flakes. As Yukon gold’s are a staple in our little garden this would bring this loaf of bread a little closer to home, can’t beat that.
Want to try any/all of these recipes? Tell me what recipe(s) you’d like me to share and I will happily post them.