I used to throw in a suspiciously white loaf of Sara Lee into my basket when I went grocery shopping. At around $2 a loaf, I figured I was getting a good deal. Besides, the Bread lasted over a month without getting moldy. It got the job done, and I never gave bread a second thought.
Fast forward to the present. Today I make my own Homemade Bread twice a month. Mass-produced, bagged bread costs an average family $5 – $10 a month; I make huge portions of bread for pennies on the dollar. If I had to estimate my total cost for one month, including energy, I would say I spend $3. While that isn’t a huge cost difference, homemade bread is healthier and more flavorful than storebought bread.
Some people might think the hassle just isn’t worth it. Rising the dough, kneading, baking– it’s just too exhausting for the modern family’s schedule! After all, you’re at the grocery store anyway; just buy the package of bread and move on!
Like usual, it’s not that simple.
Why I Bake Homemade Bread
1. I’m Picky: This is no surprise here at Picky Pinchers, but I’ve become a bread snob. I can’t stand the smell, taste, or texture of breads like Sara Lee. They completely gross me out. They’re gummy and taste artificial. Homemade bread has a crust, it’s flaky, and tastes like angels.
2. Store bought is worse for you: I should have been suspicious of my Sara Lee going a month without molding. That’s not natural. Bread doesn’t work that way. That’s the result of all the chemicals they pump into the product so it gets to the consumer before spoiling. Not good.
3. Homemade bread is versatile: As you’ll see in the below recipe, you can do nearly anything with homemade bread. You can shape it into neat patterns, or add herbs and flavor for any dish.
4. It is so, so cheap: Yes, it’s a time commitment of 3 hours. But you save a decent amount of money for a higher quality product while getting to work with your hands. I estimate that our bread-loving household will save $100 this year making our own bread. The savings aren’t that huge, but we’re in it more for quality, taste, and health reasons.
If you’re not sure that homemade is for you, you can always try it out first before diving in! Take a chance; maybe bread baking is your new thing.
Homemade White Bread Recipe
I got the below recipe from Trent at The Simple Dollar, with a few of my own modifications. The below recipe makes two loaves of bread. I highly recommend making two at once to save energy baking and to have extra bread in storage. Buuuut if you only want one loaf of bread, simply halve this recipe.
This recipe calls for whey, which is a byproduct of making homemade yogurt. Waste not, want not, right? I did a blind taste test to compare bread made with and without whey, and I can’t tell the difference. I’ve noticed that bread made with whey has a tangy smell before baking, and it tends to rise more.
If you don’t have whey or just don’t like it, you can use milk or water. If you use milk or water, it may change the texture of your bread.
Once you get the hang of this recipe, try adding herbs for flavored bread. I like to add rosemary, cracked pepper, and olive oil for an Italian twist.
- 3 c whey
- 10 tsp sugar
- 2 tsp salt
- 3 tbs butter
- 2 servings (packages) of active dry yeast
- 5 to 7 cups of unbleached white flour
- I recommend wearing an apron and removing jewelry when working with dough. I was quite proud to wear my homemade apron for the first time!
2. Heat 2 cups of whey to 100 to 110 degrees Fahrenheit. Add the servings of yeast to 2 cups of whey. Activate the yeast according to directions on the package. Cover yeast mixture with a dish towel for ten minutes.
3. Make sure your yeast has activated. It should puff up and smell like bread. Melt the butter and add to the yeast.
4. Add 1 cup of whey, sugar, and salt to yeast mixture. Stir.
5. Now add 4 cups of flour to this mixture. Stir.
6. Add more flour in 1/4 c increments. Do this until the dough is slightly sticky but doesn’t stick to your hands.
7. Flour a work surface and your hands. Knead the dough for ten minutes. I like to roll it in a ball and smash/stretch it out with my hands.
8. When your ten minutes are up, roll the dough into a ball. Put it back in the mixing bowl. Cover with a dish towel and let rise for 1 hour. To get a decent rise, you’ll need a warm kitchen. If, like me, you have a drafty, miserable kitchen, you can set your dough near the stove with two burners set on low. Safety first! Don’t place the dough on a burner (I did this accidentally once and it did not go well). I’ve gotten good results setting it on the counter next to the stove.
9. After the dough has risen, punch it two or three times to get it to its original size.
10. Lay out the dough on a floured area and shape it. You can go for the rustic French country look with a simple ball, or get fancy and braid it, as Mr. Picky Pincher does here. Showoff.
11. Place the dough on a pan lined with cornmeal. Cover with a towel and let rise another hour.
12. Uncover the bread after it has risen. Add any extra fanciness here, like designs or an egg wash for shine.
13. Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 to 40 minutes. You’ll know the loaves are done when you knock on them and they sound hollow.
How to Store Your Homemade Bread
“But, Mrs. Picky Pincher,” you say, “I’ve made all of this bread that I can’t eat right now! Homemade bread won’t last longer than a few days on the counter! This is so wasteful!”
You’re right: homemade bread will only last a few days if left on the counter. After some trial and error (and moldy loaves), we’ve found the perfect way to store homemade bread.
Once your bread has completely cooled, wrap it in two layers of plastic wrap.
Now add a final layer of tin foil over the plastic wrap.
At this point, you can place the bread in your refrigerator to eat this week, or in your freezer to defrost and eat in a few weeks. Defrosting the bread is very simple: just take it from the freezer and put it in your refrigerator the day before you plan to eat it.
Homemade bread is marginally cheaper than buying bread at the store. While it might not sound worth the effort, baking bread at home is immensely satisfying. In addition to the health and financial benefits, you feel like you accomplished something. There’s nothing like serving your family fresh bread that you made. It’s a big plus that you know where your food came from and what’s in it. Healthy, happy bodies make us richer over time. And that’s what makes homemade food so worth it.
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