Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Homemade Bread: A Plastic-Free Alternative

The idea of making homemade bread scares a lot of people, but I think those fears are mostly unfounded. It's true that you're bound to screw up two or three loaves in the beginning, but trust me it's worth it. Fresh, homemade bread is truly one of the most amazing things in the world. It tastes delicious, and it also helps you understand something food manufacturers don't want you to know:

Many of the foods that you buy in the grocery store are easy to make at home
.

The Joys of the Bread Machine
Still, making bread does require a bit of elbow grease because of the kneading process, and since I'm lazy, I like to use my bread machine for this step. I can only recommend this.

If you don't have your own bread machine, check out your local thrift stores, Freecycle groups, and garage sales. Chances are you'll find one because half of America bought them in the 90's (just guessing here) and then never used them (Not sure why! Those people must be crazy!).

Easy Homemade Bread
In terms of ease of use, the bread machine is amazing. Here's what I do.
  1. Combine warm water, yeast, and sugar (if required) in the bread machine pan.
  2. Let mixture stand ten minutes to allow the yeast to activate.
  3. Add remaining ingredients, usually flour, salt, and sometimes milk, butter, or oil.
  4. Place pan in the bread machine and select the dough cycle, which last approximately 1 or 1.5 hours.
  5. Once the dough is done, remove the pan from the oven.
  6. Pull the dough out of the pan and shape it into the form you want.
  7. Allow it to rise again for 30 to 45 minutes and then place it in the oven.
  8. Depending on the size of the loaf, bake for 30 to 55 minutes.
And voila! You have ultra-tasty bread!

10 Minutes of Effort = Homemade Bread
If you want to be extra-lazy you can also use your bread machine to do nearly ALL THE WORK FOR YOU!

Here's what you'd have to do:
  1. Combine warm water, yeast, and sugar (if required) in the bread machine pan.
  2. Let mixture stand ten minutes to allow the yeast to activate.
  3. Add remaining ingredients, usually flour, salt, and sometimes milk, butter, or oil.
  4. Place pan in the breadmaker and select the appropriate cycle, which lasts approximately 3 to 3.5 hours.
And that's it. Fresh bread that requires about 10 minutes of work (and being home for an afternoon). I swear it couldn't be easier!

p.s. For no-work bread machine bread, this is my favorite recipe.

p.p.s. For additional recipes for stuff you can definitely make at home, check out this recipe for yogurt and this one for butter!

p.p.p.s I remembered that I wanted to do a post on bread making after reading about Grant's escapades on his blog, Grant's Rants. Check it out!

15 comments:

Emily DeWan Photography said...

Oo, fresh bread sounds good!

low impact Home said...

Where did you find your plastic alternative to the packages of yeast? All I can find in my store are little plastic lined packages. That's another reason I haven't gotten on the bake your own bread wagon.

Grant said...

Thanks for the plug! I'm going to be trying again this weekend. I think my wife and I are going to try two loaves: one "no knead" and one your way (minus the bread machine). I need to try to round up some bread pans first though since so far I've only used my dutch oven.

As for the yeast question, yeast also comes in glass bottles with metal lids. You should find them near the plastic-y packets. Felischmann's and Red Star both have bottled yeast.

LifeLessPlastic said...

Grant, Your very welcome! I'm excited to find out how your loaves work this weekend!

As for bread pans, you actually don't even have to bother looking for them if you don't want to. You can just shape your bread into a circle or an oval and then bake it on a cookie sheet or baking stone.

Good luck!

Laura said...

Ohhh. I'm gonna try the Light Oat Bread recipe. :P
I thrifted a bread machine and I am sincerely in love with it. The Boyfriend is loving it too. He often requests the Rosemary Bread (which is also a big party hit!).

"Many of the foods that you buy in the grocery store are easy to make at home."
You can say that again. It is still amazing to me but it is oh so true. I tried Fake Plastic Fish's recipe for (theromos)yogurt last night. It was heaven! A little maple syrup and my boyfriend and I both agreed it tasted like a custard dessert.

Shannon Hodgins said...

We've so gotten into making bread and muffins here. The kids love participating in baking. You also save tons of cash by making your own AND it's healthier.

If you want to buy bread "out," I just discovered that you can get bread plastic free at Great Harvest. You can call ahead and they will save you some, or you can just take what you want off the rack with no packaging.

I bake frequently now, but a loaf from them once a week is a treat.

Fake Plastic Fish said...

I have found plastic-free yeast in the bulk bins at a couple of places out here: Rainbow Grocery and Berkeley Bowl. Of course, that's only helpful to people who live in the SF Bay Area. If you don't have grocery stores with extensive bulk bins, you can find yeast in glass jars in the baking section of most grocery stores. Safeway out here sells it. It has a metal lid (which of course is coated underneath with plastic) and also a small plastic seal around the rim. But it's way less plastic than buying individual packs.

Green Bean said...

Wow! We're on the same wave length. I just bought a new bread maker (used from a member of my mother's club) and made two fresh loaves this week. It's amazing how simple it is and then you don't have to deal with scary ingredients or plastic wrap. Plus, it tastes heavenly.

Fr. Peter Doodes said...

Hi,
By 'mistake' I managed to make great bread without a bread maker. It is so easy I don't think I will be buying any more from the shops. The fresh I get yeast comes in foil so I can recycle that.

The recipe is on my DIY blog.

Peter.

PS. A life, less plastic, something well worth working for, thank you.

Idaho Locavore said...

If you don't have grocery stores with extensive bulk bins, you can find yeast in glass jars in the baking section of most grocery stores.

Failing that, you can also find bulk packages of yeast (1 lb packages) at Costco or Sam's or through mail order. They are generally foil packages with some plastic coating - but - if you use the no knead recipe for bread it only takes 1/4 tsp of yeast per batch, so one package will last you for a long, long time when transferred to a jar and put into the fridge or freezer. Still a little plastic once a year or so, but certainly a whole lot less than all those bread bags every week from the store!

Also, there is always sourdough, if you don't want to deal with any plastic at all. If you get a starter you'll have a little bit to contend with, but none after that. Or you can try to capture your own yeast and make your own sourdough starter for a totally plastic free alternative.

Then there's also Desem bread...definitely not a begginer's project, but something I'm hoping to try some day soon. Thanks to JustHungry, for the link.

LifeLessPlastic said...

Thanks for the input on buying yeast everyone!

I personally can not get yeast in bulk (because Chicago is, well, not so progressive, let's say) so I buy mine in a glass jar.

As for a sourdough, I made a very successful starter a while back by using water that I had boiled potatoes in. Then I made some delicious German-style Bauernbrot with a sourdough recipe I found on Allrecipes.com. It was great!

alicesworld said...

Here's a weird question - what do you put your bread in? I make all my bread from scratch too, but I can't figure out how to keep it fresh all week without a plastic bag . . . .

Thanks for the motivation - the strides you're making are incredible and really encouraging.

LifeLessPlastic said...

Alicesworld, That's not a weird question at all! I typically make a very thick crust loaf, which means it takes a lot longer to get stale. To keep if fresh, I often stick it in a covered dish or toss it in a plastic grocery bag (my roomies bring them home). To be honest, though, I usually finish a loaf within a few days so stale bread isn't much of a problem.

One idea, though. What if you divided your dough in half and baked two smaller loaves. Then you could par-bake one of the loaves and freeze it. That might help.

Hope this helps! Jeanne

Fake Plastic Fish said...

I also have a solution for alicesworld since the bread I get from the bakery doesn't have such a thick crust and does dry out pretty fast... I keep it in the same cotton ecobag that I buy it in (www.ecobags.com) and wrap a plastic grocery bag around the whole thing. I just keep reusing the same plastic grocery bag over and over. But this way, the plastic is not touching the bread. It keeps for a very long time in the refrigerator this way. In fact, I just wrote about it this week on Fake Plastic Fish:

http://www.fakeplasticfish.com/2009/03/i-eat-lot-of-bread.html

(Hope it was okay to jump in like that, Jeanne.)

LifeLessPlastic said...

I love me some ecobags! Thanks for your input, Bethinator!