This month, I've challenged myself to make all of our food from scratch. No cold cereal, no crackers, no mac and cheese, no ramen noodles, no tortillas. These are the last lingering processed foods in our diet, and I wanted to do a trial run for a month to see if we could live without them.
Before the month started, I would have said it wouldn't be hard to give up those foods because we didn't eat them much anyway. Cold cereal on weekends. Two boxes of crackers a week. Mac and cheese or ramen now and then. Okay, we ate a lot of tortillas...
But now that we're three quarters of the way through the month, it feels like those processed foods were the pillars holding up the rest of our diet, and when we took them away, the whole precariously balanced system came crashing down. I feel like I'm in the kitchen all the time, and I still can't keep up with my family's food needs! We keep running out of bread and snacks, and ironically we've ended up eating more mac and cheese this month simply because there isn't anything else to eat.
Finally, I decided that the solution was to start making bread twice a week instead of just once. My bread recipe makes four loaves of bread, so that means we'd have eight loaves of bread a week. Yes, folks, eight loaves!
I don't think this is an ideal long term solution - someday I will most likely get a job outside of the home and won't have so much time to spend in the kitchen. But for now it's working, and we're producing a little bit less trash, eating less junk, and staying in the budget.
And after a lot of experimenting, I've figured out how to use my recipe to make a huge variety of bread products, so we don't get bored eating so much bread. Half of the bread ends up as regular sandwich loaves. One loaf ends up as pizza or pitas. And then I can choose from:
- Sprinkle a counter with cornmeal. Roll out one loaf's worth of dough on the cornmeal to about 1/2 inch thick.
- Cut rounds with a biscuit cutter or glass, dust tops with cornmeal, and set aside to rise for about a half hour.
- Heat a greased griddle.
- Cook muffins on the griddle for about 10 minutes on each side.
- Divide one loaf's worth of dough into 12 pieces.
- Roll each piece like a snake and then twist into a pretzel shape.
- Pour a 1/2 c. of baking soda into a pot of water and heat to boiling.
- Place each pretzel in the pot of boiling water for about 30 seconds and then place on a baking sheet.
- Sprinkle liberally with coarse sea salt.
- Bake at 450 degrees for about 10 to 15 minutes.
- Note that every recipe I've read says to put parchment paper on the baking sheet. I don't do this and the pretzels definitely stick to the baking sheet, so you might consider using the parchment paper.
It took me a long time to figure out how to make bagels using my bread recipe. Following the regular bagel directions left me with soggy bagels every time. Finally I decided to make my bagels similar to the pretzels, and it works out great. But they might be a little different than the bagels you're used to.
- Divide one loaf's worth of bread into 12 pieces.
- Shape the pieces into bagel rounds.
- Let rise 30 minutes.
- Put a tablespoon of sugar into a pot of water and bring to a boil.
- Place each bagel into the boiling water for 30 seconds to a minute.
- Place the bagels on a baking sheet.
- Bake at 450 for 10 to 15 minutes, flipping halfway through.
- Divide one loaf's worth of bread into 24 pieces.
- Roll each piece out like a snake, and then twist two pieces together so you end up with 12 twists.
- Place the twists on a baking sheet. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Flip and do the same on the other side.
- Bake at 375 for about 10 minutes while you're baking the rest of your bread.
You could also make:
- cinnamon rolls
- pita chips
- bagel chips
- cinnamon croutons