Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Pretzels and Bagels and Breadsticks Oh My!

Lots and lots of bread baking with The Conscious Shopper

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:

English Muffins
  • 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.

Cinnamon Twists

  • 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
  • croutons
  • cinnamon croutons
  • rolls
  • breadsticks
Any more ideas?


Jenn the Greenmom said...

Girlfriend, WOW. I salute you.

I need to make more bread today, but I have a little dough left from the last batch, so I may have to try some of your Thousand Faces of Bread ideas. (Especially the English Muffins...that sounds cool!)

I totally get your whole "take these foods away and the whole edifice comes crumbling down" thing--that's how I felt when all of a sudden my husband couldn't eat beans. It's a huge challenge. But yours is much bigger! I don't think we could make it without pasta and/or tortillas.

The cool thing about these challenges, for me, is always that whole thing of "see how this works."--once its done sometimes I go, "well, that was educational, I think I'll let someone else make my ______ from now on" (that was me and cheese...interesting intellectual exercise; too much work.) And sometimes you realize "hey, that's not so bad!" and it becomes part of life going forward.

Also, I bought my first box of parchment paper a few months ago, and it's AWESOME stuff--I've cut my aluminum foil use by probably 75%, and it is great for cooking bread and stuff without things getting sticky. I line my loaf pans with it now for bread. Highly recommend it!

The Mom said...

What an awesome post! I never thought to take my bread recipe and transform it into other things. You are brilliant. Now, I'm off to bake some bagels, or maybe pretzels, or maybe....


Kellie said...

I am both impressed and jealous! I tried making bread once and failed miserably, so I'm beyond impressed with all of the different bread items you're able to make!

Julia (Color Me Green) said...

holy cow that's a lot of bread! how many people are in your family?? if you're using bread for sandwiches for lunch, maybe you should brainstorm some easier lunch meals that involve rice or other grains or potatoes as the carbohydrate.

Erin aka Conscious Shopper said...

@Julia - There are five of us. My kids don't like rice or potatoes (unless it's a French fry), and they're not fond of pasta. I make those things for dinner when I'm more willing to fight with them about what to eat, and breakfast is mostly oats-based. But lunch is definitely sandwiches or burritos. Also, rice and potatoes aren't practical for my son's packed lunches because he can't heat things up.

I bought a dehydrator and canner off of craigslist, and I'm hoping to be able to dry and can a bunch of fruits and vegetables this year. Then hopefully we can do more fruit and vegetable snacks instead of grain based snacks. Also after the month is up, storebought tortillas are definitely coming back and my kids are jonesin' for boxed cereal. So after this experimental month, we may work our way back down to less bread. But it's been very educational, as Jenn said!

Jenn the Greenmom said...

Hey, I tried the english muffins with the last small bit of dough in my bin--nifty! Easy! The texture was cool, too--crispy outside and nice and soft and chewy inside. Definitely a keeper! Thanks!

Erin aka Conscious Shopper said...

@Jenn - Cool! I'm glad it worked.

zee said...

These recipes are great! We did a 31 days series on living greener and healthier and one of our topics was going meatless at least once a week (better when done at least 3x though!) and my top two alternatives for meat are fruits and bread! Thanks for sharing these recipes -- everything looks really yummy and I can't wait to try them myself!

Lina said...

8 loaves!? Wow! One thing that we've found helpful even though I feel slightly silly for even having one is a bread machine. I actually think I might love my bread machine in fact. Literally just dump all the ingredients in at night and in the morning is a nice loaf of bread. Its also the type of appliance that people always seem to have and never use and so they show up on craigslist, yard sales etc. That and the $3 for 2 pounds of yeast at Costco have made it much easier.

Daisy said...

I'm impressed! I do work full time outside the home, so our journey toward cooking from scratch and eating local has many shortcuts. I plan on working on bread when summer comes; for now, it's the breadmaker.

knutty knitter said...

Try a raw chunk of green(or other) apple rolled in brown sugar and cinnamon and then buried in the centre of your buns. Like treasure waiting to be found :)

viv in nz

Anonymous said...

I make homemade Chapatis/tortillas by rolling out my bread dough thinly and dry cooking them in my frying pan. Just cook on medium until it has a few brown spots and then flip. A quick way to have a bread for dinner, esp when you use the 5 Minute A Day recipe and method.


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