Wednesday, January 23, 2008

freeze your own

What have I been munching for breakfast daily since returning to the university? Eggs, fruit and toast made from homemade bread.

This past summer, slightly daunted at the price of mediocre store-bought multigrain loaves, I decided to try my hand at making my own. I'm not going to be like some people I know and argue that bread making is painless (make enough and your arms will be sore the next day) or mess-free, but I do think it's worth it. I'm a huge proponent of knowing exactly what's in everything you eat. I'm finding more and more supermarket loaves contain artificial sweeteners, like sucralose (Splenda) that I'm trying to cut out of my diet. The loaf my mom prefers smells strangely of maple syrup when toasted. Strangely, because I've gone through the ingredients, and it doesn't contain maple syrup, or any natural sugars for that matter.

Bread making is fun, even if it can be challenging, and since long periods of its prep time involve waiting for it, it's a good activity for any decent multitasker. Sometimes I'll start the dough, bake some cookies, and then return to do the second knead, form the loaves, etc. Sometimes I'll read or run errands or do my homework. I haven't tried the fancy no-knead breads people have raved over for the last year, because I don't keep a dutch oven with me at school and haven't really thought to do it at home. Next time I have the opportunity to try it, I will.

Bread machines bore me. I'm never quite happy with the texture of the resulting loaves.

Many bread recipes produce more than one loaf, but luckily, bread freezes pretty well. The downsides are that when it defrosts, it goes stale a little faster than a fresh loaf. I get around this by making mostly breads that are mean to be toasted. I wait till they cool completely, slice the loaf, then double wrap it in foil and freeze. This means I can take out one slice or five as I need them.

I'm not going to post the recipe for the loaf I'm currently consuming, because in my opinion while it's delicious it's just not perfect yet. I took the whole wheat bread recipe from an old copy of the Joy of Cooking, and tweaked a bit. In the end I used 1/3 white flour, 1/3 whole wheat flour, 1/6 oats, 1/6 flax seeds (half meal, half whole seeds). This yielded two loaves that were chewy and flavorful, with lots of nutty whole-wheatness. The bread is better toasted than plain, but takes butter/jam/cream cheese delightfully. I think maybe doing it with some vital wheat gluten or playing around with the flour ratios will perfect it. If I ever do, I'll post.

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