Make Your Own Bread

Hi everyone, I am back.  Haven’t posted of late but I have some new inspiration.  I’ve been reading a novel about late 19th century New Zealand.  It seems to me that most historical novels deal with nobility and aristocracy.  I found this book refreshing in that it presents Victorian life from the viewpoint of a New Zealand farming family.  What a hard life!  If you have any romantic notions of what farming was like in the late 1800′s they would be dispelled by this book!

Each evening the women in this family would make up their recipe for bread dough and leave it to rise until morning.  Then up at 4 a.m. to shape it into loaves, to rise again and then bake.  In the meantime, they would slice their own bacon, gather the eggs and proceed to make breakfast.  All before the men came in from milking the cows to eat breakfast.  How many of us would want to do that today?

However, I was inspired to go back to making my own bread, a much easier task today, (These 19th century women often made their own yeast or starter dough, as well.)  especially if you have a bread-making machine or a mixer (like the Kitchen Aid) that has a dough hook.  With a bread machine or a mixer, putting a recipe together and baking your own bread is much simpler and not so time consuming as the machine does all the kneading for you.  Yet, you also have the option of kneading your bread by hand, if you like to.

I’ve taken to making my bread, though, with my Kitchen Aid mixer.  I found the bread machine made a small loaf and even though there are only two of us, we ate it up so fast that I had to make a loaf every other day.  What I like about making it with the mixer is that, depending on the recipe, I can make 2 to 3 loaves at once.  I then can freeze one or two, or give one loaf as a gift or make a pan of rolls along with 1 or 2 loaves.  I like knowing, too, that my bread is healthful and not loaded with preservatives, GMO foods like soy, and powdered cellulose.  Read your bread labels for all the chemicals added to it.

Author Michael Pollan, who also appears in the documentary Food, Inc,  says it best in his book, Food Rules. “Don’t eat anything your grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.”  In his book In Defense of Food, he writes:  “Instead of food, we’re consuming ‘edible foodlike substances’ — no longer the products of nature but of food science. Many of them come packaged with health claims that should be our first clue they are anything but healthy.”

On the Mayo Clinic Nutrition-wise blog, the value of powdered cellulose in our food is questioned.  Read some of the comments as well as the blog.  While cellulose is a major part of plant cells and provides fiber, it is argued that eating the plants with the natural cellulose is much better for you than the powdered cellulose.  Some studies that indicate the powdered cellulose added to bread, pasta, cereals and other foods like ice cream, provide some health benefits. Yet, we have to ask, like the Wall Street Journal did, “Would you eat wood?” This is another article you have to read. You’ll be surprised at all  the foods that contain the powdered, manufactured cellulose, engineered fiber. (I’m going to grate my own cheese from now on.)  And yes, it really is made of wood! Read your labels as even some organic foods have powdered cellulose in them.

According to the article, “Powdered cellulose is made by cooking raw plant fiber—usually wood—in various chemicals to separate the cellulose, and then purified. Modified versions go through extra processing, such as exposing them to acid to further break down the fiber.”  I ask, do you know of any highly processed foods that are really good for you, especially when processed with chemicals?

The website The Street , a site about stock investing, in an article titled 15 Food Companies That Serve You Wood, adds this about engineered cellulose:  “Cellulose is virgin wood pulp that has been processed and manufactured to different lengths for functionality, though use of it and its variant forms (cellulose gum, powdered cellulose, microcrystalline cellulose, etc.) is deemed safe for human consumption, according to the FDA, which regulates most food industry products. The government agency sets no limit on the amount of cellulose that can be used in food products meant for human consumption. The USDA, which regulates meats, has set a limit of 3.5% on the use of cellulose, since fiber in meat products cannot be recognized nutritionally.”  The article includes a slide show of the companies who use cellulose in their foods as well as a list of the specific foods that contain cellulose.

Okay, so one good reason to make your own bread is to avoid manufactured cellulose.  Another is that soy flour and soy lecithin are often added to bakery breads.  What is the problem with soy?  Two things:

1. Soy is one of the biggest GMO (genetically manipulated organisms) crops, along with corn and rapeseed used to make canola oil.  Just type in GMO in your search engine.  There is a great deal of controversy about gentically manipulated crops for any number of reasons.  For an informative movie on this subject watch The Future of Food.  GMO soy is often the cause of soy allergies.

2. There is some controversy about whether soy products are all that good for you.  While the media has led us to believe that Asians eat a lot of soy, that is not quite true.  They eat fermented soy, such as found in soy sauce, tamari, tempeh and miso, and mainly as a condiment, not in the quantities Americans eat it.  Only in recent history have Asians eaten soy like we do.  For centuries unfermented soy was considered inedible, unfit for human consumption and was used to fix nitrogen in the soil–in other words, as fertilizer.  Why was it considered inedible?  Because cooked soybeans contain many toxins, which are neutralized by fermentation.  The Whole Soy Story: the dark side of America’s favorite health food, by Kaayla T. Daniel, PhD, CCN.

Other warnings about soy issue from Scientific American, who warn that the soy that often appears as filler in our food is not the whole soybean, but soy protein with its isoflavones, called soy isolates.   ”Children that have been fed soy formula as infants may have received as much as estrogen as what is in contained in five contraceptive pills”, according to a Natural Therapy Pages article.

Dr. McDougall, a leading expert on vegan diets, in a newsletter published in April of 2005, entitled Soy – Food, Wonder Drug, or Poison? ,  wrote: “We recommend that you use traditional soy foods, like soy milk and tofu, only as a small part of your diet, at most 5% of your daily calories. ‘Synthetic soy foods”, like meats, cheeses, and soy bars, should rarely, if ever be consumed.”

Soy is often used in baked goods to boost the protein.  But with all these warnings, you wonder whether you should be eating soy daily.

Somehow I like to be in better control of what I eat.  It worries me when I see advertising propaganda about how good a food is for you, especially when it is highly processed.

Recommended websites:

Readers Digest: The Fib About Some High Fiber Foods

Sargento Cheese:  Grated cheese includes cellulose

Weston A Price Foundation:  Studies Showing Adverse Effects of Isoflavones, 1950-2010

I have adapted a couple recipes for bread to include whole wheat.  Research has shown that whole grains are more healthy than white flour bread.

This is a recipe my mother used to make when we were kids.   Originally, it was made with white flour.  It makes 3 loaves.

Health Bread

1 cup Kellogg’s All-Bran Cereal (original)

1 cup Post Grape-nuts Cereal

2 Buscuits Post Shredded Wheat Cereal

2 teaspoons butter

4 cups Hot Water

2 cups unbleached flour

6- 6 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

1/2 cup Brown Sugar

1/4 cup Molasses

1 heaping teaspoon Salt

2 packages Dry Yeast (or about 4 1/2 teaspoons if you buy yeast in a jar.)

In your Kitchen Aid mixer bowl, pour hot water over cereals, brown sugar, molasses and butter.  Let cool to around 80 degrees.

Dissolve the yeast in 1/2 cup of warm water (about 80-83 degrees). Add a pinch of sugar and allow yeast to foam up.

Start with the Kitchen Aid mixer paddle. Add yeast to cereal mixture when it has cooled.  Add 5 cups of flour (the 2 cups of white flour and 3 of the whole wheat) and mix on a low speed.  When all ingredients are blended, add more flour 1/2 cup at a time until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl.

Switch to the dough hook and continue to knead at low speed, adding flour a little at a time until the dough is firm and elastic.  Test by stopping the mixer and touching the dough.  If any dough clings to your finger, continue adding a little more flour.  Test again until no dough clings to your finger.

Oil a large bowl; empty dough into the bowl and flip it once so that the dough is coated with the oil.  Place the dough in a warm place free of drafts, cover with a towel and let rise until double in size–probably about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.  Punch the dough down.

Turn out onto a floured surface.  Divide dough into three equal parts.  Shape each into a loaf and place in 9″ x 5″ greased bread pan.  Let the dough rise again until double.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Bake for 45 minutes for a light brown crust, longer if a darker crust is desired.   Turn out of pans onto cooling rack.  (At this point I sometimes brush a little melted butter on top if I want a softer crust.)  Allow to cool thoroughly before packaging in plastic bags.   Bread that is completely cooled is easier to slice, but it tastes soooo good when sliced and buttered while still warm.  The aromas that fill the house from baking bread are tantalizing.

One of the wonderful things about baking your own bread is that you can schedule it around your other household duties.  Start a load of wash; then make your dough.  While you are waiting for the bread to rise, throw your load of wash into the dryer and start another load.  Or vacuum while you are waiting for the dough to rise.  Or do it like the women of earlier times:  start your dough before going to bed.  You do not need to put it in a warm place if leaving overnight.  When you get up, punch it down, shape into loaves, let it rise and bake it for fresh bread with your breakfast.  The odor of baking bread will wake your whole family.  Believe me, it is worth the effort.

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