Updated: Jan 22
2 cups water
1 Tbs oil, warm butter, or warm lard
1/4 cup sugar
3 tsp bread, instant, or distillers yeast
1/2 tsp salt
Up to 3 cups of flour
After cancer, I started reading the labels on everything I bought, including bread. I was shocked to see the number of ingredients. After researching the jumbled scrabble words on the package, I was mortified to find that some additives are harmful to human health but are used anyway. Azodicarbonamide is a leavener and a bleaching agent that adds loft and spongy texture to the bread. It is a chemical used in making yoga mats for the same reason, spring, and bounce. L-cysteine is added to many breads as an amino acid, a directive from the USDA for human health, but it is derived from human hair, often collected from the floors of barbershops in China. Other sources for L-cysteine are pig bristles and duck feathers. I do not want to eat these things. It isn't natural to consume something that isn't considered to be food.
I set out on a healing journey wanting simple, essential, healthy, and sustainable foods. I wasn't going to eat store bread anymore because of the junk they put in as emulsifiers and shelf stabilizers to keep it on the shelf for weeks at a time. These items inhibit the growth of mold and bacteria for shelf-life and likely affect the microbiome in the gut in that same way. Furthermore, grains grown in fields treated with glyphosate (Round-Up) have proven to thin the walls of the human gut, and in my own experience raising chickens, causes fatty liver disease in a few months' time. If you process your own chickens and your chickens have soggy yellow livers, that is fatty liver disease. It is caused by them eating too much refined grain.
I searched forever for a basic simple recipe for bread that wasn't sourdough, didn't have all of the fancy leaveners, sodas, powders, and added wheat gluten. I wanted a basic staple I knew how to make for survival and sustainability. I never found that recipe on the internet, from elder neighbors, or from the Amish community. I just had to make failures until I got it right. Surprisingly, I discovered it took me so long to figure out because the recipe was so simple and I was trying too hard. It isn't nearly as complicated as the ingredients on a commercial bread loaf bad make you believe. I have been making our bread at home for nearly two decades now, and I like to think of the number of preservatives and chemicals that have been kept out of our bodies over those years.
Something to keep in mind when making bread at home. It isn't going to be that springy white cake-like substance you are used to eating. Although with a lot of practice, you can get pretty close. Store-bought bread has that loft from highly refined flour, concentrated sugars (HFCS), and synthetic chemicals. Have you ever noticed how tired you feel after eating a sandwich or hamburger? It's from excess concentrated sugar and highly refined flour. Your body needs the extra energy you have available to go to your gut to digest that powerhouse of pre-broken-down carbs. It also causes heartburn as the stomach acid turns on, anticipating how quickly it will have to work to distribute all this extra energy evenly throughout the gut. Store-bought bread feeds the microbiome in the stomach with a blast of super-refined carbs that it can easily digest. This creates gas, bloating, and belching.
I like to think of my basic bread as healthy artisan bread. Now with food shortages and the rising cost of wheat flour, getting by on less can stretch out your food stores. Organic flour is a must for this bread. It's worth the extra few bucks for your health. You won't have to buy those antacids, so it evens out in the check-out line at the store. You can use whole-wheat or white flour for this recipe. 100% whole wheat bread does tend to be more dense and brittle, but it can be done. We toughed it out for years, eating crumbly sandwiches; sometimes, we ate sandwiches on the half shell with a knife and fork. We knew it was 100% healthy, so eating a little differently than most folks wasn't a hard adjustment. Guilt-free and heartburn-free bread is worth the crumbles. Use half white flour and half whole (or red) wheat for bread to hold up for sandwich-making if you don't like dense bread. Dense bread is fantastic as a dipping bread for soups because it gets dumpling-like.
The recipe is simple.
Warm two cups of water to 98 degrees. I grab a pint mason jar to measure the filtered water and dump it into a pan on the stove. Stick your finger in the water and stir it as it warms. It should not be hot and should not be cool. Getting it exactly 98 degrees isn't necessary. It just has to be warm enough for the yeast to wake up. Do not use the microwave to warm your water. Electromagnetic radiated water does not make good bread. And stop cooking your food with a souped-up cell phone tower in an insulated box. Throw that thing out and plan ahead twenty minutes for healthy food. Cell towers are openly called microwave towers by the industry, and it doesn't even cook the birds that nest in them. Your microwave will cook a bird.
Add the 3tsp of yeast and ¼ cup sugar to the water and mix until most of the yeast dissolves. Sugar is necessary for the yeast to eat. The yeast "burps" up the bubbles that give your bread lift and loft. Don't use honey. It is a waste. Heating honey (cooking it in the oven) kills all of the natural probiotics in wild honey. Commercial honey is pasteurized and has no benefit, even when labeled raw. For more on REAL honey, visit this link on my website HERE. I have used concentrated apple or pear juice from fruit I harvested off the homestead for this recipe with great success.
Let the mixture sit until froth forms on top of the water. The yeast is now awake and active. If it is slow to froth, set the bowl on a heating pad, on top of the fridge, on top of a running drier, or in any warm place.
Slowly add flour as you mix using a regular heavy-duty stand mixer or by hand in a bowl. You do not need a dough hook. After adding about a cup of flour, add the tablespoon of oil, butter, or lard and 1/2 tsp of salt. I like to use canning salt. I find the minerals in sea salt can interfere with the air bubbles from forming correctly. You can omit the salt or add more if you like.
Continue adding the flour. This process can take up to five minutes. Slowly adding the flour helps the "sponge" hydrate the flour correctly. Adding the flour too fast will result in a loaf of dry, dense bread. Take your time and enjoy the process.
You should see long, gooey strands coming off of the mixer blade or your spoon. This means you have created some natural gluten that will hold the bread together. The dough will start to separate from the side of the bowl when you are nearing being done adding the flour. Keep sprinkling flour in the bowl until the dough is only stuck to the bottom in a circle about the size of a half-dollar or ping-pong ball.
The dough should be a little tacky at this point. It should stick to your fingers some but not cover them. Sprinkle some flour on a cleaned counter surface and turn the dough out of the bowl. Sprinkle a little flour on top of the dough and knead until the dough feels light and springy but isn't sticky. Add more flour if it suction cups to the counter. A little tacky is still okay; less flour is better than more - the idea is to add enough flour to be able to move it to a bread pan. Too much flour will make your bread dry and dense. Moisture is needed to create steam inside the loaf to make it moist and fluffy while it cooks. Adding too much flour will make a bread brick that chickens have difficulty pecking apart.
Grease a loaf pan with butter, oil, or lard. Be sure to lube the lip of the edges of the pan; this is where bread most commonly gets hung up when removing it after baking. With your clean and dry hands, shape the dough to fit it into the pan. If it is still too tacky, it is okay to flour the outside of the bread to make it more manageable. You can also grease a cookie sheet or casserole dish if you want to make a round or oblong artisan loaf or even two small loaves. Cover the dough in the pan with a clean dishcloth and set the pan in a warm place. Preheat your oven to 375º (F). When the dough has almost doubled in size, place a slit down the middle with a sharp buttered knife. It doesn't need to be a deep cut. This splits the newly formed skin so the bread can expand upwards and rise in the oven without splitting out a side, causing your bread to have a muffin top out one side. You can get fancy here with sideways cuts, crosses, or anything to your fancy. Be careful when cutting not to smash your rise out of the loaf. Be gentle!
Bake in the oven at 375º (F) until the crust is toasted golden brown. Every oven range is different, and each loaf will weigh and retain moisture differently, so the best way to cook them is by watching the oven door and going by the smell. You will notice a pleasant bread aroma and a toasty smell when the bread is finished baking. The crust should be browned. This takes around a half hour. If you are unsure, you can use a cake tester to check to see if it is done in the middle.
Remove the bread from the oven and let it sit until completely cool. If your loaf seems exceptionally large, cover it with a clean dish towel to help the cooking in the center finish. It's tempting to want to cut off a hot heel and slather it with butter, but the bread won't release from the pan until it is cooled, and cutting a hot loaf will smash it into a pancake on the side you are cutting. Let the bread cool, and then warm a slice for buttering. You won't feel you missed out on anything.
This is as basic as you can make a loaf of bread. It is an excellent homestead skill to know how to make this simple staple in the case of an emergency or as a healthy, affordable staple. For me, the emergency was my health! I wanted to cut out the excess junk that added unnecessary carbs and heartburn.
Once you master making this simple bread, don't share a loaf with someone you love, like a family member or neighbor. I gifted my basic loaf masterpiece, which I was so proud of, to someone who didn't understand the pride I had in the low sugar, high health benefits. They thought it was dry, horrible, and flat. But to each his own. I believe eating hair and chemicals is unappetizing, and I can get my L-cysteine from my homegrown organic lima beans. Bread simply tastes better when YOU make it!
A simple variation to make this same recipe better is to use milk instead of water. Getting more advanced, milk powder is a staple on the homestead for emergencies. I add a half cup of milk powder and omit some of the flour to add flavor, better loft, and protein to our bread. If you are into whole grains, you can add a few tablespoons of sunflower seeds, oats, flax, popped amaranth, or any other tiny seeds. You can add eggs for even more protein, but it will firm up the bread, and you will need to use less butter or lard to make up for the fat in the yolk. Too much oil, butter, lard, or fat in the dough will create a large uncooked air pocket in the center of the bread because there isn't enough moisture that creates steam. But don't quit trying! Unedible bread is healthy for poultry or even your compost pile! You don't lose out! You will still get something out of trying!
Store your cooled bread in a container or zip-lock bag in the fridge. There are no preservatives, so it will not keep more than four days on the counter. If there is moisture in your bag, it will only last two or three. It will keep for two weeks in the fridge. Use leftover bread pieces for croutons or slice and dry the leftovers in the oven on the warm setting to make bread crumbs. I love using this dried bread for stuffing of any kind; it holds up better than commercial breads. For Italian bread crumbs add Italian seasonings to croutons or broken bread, a tiny drizzle of olive oil, and zip it in the food processor or herb grinder until you like the consistency.
For long-term storage, freeze the whole uncut loaf on a cookie sheet for a minimum of 12 hours. Place in a plastic bag with as little air as possible. I vacuum pack them to remove the air, and the bread will keep for over a year in the deep freeze. Puncture the bag before thawing. Thaw at room temperature overnight. If you notice extra ice inside the bag, remove it before thawing, so your bread doesn't get soggy. This works great if you want to make several loaves at once to have ready when you need them.
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