I bake bread for my family every week. Home baking is not that hard, not that time consuming, and certainly cheap! You don't need a bread machine or a lot of fancy equipment. This blog features a tutorial on home bread baking, tips on equipment and ingredients, and recipes for real home cooking.
Published Thursday, March 30, 2006 by Susan Och.
I feel a little foolish posting such a simple recipe, but I've realized lately how many people just don't know how to cook simple things from scratch. This goes great with homemade bread.
1/2 onion, chopped
two stalks celery, chopped
one carrot, peeled and diced
the stalks from one bunch broccoli, chopped fine
three bay leaves
two potatoes, peeled, and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
one can chicken stock (or 1 cup water)
2 cups milk
about one cup of broccoli flowerets (use the rest for stir fry)
Saute the onion, celery, and carrot, and broccoli stalks in a heavy saucepan with a little butter, cooking oil, or bacon grease.
When the onion looks transparent, add the potatoes, bay leaves, and chicken broth or water
Let the vegis simmer for about 1/2 hour, then let them cool slightly.
Remove the bay leaves, and lightly puree the mixture in a blender or food processor. IMPORTANT! Don't overdo this or your soup will be sticky. If you don't have a blender or food processor, you can mash everything with a potato masher.
Return soup to pot, and add the milk and broccoli flowerets.
Gently reheat until warm. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Potato soup need a fair amount of salt, since potatoes are high in potassium, which replaces sodium in chemical reactions. (Remember the periodic chart?) This is useful if you oversalt a soup: you can correct the taste by simmering a potato in the soup for a while. (pull the potato out before serving.
Published Tuesday, March 07, 2006 by Susan Och.
Bread baking is a good fundraiser, or a good way to make a bake sale more profitable. Bread baking ingredients are inexpensive, especially if you buy them in bulk. Fresh home baked bread is in high demand and can fetch $3 or $4 a loaf, depending on your market. I started baking for fundraisers last year when we were trying to get to Odyssey of the Mind World Competition. Last week I baked for a school family fundraiser; I managed to turn out 18 loaves of bread between 7 am and 4 pm. I left the three lumpy looking ones for home use and sold 15. I estimate that I used about $6 worth of ingredients.
That said, you need to have some experience under your belt before you attempt to bake large quantities of bread. It is harder to cross the batter to dough threshold when you are working with double quantities. A double recipe takes more muscle and more time to knead. It takes both planning and an ability to improvise.
When I first started baking larger quantities, I kept finding myself stuck with not enough bread pans. My standard size oven will bake six loaves at a time, so I bought two extra pans and multiplied the recipe by one and a half. It seemed that I could just start a second batch as soon as the first batch was put into pans, but it didn't work out that way -- the loaves need to be in the pans for both the second rise and the baking, which is about twice as long as it takes to mix and knead the next batch. I kept having doubletake moments; I actually shaped loaves before I realized I had no pans for them.
Necessity is still the mother of invention. I solved my immediate problem by shaping the extra dough into one inch balls, rolling them in cinnamon sugar, and putting them into all of my 8 and 9 inch pans, greased, both the square ones and the round ones. The resulting "cinnamon rolls" sold for $2 each and sold out fast. Rolls can bake after bread loaves, both because they need a longer rise and because, being small, they can stand a longer rise without collapsing. Kids could help with rolling the balls and coating them with cinnamon. It doesn't matter if the balls are even, or whether they are round, the dough will rise and cover all sorts of anomalies.
SO....Here is the optimum setup if you want to bake large quantities of bread using a standard size oven:
Acquire 12 bread pans. It helps if they are all about 5" by 8", both for uniform baking times and uniform pricing.
Bake six loaves at a time. Yes, you could bake more by using two racks, but the loaves will not brown evenly. Use one rack, bake six loaves, and leave a little room between loaves.
Either make the master recipe times 1 1/2 or double the master recipe. If you double it, you will have extra dough after you shape six loaves, but you can use the extra for rolls. If you don't double, you may find that a few of your loaves are small. I think big loaves sell better, so I go for the extra.
Start mixing the next batch as soon as the first batch is in pans.
Don't forget that you will need extra space for cooling loaves, and extra time for them to cool. Don't bag loaves until they're completely cool, or they will sweat inside the bag and be mushy. Bread sells with the smell, so you may want to line a box or basket with clean tea towels, bring warm bread to your venue, then bag it once it's cool.
I package my bread in plastic bags that measure 10" by 14". They are kind of hard to find (I get them at Meijer). You could also use new brown paper lunch bags. You can bag bread sooner when you use paper bags, but it doesn't store as long.
Figure on making two or three batches of six loaves each in an 8 hour day.
There's more to food than just nutrition, otherwise we would all be eating custom-formulated kibble.
I didn't exactly learn to bake from my grandmother, but my ancestors, even the ones I never met, have informed and influenced
my lifelong exploration of cooking and food. Want to read more? Check out this entry from my home blog, French Road Connections