I already know what you’re thinking—“Bread? Bread? I don’t know how to bake.” Wow, are you missing the point. Which is? Try New Things.
To bake bread you first need a bread maker or you can do it the old fashioned way by kneading the bread by hand, putting it in a pan, and then baking it in the oven. If you bake bread this way, you are one up on me because I have never tried this. To me this technique involves way too much hands-on work and, hence (nothing like a good “hence”), allows for way too much to go wrong. I’m a bread machine guy.
So yea, it’s kind of like when a guy decides he’s going to cut firewood to heat his house and save money—first thing he has to do is go out and buy a $40,000 4X4 pickup truck. But in this case, it’s not $40,000 and you really will save money. But most of all you will have bread that you just can’t buy anymore, anywhere—fresh, tasty and any type you want. To me, the two best things to eat in the world are home-grown tomatoes and home-baked bread.
Bread making will also endear you to family and friends. I dare you to put a loaf of fresh bread out when your family is around and have it last for more than half-an-hour. Ask them when was the last time they had warm bread right from the oven—I bet none of them can even remember.
In keeping with our mantra, I guarantee bread can be easily made by Geezers and small children. Here’s the recipe for basic bread from a bread machine:
- Put a little water in the mixing bucket.
- Put a little flour, sugar, and salt in the bucket.
- Put any flavoring (onion, garlic, rosemary [I know you have no idea what rosemary is—we’ll get to that sometime or other]) or other ingredients (bananas, almonds, peanut butter) you wish in the bucket.
- Put in some yeast (makes the bread rise—important) in the bucket.
- Put the bucket in the bread machine.
- Set the settings (bread type, loaf size, crust type) on the bread machine.
- Hit start.
- The paddle in the bottom of the bucket will begin to rotate and mix everything together (kneading). Then it sits and rises. Then the paddle rotates again. Then it sits again and yes, rises. Then the heating element turns on and bakes the bread. Your only job is to take it out when it is done baking.
Bread machines cost between $70 and $300 and like most things these days the cheaper ones probably don’t really do a very good job and the most expensive ones are overkill. Mine was a little over $150, does everything I want, and has lasted me at least 10 years.
When you are ready to give it a try look up “bread making” on YouTube and pick one of the ten thousand videos to view. You might decide making bread without a machine is something you would like to try first. There are advantages in that it will initially cost a little less and you can make multiple loaves at the same time (one loaf of bread in the machine takes about 2 to 3 hours.
The bread recipe above—minus the flavorings—is similar to the “Easy French” bread recipe in the book Electric Bread (by Innovative Cooking Enterprises) which I highly recommend. There are a ton of bread books out there, but I find this particular one easy to follow, practical, and it doesn’t go crazy with the exotic ingredients. It has the recipe for all the standard breads—wheat, rye, pumpernickel, and classic white, but also includes such recipes as Cinco de Mayo, Honey Mustard, Cajun Spice, Baked Potato, and 100% Crunch—all of which I have tried and found excellent. The book is probably out-of-print, but is readily available online.
Making bread is something people do because they love other people, they love themselves, or both. This is instant hero stuff. And, for the third time, it is so easy. So give it a try. I don’t just make this stuff up—it’s like getting a great food treasure for almost no money (after paying for the machine) and no work. Is that a perfect Geezer activity or what?
More on bread later.