Our Complicated Journey to a Simple Daily Bread

by Stefani on 20-October-2008

It was Albert Einstein who said that a thing should be “as simple as possible, but not simpler.”

I have come to the same conclusion by way of bread.

Our Daily Bread

Bread should be pure, simple, the most basic form of sustenance, and yet it is a thing that can’t, and shouldn’t, be hurried.

This is a long story, friends. It will take up two posts because our journey to a simple family bread that we could bake and use daily has not been a short one… not short, mind you, but entirely delicious, and in the end, well worth the effort.

So, let’s see, I suppose it started one day with one fateful lunch.

Ahem.

My kids were having pumpkin butter (that we made) slathered on toast (store bought) and eating pretzels (store bought) dipped in cream cheese (that we made) and yogurt (that we made) mixed with real maple syrup (from some farmers in Vermont that are reported to care deeply about their trees), and apples (store bought) slathered in peanut butter (homemade).

My guys were having the best time discussing among themselves what we had made ourselves, remembering the making and wondering if we couldn’t make the rest of the things on their plate that had come from the store.

Mama, could we make syrup?

Mama, could we make pretzels?

Mama, could we make bread?

Mama, can we grow apples?

Really, who am I to impede a gaggle of makers?

We live in Texas though!

Oh alright, I suppose that we could maybe raise up a crop of sugar cane and rig up an old fashioned press and make our own sugar cane syrup (which we love just as well as we love the maple variety), but that’s probably not going to happen, and we have a distinct lack of maple trees, so I think that really, the best that we can do is support those Louisiana and Vermont folks who do the job so
well.

There’s ONE successful apple orchard in Texas as far as I know, but it’s not easy to grow a good apple here.

As for the pretzel sticks, well we know how to make soft pretzels, but the crunchy stick ones? … I’m at a loss.

But bread…. we could do that, right? I guess so, but geez, there’s all the measuring and the kneading and the carefully timed rising, TWICE, and the precise baking and good grief, a woman can only do so much in a day, right? A loaf now and again sure, but DAILY bread? I just don’t think I could swing it.

So I continued to buy bread at the grocery store even though I know it’s chock full of preservatives and partially hydrogenated this and that, and high fructose whatever. Yeah yeah yeah.

I’m gonna be straight with you. I’ve tried baking bread, many times, and mostly I’ve succeeded in creating nice smelling bricks, so it was going to take a lot to get me off store bought bread.

Maybe a bread machine would do the trick?

I read. I researched. And after a while, I developed something like an obsession with a bread machine that I MUST HAVE! It’s $200, and while I”m sure it’s worth every penny, it’s a little out of our price range.

Craigslist and ebay have been no help at all.

Then, one day, I remembered that there was one bread that my husband’s mother served years ago… I remembered that we’d all raved over it for days. 

I quickly emailed her, and sure enough she still had the recipe.

It goes like this:

Like County Line Bread (County Line being a local barbecue joint that is famous for their yummy bread)


2 T warm water 

1 ½ t yeast

1/2 t sugar


3 ½ c bread or all purpose flour      

¼ c solid vegetable shortening

 ½ c sugar

1 c warm water 

1 t salt


In a small cup or bowl, combine warm water with yeast and sugar. Let sit for about 10-15 minutes. Then, in a large bowl pour yeast mixture, water, flour, shortening, sugar and salt. Using an electric mixer, blend on low until all ingredients are incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Mix for 7 minutes. 


Remove dough and place in a clean bowl that has been greased lightly with oil. Turn dough over in bowl. Cover the bowl with a damp clean cloth and place in a warm spot to allow dough to double in size.


After dough rises, punch down to eliminate bubbles. Spray or grease and flour 9×4 or 5 inch loaf pan. Shape dough into a loaf and place in pan. In warm spot let rise again until double in size.


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake loaf for 30 minutes or until loaf sounds hollow when tapped lightly on top. Makes 1 loaf.

So I made a loaf, and it was easy! Not only was it easy, it was really, REALLY good. So much so, that my men (the Daddy included) polished off an entire loaf at lunch.

I made another for dinner, and it fell to a similar fate.

Success!!!!

Accept for a few things …

It’s all white flour.

It contains Crisco (read: partially hydrogenated this and that)

It includes a good bit of sugar.

Trust me, this recipe is worth making, as is, now and again, but it’s maybe not exactly what I want to feed my family everyday.

What seemed like a happy ending was only just the thoughtful beginning of a delicious journey.

Come back tomorrow, and I’ll fill you in on a few of the twists and turns that have finally brought us to a bread that is all ours, easy to make and respectably heathy.

The result is a simple recipe that even an old brick baker like me can manage and even grow to love. The measuring, the kneading, the rising… I’ve become a believer.

Bread is now as exactly as simple as it should be, and not one bit more.
waldorfmama October 20, 2008 at 9:31 pm

okay, you’ve made a believer out of me. i’m coming back tomorrow to find out the rest of the story and see if your ‘daily bread’…can become ‘our’ daily bread! 🙂

myrnie October 20, 2008 at 9:56 pm

Oh, I’m really excited to see your recipe! I’ve been making our bread since this summer (except for a few week hiatus when the baby came) and it’s so amazing to be able to make something like that at home. Although, I must admit that last week’s recipe tweak resulted in the first loaf that my family joined me in eating!

Can’t wait to see your family’s tricks and secrets!

Prairie Chick October 20, 2008 at 10:09 pm

can’t. wait. I have this inborn romantic love affair with the *idea* of homemade daily bread, but so far my courtship attempts have left me high and dry and sorely disappointed…. *wink*.

amanda o October 21, 2008 at 3:14 am

sounds good!

natasha s October 21, 2008 at 4:09 am

looking forward to your recipe.I love to try new bread recipes.
I finally have one that only contains 2 tbs of good local honey and a 1/3 c of safflower or canola if you are interested in another one:0)

Lisa October 21, 2008 at 5:06 am

I’ll be back to read the rest of the story and hope to help you along the journey. You did pick a great machine, but I would not spend my first 200 dollars on a mixer, I recommend a grain grinder first.

When I began my bread journey, 12yrs ago, I had a great bread machine. I could only make bricks and my machine was in the attic. A friend came along side, encouraged me, and the rest is history.

Begin with 100 percent wheat flour and you will not look back. Fresh ground….won’t your boys think you are all that.

Next, I use only honey and olive oil for sweetner and non-hydrogenated oil.

It is a wonderful thing to hear noooooo-not store bread.

Please let me know if you would like to chat further about the wonderful gift of bread making.

Mama Urchin October 21, 2008 at 5:24 am

We make our bread and part of the reason is because of my belief in it being a basic sustenance that has gotten all out of whack at the grocery store.

Crystal October 21, 2008 at 5:25 am

Can’t wait!

Alicia A. October 21, 2008 at 6:02 am

we now have a bread all our own too. can’t wait to see your recipe!

Alicia A. October 21, 2008 at 6:04 am

p.s. I have a garage sale bread machine that works just fine. 😉

Miranda October 21, 2008 at 6:15 am

I can’t wait to hear the end of the story!

Jenny October 21, 2008 at 6:22 am

Ooo, I am on this same journey myself! I have made four loaves this week already. I have a few standby recipes but am also looking for that everyday, effortless one. In fact, I was planning to raid the library today. I’ll be back tomorrow…

Aunt LoLo October 21, 2008 at 6:34 am

Congrats on your bread journey! Mine started when I was 8 and my father betrothed me to the only other Mormon Boy in my small elementary school…mostly to get his hands on said boy’s MOTHER’S bread recipe. She took pity on my father and spent a few Saturdays teaching me how to make bread when I was 9. She was a tried n’ true country mama, raising alfalfa, growing potatoes and renting out pastures to horse owners with no pastures of their own. I still have the Bosch mixer that those Saturday Afternoons CONVINCED my father I needed.

May I say, this post…just makes me happy. It’s so nice to hear this fresh, ‘goodness my tribe wants WHAT now?!, ‘I think I can’ voice. Most of your posts are so dreamy and lovely and…cozy. It’s just nice to see the journey that “The Woman Who Does Everything More Beautifully Than You” takes to get to where she’s got!

Looking forward to Part II. 🙂

Linn October 21, 2008 at 7:08 am

I can’t wait to try whatever perfect recipe you’ve ended up with!

Molly October 21, 2008 at 7:24 am

Can’t wait to read your recipe tomorrow. Good timing — I just started a weekly baking venture, mentioned on my blog.

Natalie October 21, 2008 at 7:25 am

I cannot wait for chapter 2… you’ve done all the work of trial and error and I am happy to thank you for the happy results.

tams October 21, 2008 at 7:35 am

I love this! I am going to try it tonight. I’ve had trouble making bread due to living at high altitude. Any suggestions? It doesn’t rise well. I will try making this tonight though… I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Jonah Lisa October 21, 2008 at 8:07 am

Oh I can’t wait. I’ve been on this journey myself. I got the Zojirushi about 6 months ago and have been fiddling with daily bread recipes ever since. I THINK we’ve finally settled on a Sunflower & Oat bread.

If you ever get the Zojirushi, I recommend The Breadlovers Bread Machine Cookbook and the 1 1/2 pound loaves as they are more consistent with a normal bread size for sandwiches and such. The 2 pound loaves are BIG!

Can’t wait to see what bread you landed on It looks amazing.

brit October 21, 2008 at 8:40 am

I can relate to everything here except the apples. OH MY THE APPLES we have been putting up apples for weeks, I keep waiting for them to run out so I can try the yummy pumpkin butter recipe, but no my father in law just called and he is bringing over a bucket of apples from someone’s yard.

Bread…is a journey.

Mariella October 21, 2008 at 9:37 am

Ooh!! Can’t wait to hear the healthy version! I SO want an easy, healthy, yummy bread recipe to make for my loves. Thank you!! ~ M.

Baba October 21, 2008 at 10:02 am

Way to go Mom! Baking has always come easy for me I guess because I watched my Grandpa bake goodies and make noodles and breads since I was 2 or 3 years old. He taught me alot about baking, and our house always smelled yummy. Your kids will have memories for years to come now that you’re baking bread! Great Job!

elissa Finger October 21, 2008 at 10:25 am

can’t wait to see your recipe. i found one i really like here: http://www.storefood.com/Recipes/wwbread.html but still haven’t gotten in the habit of making it all the time……

YayaOrchid October 21, 2008 at 10:58 am

Like Arnold says: I’ll be back!

I so want to read about your recipe. Hurry up,will ya? LOL!

Alissa October 21, 2008 at 11:26 am

Well that was inspiring! Who knows how many of us you’ll transform into bread bakers? I’ll definitely be back tomorrow!

Melanie O. October 21, 2008 at 11:55 am

I’m so excited for your next post. I’ve always wanted to bake bread on a regular basis, too, but have been intimidated by all the “letting it rise in a warm spot” stuff. Sounds like a science experiment… and what to do if it goes wrong? My time is quite precious and although I love to bake, I’m easily frustrated when thing don’t work. I’m so glad you’re doing all the experimenting for me!! Also, the price of bread is ridiculous right now, so I’d love to save a little money baking my own, too!

Lisa Payne Kirker October 21, 2008 at 12:42 pm

I can’t wait, but I guess I’ll have to. I’m anxious for tomorrow!

http://www.ahappylittlefamily.com

Patty T October 21, 2008 at 2:27 pm

I use my bread machine on the dough cycle and pull it out to bake in my bread loaf pan in the oven. The machine does all the work but it’s in a normal bread shaped pan to cook instead of the funky bread machine shape. MUCH easier than hand kneading!

melmo October 21, 2008 at 3:22 pm

Sweet, I was just thinking about this very thing, the making of daily bread, could I swing it? I’d like us to try and steer away from eating ingredients that are numbers, doesn’t seem right to eat a number, and even our bread (wholegrain, seeded bread) has numbers. ACK! Thanks for sharing.

Hannah October 21, 2008 at 3:57 pm

Ok girl, I’m officially tantalized, being a bread-a-phobe myself. 🙂

Callie October 21, 2008 at 3:59 pm

I CAN”T wait!!! I’d love to get my hands on a healthy bread recipe! I’ve tried and failed too! And was just thinking of trying again! I’m looking forward to your magical recip!

Callie October 21, 2008 at 3:59 pm

I CAN”T wait!!! I’d love to get my hands on a healthy bread recipe! I’ve tried and failed too! And was just thinking of trying again! I’m looking forward to your magical recip!

Tonya October 21, 2008 at 5:36 pm

Well, you’ve made me good and hungry- even if the recipe has crisco in it. Looking forward to tomorrow’s post.

katef October 21, 2008 at 8:14 pm

I can make all kinds of bread, just not a decent loaf! I’ve bookmarked this post and I am going to try out your recipe.. thanks for the inspiration!

amylouwho October 22, 2008 at 5:32 am

I should ease your angst at not buying that bread machine. We have one. A Zoji. . .whatever. It is easier, just throw all the stuff in. But it never ever tastes as good as bread baked in the oven. The crust is always tough. Always.

So knead on dear, knead on.

Stefani October 24, 2008 at 8:51 pm

Wow, I just checked your blog and it looks like I have 11 minutes to get my entry in! No really I just wanted to tell you how I admire that you go the lengths to make your own bread. There’s nothing like the homemade stuff huh?!

Thanks for sharing your recipe.
The other Stef

Heather Lee February 3, 2009 at 6:02 am

I have the easiest, healthiest bread recipe ever passed down to me by a true do it ALL yourself homesteader.

Put all this in mixer together, no particular order.
4 Cups whole wheat flour (the fresher the better, grind it yourself if you can)
2 Tbsp yeast
2 Thsp sweetener (honey, agave nectar)
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp sea salt
1 egg

Mix on lowest setting in mixer, or just do it by hand. Slowly mix in two more cups whole wheat flour, until mixture cleans side of bowl.

Let rest 10 minutes. Knead on highest setting for 4 minutes, or by hand until you can stretch the dough without it breaking. But I love my mixer. So quick.

Then do the rest. By the way, I love that my daughter begs to “pinch the loaf” and she’s not referring to something she would do in the bathroom.

Also, my daughter loves the Crinkleroot books. We have loved most of your recommendations.

Heather Lee

Jennifer Barnes April 18, 2009 at 8:07 pm

Oh wow. I just made this tonight. Wow. Even with the shortening and sugar, it’s GOOD. I would say it’s *not quite* as sweet as County Line’s bread, but it’s reaaallly good! Yum! Thanks for sharing this recipe.

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