I made bread from scratch

You guise. I’m a regular Susie Homemaker.

I made bread.

And sure, maybe I searched the internet for bread recipes that included the words “easy” and “quick” and “minimal ingredients” but whatever, this is isn’t an ingredients and effort contest. It’s a bread contest. And I’m the winner. On account of how no one else knew we were playing. Suckaaaaaaa.

I’ve been thinking about making bread for quite some time now for a couple of reasons.

  • My mom makes really good bread. But here’s the thing, she makes all day bread. Letting things rise for hours and multi-cook processes and she worked with my dad’s taste buds for basically forever to try to find the right rye read recipe. The bread is good but the process is daunting.
  • I like the earth. Making my own food puts less stress on the environment. We’re working on living more sustainably and making as much of my own food as possible is one part of that. And once I can find a non-ziplock way to store the bread, I’ll be cutting down on plastic waste too.
  • I like my body. By now we all know that one of the best things we can do is eat the food that lives in the circumference of the grocery store. Produce, meat, seafood, etc. Fresh foods that have one ingredient. How likely is it that David and I will one day eat only those foods? Super unlikely. But I like to make an effort to eat food that’s as close to natural as it can get whenever can. Or rather, whenever we can intersperse it with the frozen yogurt and tater tots.

Mmm… tots…

So anyway, finally feeling inspired enough to make some bread, I sought out a recipe that looked feasible and only minimally frightening. Somewhere inside the depths of Pinterest I stumbled upon The Very Best Homemade Whole Wheat Bread recipe slash blog post on Five Heart Home. I read the blog post at least once a day for several days (no, I’m not kidding) to psyche myself up until earlier this week I finally jumped in…

TARDIS salt shaker!
TARDIS salt shaker!

The recipe makes enough for two loaves of bread but I decided to half it. I have this knack for finding recipes online that look and sound amazing and somehow creating disgusting mountains of food that require us to order pizza. I try really hard but that’s not always good enough. That in mind, I didn’t think making two loaves was a good choice. I didn’t want to end up with two horrible loaves of bread. One would be enough.

I had my fancy pants stand mixer and started mixing away. I thought about writing down the halved measurements of the ingredients ahead of time but decided that was clearly unnecessary. So I poured a couple dry ingredients into the bowl, strumming right along, conserving ingredients and such. When suddenly I thought “Hey, this looks really watery. Like… really watery.” It turns out, I could’ve used that additional step of writing things down. I forgot to half the water. Oops.

watery dough

Two loaves it is!

It looked much more like dough after I updated the rest of the ingredients to two loaf making status.

better dough

Chewy thought so, too.

And so, I continued on with the recipe. There was some bowl covering for a while and some more mixing involved, then it was time to pop the dough lump into some pans and into the oven.

The blog post about the recipe mentions using parchment paper inside the pan because it works to keep it wrapped up nicely. When I tried to put the parchment paper in the pan, it ripped. And then I tried it again and it ripped again. So I said “eff this noise”, greased the pan and put the parchment paper away.

The recipe told me to “gently press” the dough into the corners of the pan. I didn’t catch the gently part until after I had spent several minutes trying to forcibly mush the bread into the corners. Frustratingly, it didn’t stay there. Why are you making me push this dough into the corners? Did you know it wouldn’t stay in the corners? Are you mocking me?!? Is this a test?!?

Once I realized I was being abusive to my dough lumps, I sent them to get cozy in the oven. The little snuggle bugs.

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After the bread was done I let the loaves cool for a little bit before cutting off an end piece and enjoying it with butter. I was pleasantly surprised. I actually really liked the bread. Go figure.

 

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I told my husband how amazing it was and forced him to eat a piece. I’m fairly certain he could not have cared less. He’s more of bread monster than I am but naked bread is useless to him so he just had a nibble and went on about his day. Rude. And since the bread wasn’t horrible, I took one loaf, wrapped it, and put that puppy in the freezer for later.

Also, yes, I now realize that I should’ve left the end of the bread on it and cut a slice from the middle so that I could mush the end back up against the bread later to keep it moist but WHATEVER, ROOKIE MISTAKE, GET OFF MY BACK.

Now that I’m a professional bread maker I’m going to need to do more research. If you look at the bread in her blog post it looks like store bought bread and is even shaped that way. Mine definitely doesn’t have that shape but moreover, doesn’t have that uniform look. The loaves are stretchy and holey and the innards are lumpier. How do I get that perfect looking bread? And look at those slices! Trying to slice this bread makes it bread into big pieces. What the heck am I missing here?

When we’re close to done with our current loaves I’m going to try to figure out what I did wrong with this bread and see if I can make it better next time. Any tips/hints/secret bread society knowledge would be appreciated.

kitchen messThis baking adventure left me feeling pretty accomplished. Who knows what I’ll try and whip up next!

This? This is a standard mid-baking adventure scene. And this is with a recipe with minimal ingredients. You don’t want to see my kitchen when I get fancy with a recipe. It gets ugly. It takes me a long time to clean up after I cook dinner or bake cookies.

And did you notice my cow print apron? It’s adorable, I know. I’m sure there are men around the world that imagine a woman cooking for them in a sexy apron with sexy clothes on. Meanwhile, on pancake Saturdays, David wakes up to me in sweatpants and a cow apron.

I’m straight pwning married life.

 

Real Food Experiment 1: Clean Eating Macaroni And Cheese

My first real food experiment comes courtesy of eat clean promoter and recipe provider, The Gracious Pantry. I decided to take on her Clean Eating Macaroni And Cheese dish after harboring some serious cheese cravings for a while now. The adventure was not without some hiccups, but it was mostly painless. Read on for the recipe, my experience, and my review at the end.

 

The Recipe

The Gracious Pantry’s Clean Eating Macaroni And Cheese (check it out on her page!)

The Experiment

I gathered my ingredients. I purposely picked a recipe that required to buy me as few ingredients as possible.

INGREDIENTS

 

My Ingredients:

  • * 2 cups uncooked, Great Value whole wheat elbow macaroni
  • ** 1/2 cup Stonyfield organic whole milk
  • *** 1 cup Seriously Sharp Cabot cheese
  • 1/8(ish) teaspoon McCormick, ground mustard
  • **** 1 tablespoon Pillsbury Best Whole Wheat flour
  • Salt to taste

* If you’re paying attention, you may have noticed that the original recipe calls for 2 cups of cooked pasta and I used 2 cups of uncooked pasta, on account of being a genius. If you’re keeping track at home, that means I had a yield of approximately 4 cups of cooked pasta. This really didn’t seem to impact my dish overall, the end product was still plenty cheesy but if you’re in the mood for ALL OF TEH CHEESEZ, maybe still with 2 cups cooked (approx. 1 cup uncooked).

** I drink whole milk and avoid any food item that is described as “reduced fat”, “low-fat”, or “fat free” because it means the product has been through additional processing, defeating the purpose of eating products as close to their whole, original form as possible.

*** There was no natural shredded sharp cheese in sight at my local Walmart. Everything shredded was processed cheese product. I chose the added inconvenience of cutting up the natural cheese block over choosing fake cheese. Also, because Cabot makes the best cheese (and butter) in the United States.

**** The original recipe says whole wheat flour might work instead of whole wheat pastry flour. Since I’m frugal and didn’t want to buy a new ingredient when I have a giant container of whole wheat flour, I substituted. This didn’t seem to cause any issues, but then I don’t know what it would be like with pastry flour since I didn’t try it so I could be wrong.

SALTMUSTARD FLOUR

 

I had a moment during the preparation where I realized I am a moron. I kept looking for the part of the directions that would tell me when/how to cook the pasta. As if I had never cooked pasta before. As if suddenly I couldn’t be trusted to understand that pasta was an integral part of this recipe’s success. I decided to wing it like a mad woman and cooked the pasta without being told to in the directions.

For timing’s sake, I boiled the water first and didn’t start making the sauce until after I had put the pasta in the boiling water. The timing was a little bit off because the cheese took longer to melt than if it were shredded, but overall it went pretty smoothly.

I cut the cheese into tiny blocks to help speed up the melting process when it was time for them to go to work.

CABOT

Have I mentioned that I love Cabot cheese? And butter? Because I do. I really, really do. And that’s not just because I’m an Upstate New York transplant, missing the trees and the tie die shirts of the Northeast. It’s because it’s true. Hands down. Best in the country. Don’t even try to argue this with me because you’re just wrong. Cutting up the cheese block was well worth the effort to have an entire macaroni and cheese dish covered in Cabot cheese.

I even wrote this poem in honor of my love for Cabot cheese:

Cabot cheese, you are so yummy
Cabot cheese, get in my tummy
Cabot cheese, I love you so
Cabot cheese, You’ll never know
Cabot cheese, without you my life is incomplete
Cabot cheese, you are the cheese I always choose to eat

Please send all poetry-related fan mail to my agent, Chewy the Most Handsome Dog.

PROCESS1 PROCESS2 PROCESS3 ADDINGDONE

Like I said, it was a pretty easy process. You can see that the cheesy goodness covered the macaroni quite well even though I accidentally doubled the macaroni.

And I had a tiny, furry spectator the entire time. I dropped a noodle or two and this guy was on it like white on rice. Or brown on rice. Or Jasmine on — nevermind.

CHEWY1
“Hey… What uh… what cha got there, Mom…?”
CHEWY2
“I noticed you made too much. I can help with that…”

 

The Review

I give this recipe 4 out of 5 Chewys. It was really good, but it needs something a little extra next time. (Spices? Better quality noodles? I’ll figure it out eventually.)

chewychewychewychewychewybw

 This recipe is one that I would definitely make again. I loved it. David loved it. Chewy loved it. The family enjoyed it completely. I would love to try to play around with it some more by maybe splitting the cheese with half mild cheddar instead of sharp, and adding some spices like perhaps paprika as some other homemade macaroni and cheese recipes call for. I’ll probably cut the recipe in half next time though since I really can’t imagine enjoying the cheese:noodle ratio if I used the correct amount of noodles.

If you’re into a more typical, Kraft-flavored macaroni, I would recommend sticking with mild cheddar. Sharp cheddar work for us and taste amazing but don’t produce a taste that’s as close to typical boxed macaroni and cheese as many people would like.

I enjoyed this side dish that night with green beans and leftover chipotle chicken breast that I topped with guacamole. Since then I’ve also mixed it with a can of tuna, and had it as a side with a veggie burger and beans. There’s still quite a bit of it left since I made enough for a small army, hopefully I can think of some more creative ways to incorporate macaroni and cheese in my diet this week…

 

plate2

 

The Nutrition

Numbers will vary based on ingredient brands/flavors etc.

nutritioninfo

A new feature: Real Food Experiments

wp226I’ve always had a weird relationship with food.

When I was younger it was all chicken nuggets and french fries for me. That and cereal were staples of my diet. Child nutrition wasn’t a focus for my generation and I was always naturally slender so little attention was paid to my poor eating choices.

As a high schooler, I was maybe 110 lbs. soaking wet and as a part of early dismissal I would stop by McDonalds for a Superzised number 10 (chicken nuggets, natch) with coke, and an Oreo McFlurry (back in MY day there was only one flavor of McFlurry!) at least three times a week.

As a college student I struggled with portion control as I was exposed to an all-you-can-eat buffet of foods for three meals a day. Ice cream and french fries were staples. Later in college, over the course of two years I would become vegetarian, then vegan, then a carnivore again. Over this time my taste buds adapted and changed. And wouldn’t you know it, a staple of my diet while being vegan and vegetarian was the french fry (I’m really good at health, you guys).

When I moved back home I became a personal trainer and worked out regularly but was heavier than ever before. Since leaving a university setting I’ve tried low-carb, no-carb, Paleo, flexitarian, gluten-free, and other options to try to stay a healthy weight while I work out and attempt to conquer adulthood. All the while I’ve been binging on chicken wings (ooh, diversity), french fries, and sweet treats.

I restrict. I binge. Wash, rinse, repeat.

It doesn’t take a dietitian to tell you that’s not healthy behavior. I struggle with portion control and self control. I struggle with wanting to eat fried food and frozen yogurt every day instead of broccoli. I struggle. A lot. But it doesn’t have to be so hard.

Recently I made a promise to myself to focus on me. I want to be a healthier, stronger, happier me. And a big part of that is getting control of my disordered eating. Not only will this help me, but it will help my husband too who has a lot of the same issues I do, and hopefully when the time comes for us to bring a tiny person into the world we will have mostly sorted out our food issues so that we can save our child from going through that struggle too (as for the rest of their life? we make no promises on not totally messing the imaginary kid up).

In our house there is no more calorie counting. No more food guilt. No more food regret. We are doing away with those things and we are doing that by focusing on healthy eating.

What is healthy eating?

Real food.

What is real food?

veg-board-with-real-food-rules1

 

 

I’m not going to act like we’re only going to buy the most humanely raised, local, organic everything. We don’t have that privilege. We typically try to avoid additives and hormones where we can but if the value chicken is $2.99 and the organic, locally and humanely raised chicken is $8.99, we’re just not in a place to choose the fancy chicken. So we make adjustments and we buy from farmer’s markets when we can.

This journey is a new one and since I’ve started I’ve posted some pictures of the recipes I’ve made with great response from my friends and family. Hence, a new feature to my blog. Real Food Experiments.

In this space I’ll be documenting all of my new recipe adventures with eating real food and cooking for  my little family. The good, the bad, and the pizza-night inducing. I’ll let you know when and why we loved something or we didn’t. I’ll let you know how many scraps my dog got to eat off the floor because I was too slow to pick them up and he’s a floor scrap ninja. I’ll let you know where the recipes came from because I’m all about giving credit where credit is due. And if I decide to try to make recipes myself (not likely) I’ll share those too.

I’m going to share when we’re able to spend an entire week eating all real food and I’m going to share when we spend an afternoon eating out and drinking at wineries (our anniversary is coming up, I’m so ready, come to me bread and booze and chocolate).

And of course, I’m going to supply the nutritional info when I can. Most online recipes are void of nutritional information but I’m going to use the magical interwebz to help me compile this information whenever possible. I want to know, you want to know, but I can’t guarantee 100% accuracy as, of course, ingredients may vary.

So, get excited for my Real Food Experiments. I hope you enjoy the ride and get some good recipes out of it!