.. And watching what I eat

homemade-bread I’m not really into dieting. As much as I can, I am inclined to keep my carb intake to a minimum because of the diabetes. At the same time, I like to eat clean because I find that the things I make, including the carbs, tend to be a lot more filling, so I eat less of it.

Like bread, for example.

Have you ever taken a look at the list of ingredients on bread? All that stuff they put in it and it is still flimsy stuff. Since I’ve been here in North Carolina, one of the things I have done has been to revive my breadmaking. I make bread two loaves at a time and that much bread lasts me a lot longer than two loaves of store bought bread. That just because it’s so much more filling that the boys don’t wolf it down in a day and a half. And there’s only seven things in it:

milk (2 cups)
butter (2 tablespoons)
sugar (3 tablespoons)
salt (1 tablespoon)
water (1/2 cup)
yeast (1 envelop or 2-1/4 teaspoons)
flour (about 6 cups)

No unpronounceable chemicals or preservatives. Nothing, to riff off Michael Pollan, that my grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.

I know several people who seem to believe they can’t make bread unless they have a contraption — I beg your pardon, a small appliance — known as a breadmaker. I have never used one of those and I’m not sure how they work. Here’s how I make bread:

  1. Combine the milk, butter, sugar and salt in a small sauce pan and warm the milk until the butter melts. This can be a tricky step; if you don’t get the milk warm enough, then your butter will never melt but if you let it get too warm, the mixture will be hot enough to kill your yeast.I usually get the milk warm enough so that the butter has started melting. Then I remove it from the heat and let it finish melting. Then I transfer the mixture to a glass bowl, which will be kind enough to help dissipate the heat for me.
  2. While the milk mixture is cooling, put the yeast into the warm water and add about a teaspoon of sugar to give the yeast something to eat. Sit it in a warm corner (say, on the stove top) until it doubles in size. That means, if you started with about 1/2 cup of stuff, it’s done when it reaches the 1 cup mark of your measuring cup. I know other people who tell me they just can’t figure out that yeast stuff. Here’s my routine: I take out the cup and fill it with hot water. Most of us have our hot water set at such a temperature that it’s hotter than is comfortable on our hand but not scalding. So, you let the hot water warm the cup for a few minutes. Then you pour that hot water out and fill it to the 1/2 cup with hot water. You should be able to stick a finger in that water without hurting yourself. At that point, you add the yeast and then add the sugar. My yeast never liked being added to sugar water; for some reason this always works best for me when the yeast goes in first.
  3. When the yeast has “proofed” (doubled in size), add it to the milk mixture. Stir until combined and start adding flour. Keep adding flour until you can no longer stir the mixture with a spoon. Turn the dough out of the bowl and onto a clean, well floured surface. Sprinkle more flour on top of the dough and flour your hands well. Knead the dough until it doesn’t stick to anything — not the surface and not your hands. The dough will absorb the flour on the kneading surface and it will eat the flour on your hands. Just keep adding more until you can knead for several minutes without the dough starting to stick to anything.
  4. Once you have gotten your dough to this consistency, place it in a room temperature, greased bowl. Cover with a clean dish towel, and leave in a warm corner of your kitchen for an hour.
  5. After rising for an hour, your dough should be roughly doubled in size. Punch the dough down in the bowl before turning the dough onto a well floured surface. Knead for about ten minutes. You’re trying to knead most of the air out of it. After ten minutes or so of kneading, cut the dough in half and place each half into a greased loaf pan. Return the dough to that warm corner and cover. Leave to rise for another hour.
  6. Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees. Now the recipe I use says you should bake your bread for 40 minutes but I find that’s too long for every oven I have ever used in all my nomadic adult life. I bake my bread for 20 minutes. I always tap it when it comes out and it always has that hollow sound that signals a done loaf of bread. All I know is that when I tried (once!) to bake my bread for the 40 minutes the recipe said, I ended up with overdone (read: burnt) bread. Your mileage may vary.
  7. When you take your bread out of the oven and determine to your own satisfaction that it’s done, turn the loaves out onto that clean dish town or onto a rack so that it can cool. It will be much easier to slice if you let it cool off first. I’ll warn you, though, it’ll be hard to let it cool because it will smell completely amazing long before it comes out of the oven.

I don’t have a bread slicer, either. I just use a bread knife and that gets the job done when it comes to slices. It forces me to learn to cut neatly. This bread is your garden variety white bread, without any of the whole grain stuff (I have a lovely whole wheat and honey bread recipe, too), and it is incredibly filling. I can almost never eat more than one slice at a time. And this stuff is cheaper in the long run because, as I said, it lasts longer than the store-bought stuff. At least in my house.

If I am to believe my scale, you don’t have to feel deprived to lose weight. You don’t have to count calories, either. Just remember that it will help you to keep your food portions at a reasonable size if you are eating real food that has both bulk and flavor, as well as all the satisfaction that comes from making things from scratch.

Are you intrigued by the idea of homemade bread? If you give this recipe a try, come back and tell us how it turned out!

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