With all the concern today about highly processed food and the chemicals used to process them or the high fructose sugars to preserve them, it seemed like a good idea and a lot of fun to try making as many foods as possible at home with little or no processing. Of course, I enjoy doing things like that and also, now that I’m retired I finally have the time. I have used the rawest, purest form of the foods that I can find and manage safely, but sugar is a great preservative and cooking or pasteurizing in some applications is the safest. The least processed forms of sweeteners available to modern man are molasses, sorghum molasses, maple sugar and syrup and agave syrup. Brown sugar is less refined than white, of course, but it is occasionally preferable to use white as it does not cloud or flavor foods.
Locally grown or produced foods are becoming more popular but, alas, many “farmer’s market products are shipped in and are the same produce found in the supermarket. After all, any native Minnesotan knows that cantaloupe cannot be ripe in Minnesota in June–an item I found in my local Farmer’s Market last June. If you want to try and reproduce some of the flavor and authenticity of the past–be careful! It sees to be increasingly difficult to make food with unadulterated ingredients, but if you are willing to try, it is both fun and healthy.
The first category of foods that I am making from scratch is bread. I know that a lot of people are going gluten-free but I am not one of them. Thankfully, I have no allergies or sensitivities to wheat or other grains that contain gluten and bread is a central food staple in our house. But I do want healthy breads–not store bought. And bread is so simple to make at home where you can control the ingredients, the look, and the price of your bread.
I use many methods of mixing, kneading and baking bread. I do use a bread maker, but not to bake the bread. I use it on the dough setting. You can make virtually any kind of bread this way as long as you put the ingredients in the bread maker in the right order (yeast always goes last). I also use my Kitchen Aid Mixer with the dough hook attachment. I sometimes knead my bread by hand and I like to make several kinds of no-knead “casserole” breads.
One of the simplest and best-loved breads is French Bread. Here is the recipe and directions for making it in a bread maker. Of course you can mix and knead the bread by hand if you wish.
Put into bread maker in this order:
1-1/3 cups room temperature water
1/2 tsp vinegar
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. sugar
2-3/4 cups unbleached white flour
4 tsp. vital gluten
1 Tbsp. dry yeast
When dough setting is completed, turn out on floured board. Shape into 18″ log, tapered at both ends and put on a parchment-covered baking sheet. Cover and let rise approximately 40 minutes in warm place or until doubled. Bake in preheated 400 deg. oven for 30-35 minutes.