Sunday, October 01, 2006

Give Us This Day

Bread. Basic stuff. Can't have a sandwich without it. It fills you up, holds your peanut butter, mops your egg yolk, and gives you a scooper at dinner.

But if you're going for maximum nutrition for minimum money, I recommend that you don't cheap out on bread. Next time you're in the store, grab a loaf of brand-x super-cheap on-sale bread, and compare its nutrition label to a good brand name. It's a little startling. You might spend two dollars more a loaf for the next brand up, but the nutritional benefits are definitely worth the money.

One of the problems with bread is that when the flour is processed they remove a lot of vitamins and minerals... and then put them back, more or less. The cheapest brands are often little more than fiber and empty calories. On the other hand, spendy multi-grain varieties might be fooling you into thinking you're getting whole-grain benefits when you're not.

Go whole wheat whenever you can. Whole grain breads have astounding benefits that go beyond what you can read on a nutrition label. Eating whole grains has been shown to reduce the risks of heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes and obesity.

Seriously, this is one place where your money is well spent, and careful shopping (try your local warehouse club, or see if the bread distributor have a day-old store) can minimize even that expense. Remember: in the United States the only way to be certain that it's really a whole wheat bread is to read the ingredients! Here's a really great article on Whole Grains. If you're paying a bit more to get away from empty-calorie cheap bread, you might as well go for whole wheat and get all those bonuses!

I like to make my own bread, but I don't have quite enough free time these days. Instead I've been making No-Knead Rolls and I've just started making my own Pita bread, both of which are less time-intensive than loaf breads. I make with them half whole wheat flour and half unbleached white flour (100% whole wheat I find very hard to work by hand, it makes my tendonitis flare up). If you find making bread intimidating, Try these very easy recipes. The titles link to their internet source; these have my modifications.

No-Knead Rolls
4 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 cups warm water
1/2 cup white sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup shortening
3 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 egg

In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water and set aside to proof (let it sit about 10 minutes). In another bowl, mix together sugar, salt, shortening, and egg with an electric mixer at low speed. Add mixture to yeast, and stir in flour. The last 3 cups of flour will have to be mixed in by hand. Cover dough with a damp cloth, and place in refrigerator. Punch down occasionally as dough rises. You can leave dough in refrigerator overnight. Two hours before baking, shape the dough into rolls. When shaping your rolls, remember that they will double in size. Place on greased pans, baking trays or muffin pans. Let rise 2 hours. Bake at 400 degrees F (205 degrees C) for 8 to 10 minutes.

Whole Wheat Pita
1/4 c warm water
2 tsp active dry yeast
pinch of sugar
2 c whole wheat flour
1 c unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 c water
1 Tbsp Oil
1 tsp salt

Mix yeast, pinch of sugar and 1/4 c of warm water in a small bowl. Set aside to proof yeast, about 10 minutes. In a large bowl, pour in yeast mixture, then flour, olive oil and salt. With a wooden spoon mix in about 1/2 cup of the remaining warm water. Add water a tablespoon at a time as needed to make a firm dough. Knead by hand for about 8-10 minutes till smooth. Wipe a large bowl with a little oil, add dough and cover with plastic. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Punch down dough and knead briefly. Cut into 6 equal pieces. Roll pieces into balls, place on a cookie sheet and cover with plastic wrap.

Let rise till doubled again, another 20-30 minutes. Preheat oven to 400° F. Roll out each ball into a 6-7" round, taking care not to pierce dough surface (or pita won't puff).

Place rounds on a cookie sheet, brush each generously with olive oil, and bake about 6 minutes till tops begin to brown and pitas puff. Note: over-cooked pitas get hard on the bottom, but they still make awesome pizza crust!

I was going to write a blog on making loaf bread, but I realized that when I went to re-learn it (I hadn't made any since high school) I found a great site that laid it all out, with pictures and everything. It took some looking, 'cause the page in The Ugly Green Binder in the Cupboard doesn't have the URL on it, but I found it. If you'd like to learn to make your own real loaf bread from scratch, may I highly recommend The New Homemaker.

No comments:

Related Posts with Thumbnails