The Pantry Advisor: Turn easy homemade bread to handy pantry staples
Written by Anne Willhoit
Monday, 21 June 2010 21:46
At Sound Food we do a lot of thinking about the community's food system. Have you ever stopped to think about an even more local food system – the food system in your own home? Once you begin to examine what you eat and to make choices that include seasonal ingredients and homemade projects, you'll see that you can easily create a system that is interdependent. By-products from homemade meals and scraps from left-over ingredients can be used to create even more deliciously useful things. This series of articles will explore how making the most out of the food system in your own kitchen can save you time and money.
Turn Old Bread Into a Pantry Staple
Making bread by hand makes you just feel good. There's something satisfying about taking a fresh loaf from the oven and thinking, "Take that, busy world, I made this!" Homemade bread tastes better than anything you can buy in the store and is a more frugal option than fancy bakery breads.
Once you've introduced bread baking into your home food system, you'll want to get the most for your efforts. Even if you have a houseful of hungry eaters, you'll still find that sometimes you're left with uneaten slices, crusty bread ends, or even (gasp!) an entire loaf that didn't bake up quite the way that you expected it to. It's easy to turn these scraps into ingredients for future meals.
Bread making doesn't have to be time consuming.
A lot of people are talking about no knead bread and, with many different recipes out there, you can easily find one and make it your own 'daily bread.' My favorite recipe is a dough that mixes up easily and can stay in the refrigerator (in a lidded container) until it's ready to be used. You can bake it up into a sandwich loaf, dinner bread, or even rolls. This recipe has been hanging on the inside of my cabinet door for so long that I can't remember where it came from. I call it 'cheater
bread' because it's so effortless it feels like cheating.
3 c. water
32 oz. all purpose flour
1 tbs. salt
1 1/2 tbs. yeast
Mix the ingredients in a large container with a lid. Let rest on the counter for 2 hours. Store in the refrigerator, covered. Before baking, remove a piece of the dough from the container, shape, and let rise at room temperature for 45 minutes. Bake at 450F for 25-35 minutes.
Learn a little more about bread making.
If you're feeling ambitious and want to experiment more with bread making, there are many resources out there to give you tips (and courage). Peter Reinhart's, The Bread Baker's Apprentice, is a reliable resource that takes you through the stages of bread making and gives you foolproof and delicious formulas. The King Arthur Flour website provides recipes, a blog with step-by-step photos, and even a baker's hotline to call (in times of bread emergencies.) You can join their Baking Circle chat group to reach a community of bakers who can help you answer any question. If you're looking for a place to start, I recommend the French Baguettes.
Now that you have bread, get in the habit of using the leftovers.
There's a lot more that you can do with 'dead bread' than just french toast. Keeping dried bread cubes and bread crumbs on hand in your freezer expands the possibilities for creative uses.
Dried Bread Cubes (and Croutons)
Cut your loaf of bread into half-inch cubes. Spread out on a baking sheet. Bake at 200F for one hour (or until golden brown.) When cool, store in a container in your freezer. To turn bread cubes into croutons, toss with melted butter, salt, and seasonings of your choice before baking.
In a food processor, process scraps of dried bread until the crumbs are fine. Store in a container in your freezer. Place a crumbled paper towel in your container to capture any moisture and keep your crumbs crispy. Use straight from the freezer.
Try stuffed pork chops or Italian meatballs for dinner. You'll be amazed at the transformation from old bread to delicious meal!