small change toward a rich life

One more for the ‘no-knead’ bread revolution

I love fresh homemade bread. Once, in my early twenties, I made a loaf by hand. I had picked up the classic Tassajara Bread Book from a remainder table, and one afternoon I went at it for several hours, kneading and punching away. It made a glorious loaf which we happily devoured straight out of the oven, but the effort-to-results ratio was just too high, and I couldn’t imagine going through that ever again.

Many years later, I bought a bread maker. Aside from an annoyingly difficult-to-clean paddle, the process was vastly simplified, and the results also quite good. That bread maker is still in a box in our garage, but our current kitchen (which we are likely to have for quite a few more years) is too small to make single-use appliances very practical — there’s no place to store something so large either on the counter or in the cabinets.

So I’d given up on homemade bread for the foreseeable future, until sometime last year when I started running across references online to ‘no-knead bread.’ I was skeptical, but positive reports abounded. Last weekend I finally decided to try this miracle for myself.

At his last annual checkup, Jak tripped the alarms for ‘pre-diabetic’ levels of blood sugar, and as a result I’ve made an extra effort to stick to whole grains and low-glycemic foods. Which is why I ignored the very attractive white-flour no-knead options and went straight for the whole wheat ‘bread brick’ introduced by New York Times food writer Mark Bittman.

It worked like a charm. It takes about six hours start to finish, but total active time is only about ten minutes. You need five items: one large mixing bowl, one non-stick loaf pan, a teaspoon, a measuring cup, and a brush for the oil. No expensive appliances, and cleanup is a breeze. It’s so easy that I’m going to use the next loaf to teach our ten-year-old how. (Edit: The kidlet did great; that’s the one she helped with in the photo above. Next time she’ll be ready to do it on her own.)

Here’s the recipe; the only adjustment I made was to use extra wheat flour in place of the rye I didn’t have. It’s arguably not the most beautiful loaf ever, but it sure is yummy.

I worked out the cost per loaf to be around 80¢ at regular price; by watching for sales on flour and yeast I can probably bring that down by a dime or two. The dense whole-grain bread I’ve been buying for Jak at Costco is something over $2 per loaf, though the loaves are slightly larger. Still, at a conservative estimate, switching to the homemade bread should save us $1.20 a week, or about $60 per year.

Frankly, though, homemade bread is so much better than anything storebought that I’d do it even if it didn’t save a penny!


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