Stocking the Pantry 2: The Bread Edition

After publishing his seminal work entitled An Eater’s Manifesto in which he lays out many concerns over the modern production of food, Michael Pollan found himself deluged with questions regarding what was actually safe (or good) to eat.  His response was In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto where he writes that we should “eat food, not too much, and mostly greens.”  Sounds simple enough, except for the fact that what many of us consider to be “food” are actually highly processed, food-like products. To specify what he meant by “food,” Pollan wrote that it should be recognizable by our grandmothers (or great-grandmothers) as  “food,” even when we read the ingredient list.  In short, you shouldn’t need a Ph.D. in Nutritional Science to understand the contents of what you are going to eat.  Pollan’s iconic example of this is the ingredient list from a brand name “bread” product that had an astounding 20 ingredients when bread truly only needs four; flour, yeast, water and salt.

It was through readings such as Pollan’s that I realized I really didn’t know how a lot of the basic foodstuffs were made.  Don’t get me wrong I knew what was in some of these things, but I didn’t know how to go about making them for myself.  I had the theory, but not the practice.  Much of my cooking before that time had been focused on either making really fancy food or really quick food.  There were the fancy meals for friends where I tried out new ideas and tastes that until that time I’d only read about, and then there were the weeknight meals as a young married couple trying to balance graduate school and life. The basic foodstuffs, the types of things that I liked to keep in my pantry like spaghetti sauce, pizza dough, even muffins, were things that I only bought in packaged form and hadn’t really thought about making them at home.

Around the same time of Little Man’s arrival I had started teaching anthropology of food courses at the university where I taught.  The research I was doing for my courses, as well as our desire to feed our family well, led me to start tinkering with making some of these basics, like pizza dough and soup stock.  Now these things are so basic for me to make that it irks me if I run out and have to buy them from the store.  The basic food that I’ve recently added to my repertoire to make at home is whole wheat bread.

Now before you get nervous and start mentally listing off all the ways that you live a super busy life and can’t possibly fit making your own bread into an already crazy schedule, don’t panic.  Take a deep breath.  This recipe is a fun Saturday afternoon project and makes enough dough for you to make three loaves of bread, two of which can hang out in the freezer until you are ready to eat them.  That is the beauty of stocking your pantry; you make things periodically in bulk, freeze them, and then use them as you want them over the following weeks or months.  You can choose what types of staples you would like to have at hand, and make them at home.  And for all of these basic foods, like pizza dough, bread, tomato sauce, etc., there is something immensely satisfying knowing that not only do you know the entire ingredient list, but you actually made these things.  They weren’t made in a factory by extruders and people garbed in sci-fi plastic clothing, but these foods were made by you, with your own hands (and your kids’ hands), and that makes it all taste that much better.  Have fun!

IMG_9825Whole Wheat Oat Bread

Adapted from: Girl Versus Dough

Ingredients:
2 cups water
2 cups milk
4 ½ tsp. (2 packets) active dry yeast
3 tbsp. agave
4 cups whole wheat flour
5 cups whole wheat bread flour
2 cup rolled oats (not instant)
½ cup olive oil
2 tbsp. salt

Directions:

  1. Combine half of the milk and water in a microwave safe bowl and heat for 45 seconds or until very warm (not more than 115ºF).  Pour this into the bowl of a stand mixer (or mixing bowl) and add half of the yeast and agave.  Stir to combine and let rest for 10 minutes or until foamy.
    Adding the yeast to the milk mixture in the stand mixer.

    Adding the yeast to the milk mixture in the stand mixer.

    The yeast starting to proof and get foamy.

    The yeast starting to proof and get foamy.

    The rest of the dry ingredients.

    The rest of the dry ingredients.

  2. Add half of the flours, oats, olive oil and salt to the bowl and mix/stir to combine.  Once the ingredients are incorporated, mix at Speed 2 on your stand mixer for 6 minutes.  If kneading by hand, dump ingredients out onto a lightly floured board and knead until smooth and elastic (about 15 minutes).
    The mixture just getting fully incorporated and starting to pull away from the sides of the bowl.

    The mixture just getting fully incorporated and starting to pull away from the sides of the bowl.

    The cohesive dough has been "kneaded" by the machine and is ready to proof.

    The cohesive dough has been “kneaded” by the machine and is ready to proof.

  3. Oil a large bowl for the dough to rise in.  Place the dough into the bowl, cover loosely with plastic wrap and set aside.

    The first batch of dough resting in a proofing bowl.

    The first batch of dough resting in a proofing bowl.

  4. Repeat the previous instructions with the remaining ingredients.  Once the second batch of dough is completed, add it to the first.  Roll the dough quickly in the oiled bowl so that all sides are slicked.  Cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap and then with a towel.  Place the dough in a warm place to rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
    The second batch of dough has been added to the first and set in the bowl to rest.

    The second batch of dough has been added to the first and set in the bowl to rest.

    Covering the dough with plastic wrap.

    Covering the dough with plastic wrap.

    Tucking the dough in with a towel.

    Tucking the dough in with a towel.

    A big, beautiful bowl of proofed dough.

    A big, beautiful bowl of proofed dough.

  5. Gently press down on the dough to release some of the gases.  Let it sit for 10 minutes.

    There's no need to brutalize your dough by "punching" it down.  Just give it a nice press to release some of the gasses, then let it rest for a bit before proceeding.

    There’s no need to brutalize your dough by “punching” it down. Just give it a nice press to release some of the gasses, then let it rest for a bit before proceeding.

  6. Divide the dough into three pieces.  On a lightly floured board shape one piece of dough into a roughly 8×6 inch rectangle.  Tightly roll the rectangle into a long cylinder, tucking the ends in as you go.  Seal the cylinder along its base so that no seams are visible.  Set the cylinder aside and repeat this step with the remaining two pieces of dough.
    Form the individual pieces of dough into rough rectangles.

    Form the individual pieces of dough into rough rectangles.

    Then roll the rectangles into tight cylinders, tucking in the edges as you go.

    Then roll the rectangles into tight cylinders, tucking in the edges as you go.

  7. To bake immediately: Place each piece of dough into its own oiled loaf pan.  Cover the pan(s) loosely with plastic wrap and a towel.  Set the pan(s) aside to let the dough rise for about 45 minutes.  The dough should be more or less the shape of the finished loaf.  Proceed to baking instructions.
    If you want to bake a loaf immediately, place the formed cylinder into a well oiled bread pan.

    If you want to bake a loaf immediately, place the formed cylinder into a well oiled bread pan.

    Cover the prepared dough with plastic wrap and its towel, then set it aside to proof again.

    Cover the prepared dough with plastic wrap and its towel, then set it aside to proof again.

    This dough is proofed and ready for the oven.

    This dough is proofed and ready for the oven.

  8. To freeze for future use: Place each piece of dough into its own large, resealable plastic bag.  Seal the bag and place it in the freezer.  The dough can be frozen for 2-3 months.  Remove the dough from the freezer and thaw in a well-buttered loaf pan, then proceed to baking instructions.

    Any dough that you want to save can be tightly wrapped in plastic and then sealed in a plastic bag and frozen.  This dough will last in the freezer for 2-3 months.

    Any dough that you want to save can be tightly wrapped in plastic and then sealed in a plastic bag and frozen. This dough will last in the freezer for 2-3 months.

  9. Baking Instructions: Preheat your oven to 400ºF.  Bake the bread for 40-50 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking.  The bread is done when dark brown on top and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom, or has reached an internal temperature of 190ºF.  Cool on wire racks and enjoy!IMG_9824
 Recipe Icon Whole Wheat Oatmeal Bread
http://www.thesheepareout.com
adapted from: Girl Versus Dough
Ingredients:
2 cups water
2 cups milk4 ½ tsp. (2 packets) active dry yeast
3 tbsp. agave
4 cups whole wheat flour
5 cups whole wheat bread flour
2 cup rolled oats (not instant)
½ cup olive oil
2 tbsp. salt
Directions:

  1. Combine half of the milk and water in a microwave safe bowl and heat for 45 seconds or until very warm (not more than 115ºF).  Pour this into the bowl of a stand mixer (or mixing bowl) and add half of the yeast and agave.  Stir to combine and let rest for 10 minutes or until foamy.
  2. Add half of the flours, oats, olive oil and salt to the bowl and mix/stir to combine.  Once the ingredients are incorporated, mix at Speed 2 on your stand mixer for 6 minutes.  If kneading by hand, dump ingredients out onto a lightly floured board and knead until smooth and elastic (about 15 minutes).
  3. Oil a large bowl for the dough to rise in.  Place the dough into the bowl, cover loosely with plastic wrap and set aside.
  4. Repeat the previous instructions with the remaining ingredients.  Once the second batch of dough is completed, add it to the first, and shape the dough into a tight ball.  Roll the dough quickly in the oiled bowl so that all sides are slicked.  Cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap and then with a towel.  Place the dough in a warm place to rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
  5. Gently press down on the dough to release some of the gases.  Let it sit for 10 minutes.
  6. Divide the dough into three pieces.  On a lightly floured board shape one piece of dough into a roughly 8×6 inch rectangle.  Tightly roll the rectangle into a long cylinder, tucking the ends in as you go.  Seal the cylinder along its base so that no seams are visible.  Set the cylinder aside and repeat this step with the remaining two pieces of dough.
  7. To bake immediately: Place each piece of dough into its own oiled loaf pan.  Cover the pan(s) loosely with plastic wrap and a towel.  Set the pan(s) aside to let the dough rise for about 45 minutes.  The dough should be more or less the shape of the finished loaf.  Proceed to baking instructions.
  8. To freeze for future use: Place each piece of dough into its own large, resealable plastic bag.  Seal the bag and place it in the freezer.  The dough can be frozen for 2-3 months.  Remove the dough from the freezer and thaw in a well-buttered loaf pan, then proceed to baking instructions.
  9. Baking Instructions: Preheat your oven to 400ºF.  Bake the bread for 40-50 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking.  The bread is done when dark brown on top and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom, or has reached an internal temperature of 190ºF.  Cool on wire racks and enjoy!

Click here for a printable version of the Whole Wheat Oat Bread recipe.

IMG_9825

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9 thoughts on “Stocking the Pantry 2: The Bread Edition

  1. angelinahue

    Fully agree! It’s also incredibly satisfying to make your own food, plus it will be more likely to be to your personal taste preferences (instead of being too salty, for instance, as is often the case for me when I dine out).

    Reply
    1. TheSheepAreOut Post author

      Yes, thanks for the great comment. It has been interesting to re-discover how to make these basic staple foods, and I’m having a BLAST doing it! It’s nice to know that there are no hidden additives in the food that you make yourself, and you don’t need to research what all the funky chemical ingredients are. Flour, salt, water… I know what those are.

      Reply
      1. Mr. Bright Wings

        Assuming, of course, your flour isn’t chemically bleached, and wasn’t grown in a field that made heavy use of pesticides or Roundup, that your salt is sea salt, not iodized, and preferably mined from ancient seas, as opposed to slowly evaporated from current sea water which may contain petroleum products, heavy metals and other pollutants, that your water is well water, not city water with chlorine and other additives, and that your aquifer hasn’t been polluted by industrial runoff, or with pharmaceuticals by your local city’s water recycling program where they dump filtered “gray water” into a point that drains into your shared aquifer, etc.

        Have I sufficiently wet-blanketed?

        Good. My work here is done.

      2. TheSheepAreOut Post author

        This reply is for Mr. Bright Wings below. 🙂 No, I wouldn’t say that you were a “wet blanket,” but one thing I often hear from people when they first start researching into food production is a fists shaking to the sky cry of “what can I eat!?!” When you realize the enormity of what is out there, how many things have been messed with and the difficulties/cost of finding better eating alternatives it can be overwhelming. My advice has always been to pick your battles and to remember to breathe.
        In an interesting editorial piece from Food and Wine last year Editor Dana Cowin commented on a study that suggested if every American (or Canadian) made one non-standard meat choice for one meal every week the financial impact on the major feed lots would be so severe they would be forced to make changes to how they do things. One non-standard meat choice for one meal once a week. That could mean to go for a non-farmed fish, for lamb, for a vegetarian option, etc. Pretty simple.
        So while it’s unlikely that all of us can change every aspect of the processed food chain at once, from the pesticides/GMOs in our fields, from industrial pollutants in our salt and tap waters, etc. We can make little steps that make a difference. Which, if I’m not mistaken, is exactly what you have been trying to do in the past with your homestead and now with your soon-to-be-amazing garden. 🙂 Have I sufficiently fluffed your pillow?

  2. Mr. Bright Wings

    Marie, you once gave me a book I requested with a method for keeping dough on hand for daily baking. I have not yet made good use of that. I should. And, when I do, I’ll pass on some pointers your way, if you so desire. As opposed to freezing the dough, it relies on keeping a bin of dough in the fridge, from which you pull amounts as you need them, then refresh it with additional flour and water according to its special ratios.

    Reply
  3. TheSheepAreOut Post author

    Oooooohhhhh…. I’d love to read about that again. I wonder if that could create a sort of sour dough flavor and depth in the bread. I’ve also tried some of those no knead breads, and they are good but they work best with white flours and we try to not eat too much of that.

    Reply
    1. Mr. Bright Wings

      I love white flour! Whole wheat, too. They both have their place and time.

      It would definitely create more depth of flavor in the bread, because the dough would spend more time exposed to the yeast’s gasses, etc. It wouldn’t create a fermented sour dough flavor, though, because, being refrigerated, it would never ferment.

      You could, in theory, ferment a sour dough starter, then transfer it to refrigeration, but I think its sourness would diminish the further it got from its initial fermentation.

      Still, having the depth of flavor of a long, slow rise in the fridge is nothing to sneeze at.

      Reply
      1. TheSheepAreOut Post author

        Yes, we’ve discussed your amazing genetics in the past that allow you to revel in some of the tasty foodstuffs that the rest of us mere mortals must fight against. 🙂 I love white flour too, but I’ve gotten so used to good whole grain breads and other pastries that I often find their white flour counterparts to be a bit bland. There is, however, a bakery that your daughter fell in love with during her visit here that has the most ethereal croissants… They are a complete weakness for me, and I have to work hard to keep my distance. I’ve toyed with the idea of creating a sour dough starter, and in fact many of the recipes I’ve looked at talk about keeping the starter in the fridge. I even have a lovely crock ready to accept my offering. I simply haven’t been ready to make the commitment of the constant use and recharging of the starter. I’m also a bit gun shy of sourdough, since it was with making a double batch of sour dough bread just before Little Man was born that I burned out the motor of my beloved counter top stand mixer. Santa was good to me this year and I have a new one again, but I guard this one diligently and try to not overtax it. It’s funny how there are certain kitchen tools that while you don’t really need them, once you get used to them they seem indispensable. I survived without a stand mixer for a couple of years, but man do they make bread making a cinch… Love it!

        Date: Tue, 4 Mar 2014 23:16:34 +0000 To: hopwoodmh@hotmail.com

  4. Pingback: A Week On Our Own | The Sheep Are Out…

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