Homemade French Bread

Here’s my newsflash of the day…

Homemade bread is amazing!

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Of course I knew that it was amazing before, but there’s something about the smell of bread fresh out of the oven that reestablishes the fact all over again. I really wish I could bottle up the smell and sell it on Ebay. I’m sure I’d make a fortune! 🙂

I’ve always had trouble with yeast breads. They look so easy on Pinterest, but that never seems to be the story when I try it on my own in the kitchen. My bread doesn’t ever seem to rise.

And now I’ve finally figured out why!

So now I’ve applied a few new tricks of the trade to a mouth-watering recipe from Pinterest, and I am thrilled to let you know that it really does work!

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French Bread – Soft, Chewy, and Homemade…

I owe a huge thank-you to another blogger for this recipe. Autumn, at It’s Always Autumn, shared this recipe for French bread in 2012 and recently updated her post to include a printable recipe card and step-by-step video in 2017.

Now, I’m not going to give you the recipe again here. Autumn has already done a great job with that, and you can find her ingredients and instructions here. What I am going to do is share a little of what I’ve learned in the art of making homemade bread actually happen in your kitchen.

Specifically, how in the world can I get this thing to rise???

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Rising Bread is a Science…

In researching the culprit behind my un-risen bread, I found a great article put together by a baker named Renee Pottle. In 2015, she wrote an article for Mother Earth News, a magazine and website that gives great tips and DIY projects for the home. In her article, 5 Reasons Why Your Bread Dough Doesn’t Rise, Renee shares some thoughts on the problem at hand…

  1. It might not be your fault! Whew! That’s a nice one to start out with! 🙂 Yeast is a living organism, and it dies if it isn’t kept in the right environment. So you might just need to buy a new batch of yeast and try again.
  2. Too Hot, Too Cold. This one is our fault. As a living organism, yeast has a temperature that it likes to live at. Warm water is good, hot water is bad. Warm house is good, cold house is bad. If we don’t stay in the range that the yeast prefers, it won’t do its thing.
  3. Wrong Pan. Sometimes the dough really has risen; it just doesn’t look like it has. If we put the bread dough in a pan that is too large, we won’t be able to tell if it has risen or not. Something else to check if you’re having trouble. 🙂

(Renee gives a few more great tips in her article… You should definitely check it out!)

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Rising Bread is an Art…

In this case, the problem with the un-risen bread really was my fault. We like to keep the heat down in the winter and the A/C off in the summer. If we can. I tend to be a penny-pincher that way. 🙂

But Renee Pottle notes that yeast prefers 75-90 degrees Fahrenheit, and that’s where my difficulty came in. Our house rarely reaches 75 degrees during the cold winter months, and if I try to bake during the hot summer months, the whole house ends up baking too! The result – flat bread in the winter and no bread in the summer.

Here’s where the secret comes in – it’s possible to keep your yeast happy by getting creative with your heat source. Try setting your bread dough on top of your refrigerator, on the stovetop, or in front of your fireplace. And if the dough is already in the baking pan, try turning your oven onto the “warm” setting and just let it rise there!

Check out the difference that this little trick made with my French bread!

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It Really Does Work!

I’ve had so much fun the last couple weeks figuring out this homemade bread thing. It’s delicious, easy on the grocery bill, and so satisfying! Renee Pottle puts it well – “Baking bread isn’t just about putting food on the table, it’s an experience, an event.[i]” It’s true! Making homemade bread takes time and energy, and we don’t really do it because we have to – we do it because we want to. And because it smells good. 😉

So now I’ve caught the homemade bread bug. Stay tuned for a post about delicious ways to use French bread… 🙂

Blessings!   ~ Erin

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[i] Renee Pottle, “5 Reasons Why Your Bread Dough Doesn’t Rise,” Mother Earth News, 3/16/2015, 1, accessed August 21, 2017, http://www.motherearthnews.com/real-food/why-your-bread-dough-doesnt-rise-zbcz1503.

When Life Gets Expensive…

This summer has been a little dramatic at our house. Chaotic. Expensive.

I’d have to say it started with the back water spigot. You know something’s wrong when you get a man-made lake in the basement because you tried to water the garden with the hose. Enter the plumber.

Next came the heating and cooling man. Our air conditioner hasn’t ever cooled the house efficiently for us, and we really needed to get that looked at before the summer got too hot. The dicey part started when the AC guy told us our air conditioner must have been original to the house. That model is now “out of print,” so to speak, so the only option is to buy a brand new machine. And by the way, your furnace is on its last leg too…

Cue the dentist. “You really need to make an appointment for a root canal as soon as possible…”

Yikes!

We’re not the only ones this happens to, are we? Of course not. But to be honest, it was really hard to count blessings for a while there.

Enter our Heavenly Father with His wonderful promises and His impeccable timing. I tested positive on the day they installed the new air conditioner and furnace. Pregnant. A baby!

It’s almost like God was telling us, “You’re so worried about these temporary possessions…. Here’s an eternal treasure to restore your perspective.”

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God doesn’t promise us an easy life. He doesn’t promise to give us incredible wealth or perfect health. But for Christians, He does promise a home with Him in eternity. Our goal in life is not get as much stuff as we can. (Newsflash: The one with the most toys at the end does not win!) Our bank account will one day pass into nonexistence. But our children? Our salvation? Our home with God? These things are truly lasting.

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Banana Bread

Banana Bread

I like to think of banana bread as a healthy dessert. My husband and I try to avoid having desserts in the house, but we do like to have something sweet in the lunchbox too. Banana bread has been a good compromise for us, and this recipe is one of my favorites. I like to double it so I can have a couple extra loaves in the freezer. The doubled version is below. 🙂

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Ingredients

1 1/3 cup sugar

2/3 cup oil (I like to substitute in 1/3 cup applesauce!)

4 eggs

6 Tablespoons sour milk (Sorry for the inconvenient measurement – that’s the same as 1½ quarter cups. You can make sour milk by adding a little vinegar to regular milk.)

2 heaping cups mashed bananas

4 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1-2 teaspoons cinnamon, to taste

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Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350oF. Grease three medium loaf pans.
  2. Mix together the sugar, oil, and eggs, then stir in the sour milk.
  3. Add the mashed bananas, then set aside.
  4. In a separate bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon together, then add to the wet ingredients. Stir well.
  5. Pour the batter the loaf pans and let stand for 20 minutes.
  6. Bake for 50-60 minutes. The bread is done when an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

(I put a half cup of chocolate chips in this past time, and it was really good!)

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Any tips for me? Variations I can try? I’d love to hear about them!

~ Erin

Pick-Your-Fruit Muffins!

Pick-Your-Fruit Muffins

I found this recipe at Trish’s blog In Fine Balance, and now it’s the favorite muffin recipe at our house. I love it because it’s easy to make and I can add in any fruit I want for variety. I’ve tried it with apples, rhubarb, and zucchini, and they have all tasted delicious. I like to keep them on hand as a healthy snack, but I keep them in the freezer in case we don’t go through them fast enough. These are too yummy to waste!

 The recipe below is my adapted version. You should check Trish’s blog here for the original!

Pick-Your-Fruit Muffins

(I made banana muffins this time – yum!!)

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Ingredients

2 cups flour

½ cup sugar

2 ½ teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

 

1 cup Greek yogurt

½ cup oil

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 ½ cups fresh fruit

 

2 Tablespoons sugar

1½ teaspoon cinnamon

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400oF. Grease one 12-cup muffin tin.
  2. Whisk together all of the dry ingredients.
  3. Combine all of the wet ingredients except the fruit. Add the wet mix to the dry mix and stir together.
  4. Stir in 1½ cups fresh fruit. Don’t overmix!
  5. Pour the batter into muffin cups. (I like to use a 1/3 measuring cup.)
  6. Combine sugar and cinnamon, and sprinkle about ½ teaspoon on each muffin. (Pat the cinnamon sugar onto the muffin top to make sure it will stick.)
  7. Bake for about 20 minutes, then remove from oven and let the muffins cool in the pan for about 10 minutes.

Makes 12 muffins. Enjoy! 🙂

~ Erin