Baking bread is a life skill many think is old-fashioned. Why spend so much time and energy to bake bread when you can just buy a loaf of tasteless, preservative-laden bread for less than a dollar at the store? (Yes, sarcasm completely intended.)
That time-and-energy argument is quite valid, which is why in the past I haven't baked much bread.
But since my good friend Lynn introduced me to the book Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, I have no excuse not to be baking bread every day. In fact, I've been baking a loaf or two of bread nearly every day for the past month.
Why is baking bread so easy?
Prepping the dough — 5 minutes active work. I spend about five minutes prepping dough for three loaves using just water, yeast, salt, and flour. There's no kneading at all and other than a mixing spoon and measuring cups, there are no dishes to wash. I could easily spend the same amount of time preparing dough for six or nine loaves, but my fridge won't hold that much dough. (Actually, I'm thinking the six gallons of milk in my fridge might be the problem.)
Waiting for the dough to rise — 2 hours or so (but it's not work since I can be doing anything else I want to while it rises). When the dough is done rising, I either put it in the fridge where it can keep for up to two weeks, or I go ahead and bake a loaf or two.
Baking the bread — 5 minutes active work. To bake a loaf of bread, I take about five minutes to cut the dough and shape it. After that, the dough just rests for a while before I pop it into the oven. Then about 30 minutes later, I have a fresh and delicious loaf of homemade bread!
Because each loaf itself is smaller than a sandwich loaf of bread, it usually doesn't last more than a day at our house. But that's fine with me because it means that we end up having fresh bread every day.
Since baking bread is so easy, there's absolutely no reason why my children shouldn't learn how to do it themselves. Even as adults with active careers, they'll easily have time to bake their own bread. Homemade bread is delicious, it has no preservatives, and it's much cheaper than the vast majority of store-bought breads.
The book Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day has recipes for all types and shapes of bread. I've made white and wheat recipes, and both have been delicious. The picture above is the first loaf I made using the recipe from the book. But now I usually form the dough into baguettes instead. We get more of that delicious crust that way!
Is this too hard a lesson to teach the life skill of bread making to your homeschoolers?
So what are you waiting for? Why aren't you baking a loaf of fresh bread?
If you don't have the book yet, but want to see a step-by-step tutorial for how to make a basic loaf, the author's website has a great photo tutorial of the process here. I've also posted the recipe itself with my variations on the preparation method on my husband's food site at Food+Heat.