Opt for healthy, homemade breads over the sugary supermarket (not local!) loaves.
Each week, as the sun rises, something else rises in my home as well—the heritage and health of home-baked bread. In just 10 minutes time, I mix whole grain flours, a little butter, a dab of turbinado sugar and the yeast that brings this whole concoction alive. I spread flour on the table and plop the mound of dough onto it, feeling it give beneath the heels of my hands as I push it away from me and fold it back over, turning it, pushing it, folding it until I know by the way it feels beneath my warm hands that it’s ready.
I pat it like a baby’s bottom and put it back in the bowl, covering it with a towel as if it were napping. Two hours later, I punch it down (a cathartic joy!), let it rise again and finish the simple process that will take these disparate ingredients from cupboard to consumption.
Homemade bread appeals to some deep human instinct of ours, and making bread is a skill passed down from mother to daughter to son, from hands to hands to hands. The surge in home bread baking is growing now, however, for other reasons, too:
Kathy Forte, a mother of four in Dunwoody, Georgia, takes her home bread baking a step further. “I grind my own grains,” explains Kathy, “because then I know that my children are getting the complete nutrition present in the whole grain. I also like to make my own bread because I can add what I want to it—millet, poppy seeds, ground-up flax seeds—and I know exactly what’s in there and where it came from.”
For many bread bakers who grind their own grains, the ingredients come from Breadbeckers in Woodstock, Georgia. According to Kathy, after you make the initial investment in the bread-making supplies (the grinder, bread machine and ingredients), over time, home bread baking ends up costing much less than buying bread in the store each week.
I used to use a bread machine, and yes, my goodness, it doesn’t get much easier than that. Kathy estimates she can have a loaf of bread in the works in five minutes or less. After my machine broke, however, I just never replaced it because I fell too deeply in love with making bread by hand while a child tells me her spelling words, or I watch a goldfinch eat black-eyed susan petals outside my kitchen window, or I figure out answers to all the problems of the world. I also like buying organic heirloom grains from Anson Mills because it helps me feel connected to this region of the country where I did not grow up but now call home.
If you’re looking for something between supermarket bread and your home oven, check out area farmers’ markets for artisan bread bakers who use organic or all-natural ingredients (a dubious term, I know, but you can ask the bakers themselves what they use exactly):
I challenge you to buy the olive bread from H & F and not eat half of it by the time you’re home!