Break Bad Bread Habits

Bread

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:

  • A desire to make a healthy daily bread, without preservatives, high-fructose corn syrup, white sugar, GM (genetically modified) crops or many of the other ingredients you’ll find in a typical loaf of bread from the supermarket
  • A need to avoid certain ingredients because of allergies, or for other dietary restrictions
  • An attempt to save money at a time of rising food costs
  • A hope of reconnecting with some lost cultural heritage and perhaps to slow down a bit and appreciate food more

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):

  • Magnolia Bread Company at Morningside Farmers’ Market at 1393 N. Highland Avenue in Morningside. Saturday mornings from 8-11:30 am, year-round.
  • H & F Bread Company at the Peachtree Road Farmers’ Market at the Cathedral of St. Philip on Peachtree Street in Buckhead. Saturday mornings from 8:30 am-noon (check the website for dates).
  • Hardright Bakery at the Spruill Farmers’ Market at 4681 Ashford Dunwoody Road in Dunwoody. Wednesday mornings from 8 am-noon (starting again in May).

I challenge you to buy the olive bread from H & F and not eat half of it by the time you’re home!