Once in a while, when an unexpected expense pops up, or just to boost our savings, we drastically trim our budget where we spend the most: groceries. For us, going down to about a third of what we would normally spend can free up quite a bit of extra cash. Believe it or not, I've found that we actually eat better during these "lean" weeks. I spend more time menu-planning and put more thought and effort into preparing meals. The result is fresh, made-from-scratch foods that I think actually win in both taste and nutrition over our often hastily-cobbled-together meals. Also, there's an inherent sort of gritty-pioneer satisfaction in making it through the week with only what we have in our pantry and freezer plus the most basic of grocery items -- which for us includes milk, cheese, eggs, a big bag of flour and a ton of seasonal fruits and vegetables from the farmers' market.
Because our family can easily go through a loaf of bread every day, making our own is an easy way to meet our budgetary goals. Plus....hot, fresh bread -- what could be better? We certainly don't feel as though we're depriving ourselves when we serve up a slab of crusty toast with butter, cheese, and salted tomatoes.
I'm a busy mama however, and also one who likes to minimize messes and clean-up. So, kneading? Not for me. Not now anyway. Fortunately, I've found two quick and delicious bread recipes that are completely knead-free and work beautifully with wholemeal flour, which we prefer. One, which we've used now for a few years requires 10 minutes of work, tops - -the only caveat being that you need to plan about a day ahead because it requires overnight sitting. It ran in the New York Times a few years ago and can be found here. It yields a gorgeous loaf -- perfectly crusty on the outside with a moist crumb on the inside. Great for impressing your friends, to give as a gift, or for eating any time, any day of the week.....
Recently, I found another recipe which is similarly low-effort, but more quickly gratifying (also, incredibly easy to double)....
No-Knead Wholemeal Loaf
1. Stir 1 1/2 tsp yeast, 1 Tbs sugar (or golden syrup, honey etc.) and 2 cups lukewarm water in a large bowl. Allow to sit in a sink full of warm water for 20 minutes until yeast begins to bubble.
2. With wooden spoon, stir in 2 Tbs of olive oil, followed by 4 cups whole wheat flour and 1 1/2 tsp salt.
3. Tip into prepared loaf pan (I use silicone, but buttered if a metal or glass dish) allow to rise in a warm sunny spot until doubled (about 30 min.)
4. Bake in preheated 200 C (about 400 F) oven for 30 minutes. Turn down to 180 C (350 F) if top is browning well and bake 15 minutes more (45 minutes total.)
5. Tip out to cool.
6. Ta-da! Bread so easy, I can make it daily.