One of my biggest challenges in creating less waste has been buying & storing bread. I’d never noticed before I started worrying about the content of my food & the way it is packaged, but most bread is baked with bleached, enriched flour, and wrapped in not one, but usually TWO plastic bags. Mind boggling.
I grew up eating enriched, bleached flour white bread, or enriched wheat bread, what I call “sawdust” bread. It doesn’t taste bad, but it’s not very healthy, and my mom gravitates toward the cheapest “value” brands like a fly to honey. Now that I know how little nutrition those brands contain, it makes sense how cheap they are.
After I got obsessive about reading the ingredient label (you’ll find some surprising things there) and managed to only buy whole grain or whole wheat bread, I had to focus on getting rid of the plastic. I tried buying from my grocer’s bakery, but there were plastic windows in the paper wrapping, buying directly from a bakery, but the loaves were gigantic and by the time I got through with it the loaf was stale (I stored it in the fridge in paperâ€”BAD IDEA!), even after eating nothing but toast & grilled cheese every day. Which was delicious, but boring.
So I decided to try baking my own bread. What I lost in time, I gained in cost-effectiveness and I didn’t have to drive to get it. Eco-win? I did it the old fashioned knead-n-wait way, and got decent results. I haven’t found active dry yeast in bulk or glass jars yet, but I know it exists! Another problem is I couldn’t find a good whole-wheat recipe.
Then after the 4th of July this year, Justin’s brother-in-law brought over a 30pack of Budweiser “Ameri-cans,” and after looking at the 18 leftovers (which I Ameri-can’t let myself drink) I got to wondering if beer bread was easy to make. Turns out, it is! I found this simple, whole wheat flour recipe & haven’t looked back. FRESH BREAD IN 1 HOUR. Seriously.
WHOLE GRAIN BEER BREAD
YOU WILL NEED
3 cups of whole grain flour (I used whole wheat)
2 tablespoons sugar (or agave or honey, or other sweetener that will feed the yeast)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 bottle/can (12 oz) of beer
*optional 1 cup of extras, like cheese OR basil OR cinnamon & raisins. Get creative!
baking sheet or loaf pan
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large mixing bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt, & stir.
Crack open yer beer and stir it in. You can use your hands, but the dough will be sticky. DON’T add extra flour! This will make your bread dry and crumbly. You can either shape into a loaf or just dump it into your (greased) loaf pan.
Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour. Your bread is done when it sounds hollow when you tap it. Here is mine, the first one has added cheddar cheese, and the second is the fresh basil (from my basil plant!) pictured above.
Let it cool, wrap it in a towel & store in the freezer until you need it, or keep it in an air tight container (mine is still plastic :[) and slice when needed. I keep mine in the fridge, but I don’t recommend it. I just can’t eat bread every day since seeing Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.
The cold bread is a little dry, but tastes great when warmed or toasted. Now I just need to find a way to make the loaves bigger without fudging the proportions.
Eventually I’m going to run out of beer, and I can’t validate buying cans (or bottles) of beer just to make bread, even though they’re more reliably recyclable than plastic (let’s be real, I’d prefer to DRINK them). My other problem is I haven’t found bulk active dry yeast. I’m sure I could buy it in a glass jar from the internet if I had to, but I’d prefer to find it in bulk and not use those horrible paper/foil/plastic packets.
I may just try this Artisan Bread In 5 Minutes A Day thing that people have been losing their minds over, but I’m not a planner-outer and it sounds like a lot of work and I need that space in my fridge for…well…beer. I’ll let you know how it goes.