Category Archives: Blog

Homesteading, Food Preservation, Frugality, and Simple Living.  At Pantry Paratus, we mix it up with good old-fashioned “how-to”, food science, and recipes.

When There Is No Land

It was a moment of silence in our house, which does not happen often.  With the younger children napping, I was folding clothes on the couch while my 5 year old, enthralled with legos, silently lined up his men and their belongings into a settlement just like what we had read about in Daniel Boone.

Sycamore Shoals

Lying on his stomach with these plastic people spread out before him and with his chin resting on his arm, he looked up at me and asked, “Mommy, do we own land?”  This question, for most, would invoke a yes-no answer.  For me, it invokes that aching pain to my heart that only the absence of something can create.

Daniel Boone Historical Site

I tried to explain to him that we do own land, just far away and useless, and for sale but yet won’t sell and that’s keeping us from creating a better life here.  The questions kept coming: if it’s useless why did we buy it and if no one else wants to buy it why did we want to buy it?

 

I took a deep breath and grew silent.  My five year old could hang a shingle and dispense better advice then that which we had followed long before the real estate bubble burst.  “Why don’t we just live there?” he asked so innocently, and with the perfect common sense that only children can possess.  We adults like to make things more complicated than logic allows.

 

My Mom always used to interrupt my whining with a simple phrase, “Bloom where you’re planted.”  In other words, make the most of any situation.  As my Dad would say, “It is what it is.”  It’s so simple, so basic, that upon first hearing it almost seems nonsensical.  But the truth remains: if you cannot change it, thrive anyway.    Stop discussing the situation.  Stop comparing, contrasting, mulling and obsessing.  There is nothing new under the sun.  Move past that and live.

 

Existing happens to all of us.  Thriving is a choice.  In another lifetime– one that seems like a distant fairytale– I used to help people with disabilities rehabilitate for re-entering the workforce.  I learned much about human nature.  I learned even more about the power of faith and the motivation of a dream.  I saw those with simple, everyday illnesses and struggles (the kind common to most average people—let’s face it, we all have some kind of discomfort in our lives) roll over and give up.  Why try?  Why attempt?  Vanity vanity, all is vanity, so to speak.

 

And then I saw some thrivers.  I knew a woman, an older Black American who remembers the back of the bus; she had one of the most devastating life stories I have ever heard.  She was an alcoholic once, she was homeless once, she had suffered great injustices, and she saw a child die once.  Her illnesses were severe and her prognosis was grim. Her pain was great, but her smile was infectious.  She would wheel her chair a great distance to visit me so that she could spread her joy and peace to this young and inexperienced war-bride.  She filled her time with meaningful activities that enriched her life and the lives of others.  She knew what mattered.

 

We have a beautiful, healthy family.  We have an amazing community that has taught us much about life in the country.  We’ve had chickens, a garden, and greater abundance from (others’) fruit trees than I can personally process!  We have our dreams and goals that propel us forward and we are not giving up on those.

 

Right now I’m only seeing through a dark, cloudy glass, the shadows of what truly are.  One day I’ll see the entirety of my life’s story as one who looks back from the finish line to see the race completed.  This is the middle of my story.  I can choose to stop here, or I can keep running towards those goals.

 

We live in both the now and not yet, and I choose to thrive.

 

“One day, son, we’ll have our land.  For now, let’s bloom where we are planted.  Who wants hot chocolate?”

 

________

The two photos from the Daniel Boone Historical sites can be found here.

The Seed Catalog

The kids were crying when we walked into the house, hungry from the lunch delay caused by “just one more stop”.  I threw the mail on the table, unsorted, un-scanned, even.  Lunch was the crisis of the moment.  But when the kids settled into the subtle murmurs of leftover-laments, my eyes caught something in the stack.  Seed Saver

It’s my seed catalog.

 

Some women cry over the heroine’s hardships in the newest romance novel. I have my catalog.

 

This isn’t just any catalog.  These are heirloom seeds; these are someone’s family inheritance, someone’s genealogical record found within grandma’s kitchen garden.

Seed Saver Catalog

I am enthralled with the pictures, yes.  But I’m enthralled with text.

There was a little old lady who took seeds to her friends, saying that her great grandfather brought them on the wagon train; all of her family is dead now.  She died six months after that visit.  Because of her gift, you can now sauté her family history with butter.  A tear dashes to the page.

 

There was a family reunion in the bean garden: grandma loved her beans, but the kids didn’t garden.  The granddaughter’s renaissance into the things of her grandmother’s day led her to a magazine article featuring her grandma and her beans! Those beans were brought to Missouri in the 1880’s by that granddaughter’s great-great grandmother! The granddaughter and the beans have been reunited.

 

Romance novels don’t have recipes for canning stuffed peppers! Did you even know that there is an heirloom breed of pepper called chocolate? This calls for a trip to the cupboard.  I settle back in, this time with some herbal tea and the chocolate covered hazelnuts my sister-in-law sent.

Tea, chocolate, and my catalog

Chocolate peppers, crimson carrots, white beets. Orange watermelon, blue potatoes, rainbow swiss chard!

Chocolate Peppers through Seed SaversDragon Carrots from Seed SaversAlbino Beets through Seed SaversMountain Sweet Yellow Watermelonblue potato from Seed Savers5 color silverbeet swiss chard from Seed Savers

 

We have snow on the ground here.  My dreams of summer vegetables get me through these cold months, sheathed in winter’s darkness.  My garden is only limited by my dreams.  For now.  In July I will tell you it’s the weeds, or drought, or something eating my radishes.  But for now?  It’s my vision of what the garden can hold—glossy pictures of glossy vegetables beckon me to dream. The stories of gardens-gone-by inspire me to try.

 

Get your free catalog at Seed Savers.

Elderberry Tincture

The Elderberries were a gift from a friend.  It was a gift of health.

 

Last year was my first winter in Montana.  As with all moves, our immune systems were not prepared for the onslaught of every flu and cold, every bacteria and virus in which we came into contact.  I thought I was going to die at one point.  A friend sent my husband home with a bottle of Oregano oil and a set of instructions for me to mix a few drops with water and drink up.  Not only did I think I was going to die, my husband very nearly did that day.  If you have ever tasted the burn of Oregano oil, you know what I’m talking about.  But I recovered immediately.

 

So this trusted friend (who just might have saved my life once) gave me a bag of Elderberries.  They were so delicious, I very nearly ate the bag of them; I restrained myself in the name of health for the long upcoming winter.

 

 I am not in a medical profession so please understand that I am not giving any medical or miracle claims.  I can only tell you what others typically use the tincture to treat and I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.

 

To make a tincture, you can either use glycerin or a strong alcohol.  However, which of those two options you use has everything to do with the herb or berry used itself.  The chemical compound may not be drawn out simply by using glycerin, as is the case with Elderberries.  Alcohol is needed to draw the medicinal properties out of the plant in this particular case.  You should research each individual plant to determine which type of tincture will give you the most benefit.

 

Elderberries can provide excellent immune support, and many natural products you buy claiming to do so will have Elderberries in its’ contents.  It’s also an antioxidant and is used to treat coughs and colds.  They say that it can combat both viruses and bacteria, and even help with tonsillitis!

Elderberry Cluster

 

I did refer to this site for very easy-to-follow instructions. The whole process took less time than pouring a glass of chocolate milk.  Seriously.  The hardest part for me was when my husband asked the church pianist, “Where can you buy liquor on a Sunday morning in this town?”.

 

Supplies:

A clean  jar with tight fitting lid

Vodka (or Brandy) with the highest alcohol proof available (100-proof desirable)

Elderberries

A wooden spoon and colander (preferably non-metal)

 

 

  • Wash and strain elderberries in the colander.
  • For a tincture, you do not need to worry about the seeds.  Remove the stems with a fork.
  • Mash the berries as much as possible with your wooden spoon in the jar.
  • Pour alcohol over them until just above the berry-line.
  • Label the jar clearly, including contents (so that you’ll know which tinctures on your shelf contain alcohol and which ones do not).  Date the jar.
  • Occasionally shake the jar during the next 6 weeks.  This is the ideal length of time to allow the tincture to fully “cure”.  You can certainly use it before then if you need to.
  • The tincture can be stored in the jar for up to 2 years.  I recommend placing it in the refrigerator once the jar has been opened.

Optional—if you would like to remove the berries after 6 weeks, simply strain out as much of the tincture as possible and rebottle it.  This is not necessary.

Chaya's Elderberry Tincture

 

Picture of Elderberry Cluster is from this (really informative) site.

Sausage-Stuffed Apples

Sausage Stuffed Apples

yummy version of this back-to-basics easy recipe

 

Whenever a baked apple is part of the main course, invite me over!  This is an easy recipe I have made many  times over—I use the term “recipe” loosely.  Think of this sausage and apples recipe as more as a “guide.”

 

 For a recipe like this one, you will need the handy-dandy tool like this one: 

 

 Apple Corer

 

 

                                              Ingredients:

                                              8 apples, cored and halved into the top and bottom

                                              1 lb pork sausage

                                             2 tbs ground sage

                                             ½ cup maple syrup (approximately, to taste)

                                             1 cup chopped walnuts

                                             Olive oil

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

-Place apples cut-side-up in a greased baking pan.

-In separate bowl, mix the sausage, sage, maple syrup, and walnuts.

-Stuff the apples with the sausage mixture.

-Drizzle olive oil on top.

 

 Bake for approximately 45 minutes. 

 

sausage stuffed apples

 

As for side dishes that you could serve here to along with the sausage and apples, I like to either include fried red cabbage, sliced potatoes or carrots. 

 

These sausage stuffed apples are a hit with the children, so give them a try and let me know what you thought of them by leaving a comment at the bottom.

 

Chaya

 

Permaculture Overview: A Tale of Two City Lots

What if I told you that you did not have to pull every weed, sweating under the hot sun with a sore back and little yield?  Permaculture refers to permanent agriculture, a system to stack functions and work with nature (by first observing) instead of fighting against it all of the time! Get a quick permaculture overview through the contrast of two city lots, side-by-side.

Continue reading

Recipe: Apple “Oatmeal Cookie” Granola

Apple Oatmeal Cookie Granola

Easier than a “no bake” oatmeal cookie

 

I named this recipe “oatmeal cookie” because that is the closest I can come to the emotion that overcame me as I bit into this granola.   

 

Oatmeal Cookie

 

This is made in your Excalibur dehydrator, using Paraflexx sheets.  You will set the temperature to approximately 125° F and allow it to run overnight.  At least, that is what I did but it was so perfectly crisp that I do believe less time or lower heat might be possible.  If you prefer “living foods” closer to raw, try a lower temperature—either way you will still end up with a healthy oatmeal cookie like product. 

 

The yield for this recipe was three trays. Play with the ingredients.  For instance I did not use all raisins, I combined them with dehydrated berries from my pantry.  I also mixed walnuts and pecans because I could not decide between the two. 

 

 

recipe for oatmeal cookie

 

5 medium apples, sliced and peeled

6 cups rolled oats

1 cup nuts

1 cup raisins

Dehydrated crumbled raspberries, to taste (optional)

1 cup maple syrup

2 cups warm-hot water

 

 

In a separate bowl, mix the maple syrup with water.  Set aside.

 

 

 Maple Syrup Mixture

 

 

In a large bowl, mix all of the other dry ingredients for this no bake oatmeal cookie.  Stir in maple syrup mixture. 

 

Mix Dry Ingredients

 

Dump mixture onto dehydrator trays.  Turn on the dehydrator and forget about them until morning, and then enjoy your chewy oatmeal cookie with your yogurt!

 

This is a great snack recipe for kids.  Give this recipe a try and tell me what you think below in the comments section. 

 

Chaya

 

 

Apple Butternut Squash Soup

Apple Butternut Squash Soup

Autumn in a bowl!

 

Apple Butternut Squash

 

Apple Butternut Squash anything makes me excited it is autumn.  Oooh, am I ever excited about leftovers for lunch!

I served this apple butternut squash soup with my bread—with one main exception!  When I was ready to bake bread this week, I realized all-too-late that I did not have enough honey.  Without time to run to the store, I substituted ½ cup molasses instead.  My bread was rich, dark, and moist.  It has a complex flavor that any true bread-lover would savor.  It was a perfect pairing (with real butter) to this warming and filling soup.

 

 

Notes:

* This butternut squash apple soup can easily be vegan—substitute vegetarian broth and a nut milk for the cream.

* I love the rich flavors of the spices and so I am personally heavy-handed.  I add more than what I listed for you.  You will need to use your discretion on the amount of the spices.

* This apple butternut squash soup recipe is creamy, rich, and more filling than most.  Hubby and myself only ate one bowl and were full.  If you are forever looking for a meatless meal that actually fills you, this is it!

 

Apple Butternut Squash Soup

1 yellow onion, chopped

5 small apples, chopped (no need to peel)

2 butternut squash, steamed or boiled

1 quart liquid broth (I used home-canned turkey broth)

½ cup water

1 quart half-and-half or thick cream (ideally cream from raw milk where it is legal)

½ stick butter

1 tsp lemon juice

3 bay leaves

1-2 tsp dried nutmeg, to taste

3 tsp dried sage

1-2 pinches salt, to taste

Pepper to taste

 

Directions:

 

Sauté onion and apples in butter.  Add chunks of squash to a cast iron skillet, along with the lemon juice, bay leaves, nutmeg, sage, salt, and pepper.  Sauté the butternut squash and apple mixture only a few minutes with all of the spices, and then add ½ cup water to simmer for 5 minutes.

Transfer to a pot, add broth and cream.  Simmer for approximately 15 minutes.  Add additional seasoning to taste. 

 

Put portions in a blender to create a creamy finished product. 

 

Serve with fresh bread and butter!

 

I hope that you enjoy this Apple Butternut Squash treat as much as we do.  It is even better on the second day!  Give this a shot and leave a comment below to let us know what you thought of it.

 

Chaya

 

 

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Oat Bars (or Oat Muffins)

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Oat Bars (or Oat Muffins)

 

Pumpkin Cream Cheese . . . let’s get to baking!

 

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Oat Bars, I literally invented this one as I went, not even basing it upon or adapting from another recipe.  It was a fantastic surprise!

 

          Pumpkin Cream Cheese

 

I started out baking these in my go-to cake pan, and then I ended up with a muffin tin full as well.  It was very good both ways, so I suppose you can just do what suits your fancy.  Pumpkin and cream cheese were both on sale, so I started with what I had on hand.  I think that the topping makes these as delicious as they are—please do not skimp here!

 

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Oat Muffins

 

Also, I used half of a box of cream cheese and the flavor was light.  I could envision these being even more decadent though, so if you try it with more cream cheese, would you please leave a comment below and let us know how it turns out?  One other note, I used hard red flour and they were great—but next time I will try soft white, as it is the best choice for a quick bread.  In either case the cream cheese pumpkin combo yield a moist but firm overall product that my kids love with milk as a snack.

 

Do not be intimidated by the seemingly long list of ingredients—the topping and batter ingredients overlap and these are mostly basics you already have on hand.  You could simplify with “pumpkin pie spice”—if you do, let me know what you think of it!

 

I have cut the recipe in half, so this should give you either a dozen muffins or a cake pan’s worth.

Topping:

2/3 cup old fashioned oats

¼ cup brown sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

2-3 tsp butter, melted

 

 Pumpkin Cream Cheese Oat Bars

 

Batter:

1 ½ cups fresh-milled flour

1 cup old fashioned oats

1 tsp baking powder

½ tsp baking soda

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp ground nutmeg

1 tsp ground cloves

1 cup sour cream

3 cups pumpkin puree

4 oz (half box) of cream cheese, softened

½ cup brown sugar

¼ cup olive oil

1 egg

 

 Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Stir topping ingredients and set aside.
  3. Combine dry ingredients (flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, spices).
  4. In a separate bowl, add sour cream, pumpkin, cream cheese, brown sugar, oil, and egg.  Beat for approximately 2 minutes to ensure blending of the cream cheese and to get air into the egg.
  5. Pour one bowl into the other, stirring lightly.
  6. Pour into cake pan or muffin tins. 

 

If a cake pan, it will take 30-40 minutes.  If muffins, 30 minutes. 

 

This pumpkin cream cheese recipe is delicious and easy.  I usually try to make one other baked good item on my bread baking day to get my family through the week with snacks and quick healthy breakfast choices—so this works well either as pumpkin cream cheese bars or muffins!

 

Cream cheese and pumpkin

 

Give this pumpkin cream cheese recipe a try and let me know how you like it.  This may be my new favorite take-along finger food for get-togethers! 

 

Chaya

 

Photo Credits:

All photos by Pantry Paratus

Canning Ground Beef

Canning Ground Beef

Canning Meat ? Yes!

Using Tattler Lids for meat canning

 

Home canning meat, especially ground beef, is a simple process.  The canning of meat is unlike acidic tomatoes because you will need to use pressure canner.  Pressure canning beef is the only safe way to do it, since water bath canning does not get to a high enough temperature to keep meat (and other nonacidic foods) safe.  

 We had a meat sale here at the local grocery store, and I wanted to try to duplicate the results from Patrice Lewis’ post about Tattler reuseable canning lids on her blog on meat canning.  I highly recommend getting grass fed meat where you can, but for this post I am just using the prepackaged grocery store fare.

ground beef sale

 

In full disclosure, I used 6 lbs ground beef because it was what was on sale—Patrice Lewis used ground beef because,

 “ . . . it’s meat, so it requires a high processing time in a pressure canner. And, it’s greasy and nasty and would thus put the maximum amount of stress on the lids.”

Agreed!  Since onions were also on sale (“genius!”) I chopped up two onions into chunks and put them right into the pot.  The onion outer skin (along with any other vegetable scraps in our house) goes out to the compost bin.  

 

chopped onions

 

I added salt and pepper to taste as well as parsley.  How much parsley?  Well to quote my Italian aunt, “There is no such thing as too much parsley.” 

 

seasoned for browning

There are many canning recipes for meat, but I prefer to keep this one simple especially when I am trying to get everything prepared for winter.  After browning the meat, I load it into the canning jars with 1 ½” head space.  It is best to use the hot pack method when home canning meat and fill any remaining space with boiling water up to the 11/2” head space mark.. 

meat packed in jars

 

In the interest of saving time, I am also prepping the All-American pressure canner with the lid off by warming up the water in the bottom of it.  We personally use the venerable All American Model 921 pressure canner/cooker.  It has the all metal seal and is built to be used for years and years.  Anyone who is apprehensive about the rubber bullet (aka “pressure bomb” canners) that make up the bulk of the horror stories/urban legends revolving around pressure canner mishaps will be amazed at the engineering, craftsmanship and ease of use of the All American brand pressure canners.  I fully intend to leave mine to my children as an heirloom because it is built that well.  Did I mention that it is made in America?

For home meat canning, I recommend the Tattler Reusable Canning Lids.  They work just as well as the lids that you can buy at the grocery or hardware store, but these are reusable and are American made.   They stay in place well and the grease does not prevent a seal under the lids quite like it does with the metal ones.   I put them in hot water for a few minutes before use.  One question we get about the Tattler lids is, “Do I have to heat them up before I use them?”  My answer remains the same, “I can with everything hot.”  My lids, gaskets, canner, water, jars and what I am canning are all hot for safety reasons.

 

 The instructions are printed right on the box and are easy to follow.  Here is a pictorial:

 Tattler lids and rings

 

 I religiously wipe off the rims of the jars before putting the lids on the canning jar.

  wipe off the rim

 

Apply the lids and rings.  Following the directions on the box, the Tattler lids new instructions call for you to screw the lids finger tight—that is it.  If you have any problems with these lids, it will be from omitting this step.  If you screw them on too tightly, it does not allow air to escape.

finger tight

 

Then put the jars into the canner—simple.  Note: the spacer at the bottom of the canner.  The All American pressure canners come with a very good manual that Chaya and I have read and re-read a dozen times and have out on hand whenever we can (or “jar” if you will). 

 

Jars in the Canner

 

 

Follow the directions for your pressure canner and bring the unit up to boiling.  For our All American Model 921 we wait seven minutes then apply the weight on the top spout.  Note: without the weight, the canner is an “open system” and is not any different from any other pot with a tight fitting lid that you may already own.  We live just over 2000’ altitude and can everything at 15 lbs of pressure. 

 

Safety tip: When putting the weight on top, please use an oven mitt;

the steam emitted from the canner can burn you.

 

put weight on with an oven mit

 

After processing for 90 minutes we now have four jars or just slightly short of 6 lbs of ground beef  perfectly sealed under the Tattler lids.  Since these are made of BPA free plastic they do not have the quintessential “ping” sound as they seal under the ambient atmospheric pressure.  However, if you look at them from the side you can see if they are sealed or not.  Chaya applies the “wiggle test”.  She uses her thumb on the lid to see if it will push or give.  If it does not budge, it is sealed.   I have very few failures with Tattler lids.  And I can pinpoint them to user error—either over-screwing on the ring, or failing to screw the ring on tightly afterwards, etc.  If the lids are good enough for meat canning, then they are certainly good enough to can your other foods as well.

 

Jars of Properly Canned Beef

 

Once the jars are removed from the canner I prefer to let them set undisturbed.  An old tip from days gone by is to flip the jars upside down; this seems to be controversial to some.  I have done it both ways with success both ways.

 Before I called this done, I removed the rings and washed the jars gently with dish soap because they will likely be greasy to the touch and have grease especially around the ring . 

 If you are new to canning, or just like to watch someone who really knows what they are doing with canning please visit SimplyCanning.com.  It is run by Sharon who is a good friend to Pantry Paratus.  Whether you have been canning for a day or a decade you can get some very good information from her website. 

 Regarding the finished product: “Oh look at the fat, isn’t that gross?” 

 My answer—“Not really.”  What is in the jar, is what was with the ground beef (20% fat as packaged—I did not add any oil during the process); after the temperature cooled with the cooked product in a clear jar you can now see it. 

 Despite the typical body composition of today’s average process food fed person, if food becomes hard to get, one of the hardest items to get into your diet will be fat. Having your own animals to produce this resource that every healthy body metabolism needs may be the only reliable way to get this into your regular diet.  Store bought industrial processed seed ois wil not last long, go rancid after awhile depending on temperature and humidity and are horrible for you.  JWR has had great results deep freezing olive oil for up to five years.  

Canning meat at home is not hard, anyone can do it.  I recommend having the right tools, and for that it starts with the right pressure canner and quality lids.  Leave a comment if you like on canning meat at your place–we would love to hear from you. 

 Wilson

Pro Deo et Patria


Proviso:

 Pressure canning done in the proper way is safe, but if you do not follow the instructions of your canner, then you will run the risk of serious injury.  We sell, personally use and recommend the All-American pressure canner because it is very well constructed, reliable and very safe—when used properly.

What I Put Into My Bread–The “Why”

bread with seeds

Bread Ingredients

 

The Role of Each Ingredient in the Final Product

 

I would like to explain what each of the ingredients does and how it interacts in my bread recipe.  Once you understand this, it is easy to modify a recipe and make it your own.  Perhaps you avoid eggs, or want a product with less gluten, etc.  If you understand the interplay of these ingredients, you can make substitutions, and create your own variant.

 I prefer to start with natural ingredients as much as possible.  I will mill my own flour before I get started to ensure that I have the highest nutrient density in my family’s bread.  Where possible, I highly recommend pastured eggs.  The Omega 3 is clear to see in the bright yellow yolks—bugs and sunshine make the best eggs!  Lastly, if you can use filtered water you will get better performance with your recipe ingredients (and you will not miss the Chlorine). 


pitcher of water

Water—Beyond joining the bread ingredients, water temperature is very important for activating yeast.  You want your water to be approximately 110-155˚F.  Again, filtered water is going to give the best results. 

 Altitude is another consideration on how much water you need to add to your recipe.  Higher altitudes are dryer climates (lower boiling point for water) and will require a higher ratio of water to the dry ingredients.  My recipe worked for me at both sea level in North Carolina and at 3,000 ft here in Montana . . . however I have to use a slightly higher water-to-flour ratio here at 3,000 ft.  When I tried to bake bread at 7,000 ft in Colorado Springs, my low altitude recipe failedClick here for a tested high altitude bread recipe.

  olive oil

Oil—Next to flour, the quality of the oil has the most direct effect on the quality your bread, both in flavor and in nutrition.  I almost exclusively use olive oil, because when you examine the finished product, you will know the recipe by ingredients used to make it.  It is this fat content that makes a tender and moist baked good.  The fat interacts with the strands of gluten to shorten (why we call them “shorteners”) the length of the gluten strands.  This allows the gases more freedom of movement so that your baked goods are more “airy”.  Egg yolks also help serve this purpose.


honey

Honey—I always add the oil first so that the honey will slide out of the same measuring cup without mess or waste.  Traditional cookbook recipes just use plain white sugar, which is good for plain white bread.  But why, when you can take your bread from “boring” to “rich”?  Honey within itself is the original antibiotic—it is extremely healthy for your immune system, it is easily digestible.  Yes, it is one of the more expensive items on the ingredients list—but if you did a blind taste test between two loaves of bread, you would know which one had the honey.  I have baked with a variety of sweeteners over the years, to include agave nectar, stevia, and molasses.  I find that the honey has the least finicky response in the recipe and is the most versatile.


flax seeds

Flax Seed—this is a completely optional  in my list of recipe ingredients, but one I choose for the Omega 3 fatty acids.  I know that it is difficult (depending upon your geography) to fill your diet with excellent seafood.  If you do not grind the flax seed, you are basically only getting the fiber and the rest of the nutrition passes through undigested.  It is an excellent source of both soluble and insoluble fiber. If you grind it in a coffee grinder (you can typically pick one up cheaply for about $10.00 at a box store or pharmacy store) that you have reserved only for your herbs and seeds, you will get many precious phytochemicals in your bread.  Flax, like other seed grains, has a lot of antioxidants, including lignans. 

We like to use bread for sandwiches, but I commonly hear the complaint that homemade bread can crumble too much for this use.  Here’s a great trick:  grind your flax seed and add a tablespoon of water to it and let it sit in a bowl for a minute before adding it to your dough.  It will work as a binder–just like egg–and will help hold your bread together even while giving you the great nutritional benefit of flax.

 soy lecithin

 

Lecithin—This one ingredient single-handedly transformed my early breads to something edible.  I did not know WHY back then.  Since then I have learned that it is considered a health supplement for its ability to break down fats, to improve memory, and for its promotion of healthy gall bladder functioning.  It lowers cholesterol and has been linked to improving women’s reproductive health.  In cooking, it is used as an emulsifier to prevent sticking (such as what you find in a cooking spray and chocolate). It provides a tenderness and (perhaps the most important thing of all), it extends the shelf life of the bread!  I get several more days at room temperature out of my bread with lecithin, than the bread I have made omitting this ingredient.  “Lecithin” is a generic term that can mean any emulsifier and it can be made from many sources.  Although I typically avoid soy due to the GMO factor these days, I have used soy lecithin in my bread in the past.  You can live without this ingredient, but its shelf life extension, texture improvement, and health benefits make this one you need to weigh personally. 

Now that I’ve mentioned all the benefits and how I never baked without it in the early years, I must fess up and tell you I do not use it now.  I can “read” my bread dough better with years of experience and don’t need the lecithin to help hold it together for me any more.  I do have some on my shelf but I rarely reach for it now.

salt

 

Salt—I have forgotten it more than once.  Your bread is flavorless without it, entirely.  I have also overdosed on it, and that makes the bread inedible at best.   Salt also tempers the effect of the yeast; you usually realize you have forgotten the salt when your bread will not stop rising!  Stick with sea salt if you can; it greatly enhances the flavor and nutrition of your bread.  It makes it something richer.

 Palouse Flour

 

Flour—The single most important of all the ingredients, which is why I only use home-milled flours because of the marked health benefits.  Store bought flours, even the gourmet ones, have had to strip some of the nutrients out in order to give it shelf life.  Flours in the frozen section maintain most of the nutrition but freezer life will take its toll on that as well.  Milling your own flour is easy, affordable, and the most nutrient dense way to bake bread.  You can substitute bean and other flours (chickpea, for example) for some of the wheat, but do not go over 25% (you will likely need to add gluten) of the entire flour content or it will not rise properly. 

 Not all wheat is the same.  “Hard” wheat has higher gluten and is best for yeast breads.  “Soft” has lower gluten and better for lighter baking products like cake that use other rising methods, such as egg yolk, baking powder, and baking soda which also appear in quick breads.

 Hard Red—this has the dark, wheaty flavor.  I started with Hard White and began adding this in slowly.  This can be an acquired taste, now I love it!  Hard Red wheat responds very well to yeast recipe breads. 

Hard White—Less wheaty flavor.  Very tasty, excellent to use in yeast products.

Soft White—This is the best for quick breads, cookies, baking items with lighter structures.  I sometimes mix some in with bread flours for yeast bread, but never more than 10-25% of the total flour. 

Durum—This is your pasta wheat!  Very tasty and you will see a difference, but in a pinch, use soft white instead. 

Spelt—This is delicious and versatile wheat substitute.  You can use it in both breads and quick breads.  Some people who have sensitivity to wheat breads do well with this flour.

 

eggs

 

Eggs—This is the binder in your bread.  I have tried to live without them and I have tasted several loaves from other bakers without it and I come to the same conclusion every time—use eggs (even better, get your own chickens)!  The bread crumbles more easily without it—so if you want sandwich bread you cannot skip this step.  You might want to play with how many you use.  Eggs also provide another source of healthy fat for your bread, which helps lighten the overall texture. 

 There are likely thousands or even tens or thousands of bread recipes across the world, but each one will differ based on the ingredients.  The food science is the same though, so choosing recipe ingredients that are fresh, quality and wholesome will yield a superior product.  If you come across a recipe that you want to modify, you can as long as you which bread ingredients do what and why.  If you come across any ingredients that I did not mention here, please leave a comment below and let me know what you like to see in your bread recipe.

 

Chaya

 

 

Photo Credits:

Pitcher of water  http:/www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=1857%22%3EImage:%20zirconicusso%20/%20FreeDigitalPhotos.net%3C/a%3E%3C/p%3E

 Oil  http:/www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=681%22%3EImage:%20m_bartosch%20/%20FreeDigitalPhotos.net%3C/a%3E%3C/p%3E

Honey  http:/www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=851%22%3EImage:%20Danilo%20Rizzuti%20/%20FreeDigitalPhotos.net%3C/a%3E%3C/p%3E

Salt  http:/www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=345%22%3EImage:%20Carlos%20Porto%20/%20FreeDigitalPhotos.net%3C/a%3E%3C/p%3E

 Eggs  http:/www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=1758%22%3EImage:%20Rawich%20/%20FreeDigitalPhotos.net%3C/a%3E%3C/p%3E

 

 

Proviso:

 

Nothing in this blog constitutes medical advice.  You should consult your own physician before making any dietary changes.  Statements in this blog may or may not be congruent with current USDA or FDA guidance.