Written by Bugs
One simple and pleasant move you can make towards downsizing is making your own bread. In the UK, most people's regular basic shopping is probably bread and milk. Keeping a house cow is probably a bit of a challenge, but home made bread needs as little as four ingredients and saves time, packaging, and money.
It gives you a lot more control over the ingredients you use, and is very satisfying because it tastes, looks, smells, feels and even sounds fantastic. In this introduction I'll describe the things I find easy enough to make regularly - pizza dough, plain loaves, tortilla style flatbreads, soda bread, chapattis and scones - and at the end give you a few suggestions of other things to try./p>
Home baked bread recipes
Tortilla style flatbreads
For me, the most worthwhile thing to make (cost, quality and time-wise) is wheat tortilla style flatbreads. These are the ones you pay £1+ for six pieces in the supermarket, packed with hydrogenated fats. This is one of the four-ingredient breads: 6oz plain flour, 7tbsp water, 1tsp salt, and 1tbsp olive oil. Mix and then knead for five minutes until it's soft and springy. Cover with a clean damp cloth to stop it drying out and leave it for half an hour (or more - you can make it the day before you want to eat it if you like and put it in the fridge). Divide in to six, roll each piece in to a ball, then flatten out and roll in to a circle about 6 inches wide. Heat a frying pan and when it's quite hot cook the flatbreads, about a minute each side until lightly coloured. They'll puff and bubble just like the ones in the shops. Once cooked you can eat them warm, grill them quickly before you eat them, or freeze for use later. They freeze so well I tend to make double every time so I can have some ready to use in minutes (they're so thin you can put them straight from the freezer in to a warm oven or under the grill).
These probably won't be like mum used to make, but they're convincing enough if you're used to the supermarket version (which again are often packed with hydrogenated fats to make them last ages in the cupboard). A recipe that makes about 6 is: 6 oz wholemeal flour, 1/2 tsp salt, 1tsp oil, 4 fl oz water. Mix, rest and roll as for the tortillas, and cook the same way. These are particularly nice if you have an open fire where you can toast them quickly as you are ready to eat them. Serve with curries, or butter them, or both!
Bread & Rolls
What about a nice white bloomer or perhaps dinner rolls? You can make a lot of variations on these with flour, fast action yeast, water and salt. I now use a bread machine which saves time, but you don't have to go out and get one. There's usually a recipe on the bread flour packet or the yeast packet - you won't need to add the oil or butter recommended, and you can get away without sugar. A basic recipe will see you through bloomers and dinner rolls, and you can mess about with poppy and sesame seeds as you like. Here's a recipe to consider - http://www.downsizer.net/Projects/Processing_food/_A_simple_handmade_loaf/ FIX
Pizza dough is very worthwhile too. Again, you can make it in the bread machine but it's very easy by hand too. The recipe I have used to great success by hand is 14 oz flour, 8 fl oz tepid water, 1tsp salt, 2 tsps fast action yeast, and a dash of olive oil (1-2 tbsps). Mix, then knead for about five minutes and leave for half an hour. Knead for a minute or two more, and roll out the dough - as little as ½ centimetre thick, or more than a centimetre. Top with whatever you like and bake in a hot oven - there's no need to let the dough rise again unless it suits you.
What's commonly known as soda bread or wheaten bread is known in my family simply as brown bread. My mum didn't use a recipe... the familiar conversation was "How much flour?". "Enough to make enough bread". "How much bran?" "Enough to make enough flour dark enough". I managed to pin her down to some "abouts" though - about 1lb self raising flour (or you can use plain and add more raising agent), up to 4 oz bran, but make your first loaf with about 3 and work up from there as your taste dictates, one teaspoon of salt and one of bicarbonate of soda, mix them together and rub in a knob of butter, then stir in enough buttermilk or plain yoghurt to make a soft but not sticky dough. It's generally about 350ml of liquid in the end - you can also add an egg or leftover cream, and use milk, or water rinsed through the yoghurt or buttermilk tub, to give you enough liquid.
Once you have a soft dough, fold it up until one side is flat, press it out with your hands to an oval about 1 1/2 inches thick, cut in to two (this makes two loaves!) and shape both halves in to ovals about 8 inches long with floury hands or by rolling it on a floury surface. Mark both with a deep cross that cuts about half way deep through the loaf, marking quarters. This goes in to the oven at gas mark 5; after 25 minutes spin the loaves around so that the sides in the centre are at the outside to get cooked properly; 15 minutes later turn them upside down to make sure the base is cooked and 3 to 5 minutes later, tap the bases and they should sound hollow. Take them out and prop them up against the wall on a clean tea towel, even though you have a perfectly serviceable cooling tray. If you don't it won't taste right, don't blame me. Should you find you've slightly overcooked the loaves you can drape them with another cloth while they cool, so the steam moistens them and hides your mistakes.
Once it's fairly cool eat with honey (my favourite) or cheese (my mum's favourite) but not both at the same time. It's also nice with strawberry jam, as is plain soda bread with currants in it. But I don't make that so I'm not going to give instructions here.
Scones are fun, delicious, and not worth buying from anywhere I've found yet. One day you might, like my mother, be able to knock them up between seeing unexpected visitors pulling up outside your home and serving their tea! Sift 8 oz flour, 1 tbsp caster sugar together, rub in 3 oz butter. Mix one egg and 2 fl oz milk in a cup, tip most of it in to the flour mix, mix quickly and add a bit more milk if you have to, so that it sticks together in a dough which is soft but not sticky. Roll it out, not too thin (just under an inch). Cut with a two inch cutter, without twisting it. Squash the remaining dough back together, no need to reroll, and cut out the rest. This recipe makes about 8 normal scones. Brush the tops with the left over milk and eggs but try not to let it run down the side. They take about 8-10 mins to cook in a very hot oven and are best eaten warm but very agreeable toasted. Vary the recipe with glace cherries, or dried fruit, or leave out the sugar and add a pinch of salt, then put in herbs or dried mustard and grated cheese.
Not too much further reading
There are plenty of excellent books which will tell you all about bread making, and you've probably got the basics in any general cookery book laying about your house. But if you want something specific on baking try Marguerite Patten's Basic Basics Baking Handbook.