Part of my experiment at home, actually a large part, involves the kitchen. I have been making my own pasta, tortillas and bread in an effort to cut out preservatives and artificial junk at every opportunity. It also saves money. There is something to be said, though, for the ready sliced, sandwich size bread that you can grab at the store. So, here are some facts, for those of you who like trivia (for the rest of you just hang in for a paragraph because I'm going somewhere with this). While it was in the works by 1928, Wonder Bread first marketed sliced bread nation wide in 1930. This new-found convenience quickly became part of the average household, so when the U.S. government imposed a short ban on selling sliced bread in January of 1943, it left many housewives in a bind. This letter from a very frazzled home maker appeared in The New York Times not quite a week after the ban.
"I should like to let you know how important sliced bread is to the morale and saneness of a household. My husband and four children are all in a rush during and after breakfast. Without ready-sliced bread I must do the slicing for toast—two pieces for each one—that's ten. For their lunches I must cut by hand at least twenty slices, for two sandwiches apiece. Afterward I make my own toast. Twenty-two slices of bread to be cut in a hurry!"
I found this hilarious! Don't worry, though, because while the ban was an effort to save on packaging cost during WWII, it lasted for a brief three months. I will tell you that, after making all our bread for awhile now, it does take more time cutting each slice as you need it. A warning, though, to anyone prepared to try this at home... I learned the hard way that home made bread is better stored whole, since it has no preservatives or conditioners and will dry out quickly if sliced. Now, having said that, if you are ready to forge ahead, I will gladly include the first recipe I tried and that we have come to love.
Yummy White Bread
1/4 C. Milk
1 1/2 Tbsp Sugar
1 Tsp Salt
1 1/2 Tbsp Melted Butter
1 Pkg Rapid Rise Active Yeast
2 1/2 to 3 1/2 C. All Purpose Flour
Start with a large mixing bowl and yeast. Add enough very warm water, usually 1/2 c. or so, and whisk until well blended. Whisk in salt, sugar, milk and melted butter. Stir in 2 cups of flour to start. Keep working flour in until it get too sticky, then you get your hands dirty. Work the flour in and knead until it starts to feel smooth and no longer sticks to your hands or the bowl. Turn out onto a clean and lightly floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes. For the true amateur (like I was) kneading is like mashing and twisting the dough. Now place it in clean bowl and cover with clean towel. It needs to rise for at least an hour, in a draft free area. Warmer is better. I put mine atop the fridge. After an hour, turn out and literally punch down the dough. This lets the air out and you can now roll it out with a rolling pin. Once you've rolled out any air bubble, you can make a loaf by rolling the dough up (like you would roll up a poster only tighter) and pinching the ends together. Tuck the ends under to make a neat little loaf. Place in a greased loaf pan and let rise for another hour. The dough should be over the top of the pan and ready to bake. Bake at 400 degrees for appx 30 minutes. Since ovens vary, start checking it at 25 minutes. You're looking for a golden top and it should sound hollow if tapped with a wooden spoon. Let cool completely before storing.