This post comes courtesy of Matt Weber, blogger at Thyme in Our Kitchen.
I can’t even start to count the number of times people ask me how I possibly have time to cook. I have a full time job that has no relation to food, three young kids and enough side projects to keep me busy for years — and then throw blogging in just for fun. The thing is, when people ask me that, I can’t help but wonder: How can you not have time to cook?
I grew up in a home with six boys. My dad built the homes that we lived in and our house was always centered around the kitchen (a very large kitchen). My mom was a fantastic cook and was always cooking something for the family or the swarm of other kids that always seemed to be present.
From those early experiences to now cooking for my own family, I have come to enjoy cooking for the joy that comes from sharing the food I make with those around me. The time I spend cooking a risotto or baking a tart is worth every minute when I hear someone rave about the flavor and ask for the recipe.
There seems to be the perception that cooking just takes so much darn time that people decide to not even try. The thing is, in the time it takes you to heat up that frozen dinner, I can whip up a quick potato soup with homemade biscuits on the side. Not to mention it tastes a million times better. Is that the reason why I cook? One reason, but certainly not the only one.
For many years now, I have made bread each week for our family. I can’t even remember the last time I bought a loaf of bread from the store. If for nothing else, I would make the bread each week just for the smell in our home each time I make it. I love knowing that the sandwiches and toast that my kids eat every day comes from something that I created.
The bread recipe that I use now comes from my grandmother. She gave it to me while I was in college and I’ve used it ever since. I’m one who typically loves the complicated recipes with lists of ingredients, but this one is perfect in its simplicity. No eggs or milk are needed, and yet it creates wonderful, moist bread dough that is perfect for a loaf of bread, dinner rolls or even cinnamon bread. My favorite thing to do with it? Slice up that cinnamon bread and make the best French toast you’ll ever eat. Yes, it takes time, but it’s time well spent and it’s one of the ways that I show my love for those that I care about. That is why I cook.
Grandma’s White Bread
2 Tbs. active yeast
4 cups warm water
4 tsp. salt
½ cup sugar
4 Tbs. shortening
10 to 11 cups bread flour
Dissolve yeast in 2 cups of the warm water (with about 1/2 tsp. sugar) for about 5 minutes. Add 2 cups additional warm water. Add salt, sugar, shortening and salt. Mix well.
Mix in 5 cups of the bread flour and beat until smooth. Mix in remaining 5 to 6 cups flour and knead until smooth and elastic. Let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
Divide into four balls and form into loaves. Press into greased loaf pans. Let rise 30 to 45 minutes until dough rises just over the lip of the loaf pan.
Bake at 350 degrees for 33 to 35 minutes. Cover with foil after the first 20 minutes. Take out of pans immediately and let cool on a wire rack. Makes 4 loaves.
Variation: To create the cinnamon loaves mentioned above, after forming into balls, roll out each one into a rectangle about ½ inch thick. Spread about 2 tablespoons of softened butter across the dough and then sprinkle with 2 teaspoons of cinnamon, 1 tablespoon of sugar and 1 tablespoon of brown sugar. From the short end, roll up tightly and complete by sealing the ends underneath the loaf. Press into loaf pans and continue from the second raise.
Storage Tip: Tired of baking homemade bread and then having it go stale before you can eat it all? Well, first thing, don’t ever put it in the fridge. It dries it out and makes it crumbly. If you’re not going to eat a loaf right away, let it cool completely, place it in a sealed bread bag and then freeze it. It will keep well for up to a month like this and when it’s defrosted it will still taste as fresh as the day you baked it.
About the author: Matt Weber is the author and photographer for Thyme In Our Kitchen, a food blog chronicling his adventures in cooking and eating gourmet food. He also participates in the newly formed food blogger group Virtual Potluck. Originally from Seattle Washington, Matt has also lived in areas across the country including Rexburg Idaho, Mandeville Louisiana and now resides just outside of Minneapolis Minnesota. You can follow along with Matt on twitter @thymeinrkitchen or www.facebook.com/thymeinourkitchen