Wait. Why Am I Doing This?

A few weeks ago when I made honey whole wheat bread, I got distracted -- a regular occurrence in a house with three children under 5 -- and I let the bread rise too long in the loaf pans. And so the dough fell. I walked into the kitchen and saw this:

How did that make me feel? Really, really bummed and more than a little bit ticked. I thought of how I had carefully waited for a summer day that wasn't too hot for baking, a day when I could begin the bread in the afternoon so I could bake it in the evening when things start to cool down. I couldn't help but obsess about the freshly ground wheat wasted, the local honey wasted, but most of all, I agonized about my precious time wasted. To say that I don't like it when things don't go as planned -- well, that would be an understatement. I'm not really a roll-with-the-punches kind of girl.

Then just yesterday I was making my bread, and I noticed that the second batch hadn't risen in more than an hour. I had forgotten the yeast. Dang it!

Another day, I forgot the salt.

Moments like these, I find myself wondering, why am I doing this? Why am I making bread when I can buy it at the store? Why when I have so very little time to accomplish anything? Why am I torturing myself? Why? Why? Why?

First, let me point out that none of those bread baking mistakes was really that devastating. Sure things didn't turn out as well as I would have liked, but no loaves were actually thrown in the trash. The unsalted bread got eaten as did the flat-top bread. And thanks to the Internet, I was even able to save my yeast-less dough. Although I was sure it would turn out to be a miserable failure (I was worried I might be throwing good time after bad), I put some yeast in water, added it to the yeast-less dough, mixed it all together, put that dough in a slightly warm oven to accelerate rising, shaped the first already completely risen first batch into loaf pans and put them in the fridge to slow down rising, and was able to bake all 4 loaves simultaneously (important when you are trying not to heat up the house too much and can only be counted on to pay attention to your baking for a limited time). Here are the loaves from the first batch. They are different sizes because I don't make much of an effort to divide the dough very evenly.

And here are the loaves from the second batch -- yeast added more than one hour after the mixing and kneading.

And all four loaves for comparison (two loaves on the left are from the second batch I originally forgot to add the yeast to).

My husband joked that I should leave out the yeast more often.

Yes, it all worked out, but being the sort of person that I am (see above), not without causing me a good deal of pain and suffering. So it's good to have at-the-ready the list of reasons why I make breadpancakes and other breakfast foods instead of eating cold cereal and other ready-made breakfast foods each morning. Why I choose to make my own beans, hummusyogurtgranolagranola bars and other snacks -- foods I could pay someone or some conglomerate to make for me.

Why I make foods from scratch that I could buy in the store even though it's sometimes a pain in the behind.

1. It's cheaper.

2. It's fresher. Which means more nutritious and usually tastier too.

3. I can skip weird non-food ingredients, such as artificial colorsartificial sweeteners, and L-cysteine.

4. I can use high-quality, organic and local ingredients. Because I am saving money, I can afford to get the good stuff. For example, I'm not sure I've ever bought an organic loaf of bread. But I do buy organic US-grown wheat berries that I grind myself. I also use local raw honey in my bread. Not only am I supporting local sustainable businesses, I am also avoiding fake Chinese laundered honey. (That honey in your favorite bread or breakfast cereal could be Chinese honey laundered through India or Vietnam. There's usually no way to tell the origin of the ingredients in your packaged food.)

5. Less packaging, less waste. Recently, the in-laws were in town, and there was little time for a baking, and I bought a loaf of delicious honey whole wheat bread at my farmer's market. Just delicious. But guess what came with it? A non-recyclable plastic bag. When you cook from scratch, you can often purchase ingredients in bulk and consume less packaging.

6. Helps my family eat less plastic. So much of packaging for grocery foods come in plastic packaging. Baked goods, yogurt, and canned beans involve plastic packaging. It's much easier to find individual uncooked single ingredients in non-plastic packaging. My wheat berries and dry beans come in paper bags. I am lucky to be able to buy milk in glass jars, which I use to make yogurt. I also purchase my honey in glass jars. I make an extra effort to avoid plastic packaging in particular not just because of the waste it generates, but also because some of the plastic packaging ends up in your food.

7. Gives me a sense of accomplishment. As a SAHM of young kids, I feel like I am very limited in what I can accomplish or produce. My kids hate hate HATE it when I am on the computer. They don't like it when I talk on the phone. But somehow, they are more tolerant of physical labor, like cooking and cleaning. When I make food, I feel like I've done something.

8. Increases our family's self-sufficiency. Now I'm all for specialization of labor, but it's useful and rewarding to know how to do some things for yourself. I may never learn how to change my own oil (just not interested, folks), but I am willing to learn how to make more of our foods from scratch. Most of the time, I even enjoy doing so.

9. My kids can help. Better to have them helping than just getting in the way. Plus, if your kids help you make it, they will probably eat it.

10. My kids learn that food does not come from the grocery store. This is a big one for me. And one of the reasons I really need to figure out how to garden. I want my kids to know where food comes from and how it is made.

So, when things don't turn out quite as planned, remember there are reasons you are doing this. And when you make a big mistake, don't forget to consult the Internet. There's probably a decent solution somewhere out there for your problem (see below: my bread from dough with yeast added an hour late. It tasted delicious too).

All's well that end's well. 

Why do you make food from scratch?
What has been your most amazing kitchen save/ disaster?
This post was inspired by the Green Mom's Carnival July Theme: Food Independence hosted by Farmer's Daughter. If you are interested in participating, check the submission guidelines here. Be sure and check out Farmer's Daughter on July 17, when the carnival goes live.

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  1. Oh, I've so been there. I remember one time in particular when I spent all afternoon trying out a new recipe for wheat bread and like five minutes before I was going to put it in the oven, when it was beautifully high and risen, my then-3-year-old son decided to leave a handprint in it. Totally fell flat. Whenever my bread flops, I just make breadcrumbs and I feel a little better -- it's pretty cathartic to pulverize frustrating bread results in the food processor.

    1. I'm glad making bread crumbs is cathartic for you. I'm not sure it would work for me...

  2. Love this list and wish I had more drive to do more from scratch, though I am proud of what I do make! Bread is on my list to overcome and since I've perfected pizza dough and homemade yeast rolls, bread will probably be next.

    1. That's funny, b/c I've never yet made homemade rolls. Although I do make pizza any week it's under 90. You definitely sound ready to make bread.

  3. Love it. One more reason for me is allergies. My daughter has several severe allergies, and when we see something that looks great at a bakery or market stand, we say, "that looks amazing, I bet we can do it allergy-free!" She's only four, but I love that she gets a positive sense of empowerment in creating things at home that her allergies might otherwise prevent her from enjoying!

    1. Absolutely. I think a lot of people learn to cook b/c of special dietary needs.

    2. Btw, I discovered Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day through your blog and absolutely love it. Thanks for another great tip!

  4. I love homemade bread! Great tip about the yeast, I would have never have known you could throw the yeast in after the fact. I'm notorious for leaving out ingredients or not putting enough in!

  5. I am so glad I am not the only one! I am a horrible baker when the kids distract me (and I only have 3). I forget sugar in cakes and butter in buns! I have taken to trying to make the more difficult stuff before they all awaken. Oh and I had buns the other day that look like your bread that you say over rose and I was trying to figure out what went wrong. Now I know! thanks for sharing (visiting from WFMW)

  6. Great attitude! I have a full-time job outside the home, which limits the time I can spend cooking from scratch, but I do make a lot of our food. For us it's more a matter of avoiding take-out and ready-to-eat convenience foods than making things like bread, but I make quick breads and muffins pretty often in cooler weather.

    Here is one of my worst kitchen disasters, in which I thought it would be convenient to make a "homemade" food by mixing things from packages, and here's a story about how I turned some long-frozen cabbage into edible food.

  7. Great post! I agree with so much of what you said and can totally relate to mixing things up a bit with recipes... I once baked a pie for a contest and left out the sugar by accident. That one was NOT salvageable!!!

  8. Great post! I cant tell you how many times i have forgotten yeast or salt or something else essential. Note: yeastless bread does not equal matzoh. Not sure what was happening in the Old Testament...

  9. Inspiring! And real at the same time, which is why I like you so much. :)


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