Confession: We eat a lot of bread.
I can hear the Paleo police on their way now.
If you want to jump right to my favorite super-simple bread recipes, click here: NoKnead Overnight Crappy White Bread (Dan’s favorite for sandwiches) and Whole Wheat Pizza Crust.
Someone recently said to me, “Bread is so fattening.” I thought two things. 1. The new Pizza Hut mini-hot dog pizza with dipping sauce is fattening. 2. This person has clearly never had the pleasure of making their own bread. If so, they would know that there is not a whole lot of fat in a loaf of bread. And, if you eat bread moderately, your body does not have any excess to store as fat. It’s just like any other food. Eat too much, and yeah, it’s not so good for you.
A dear friend is a Paleo activist. This means that she is such a devout follower that if you, too, are not following it, you are committing a venial sin. (Yes, we are both Catholic, so this bread-eating can be serious.) If she sees bread in your home, she will give unsolicited advice, based on her own internet research and weight management plan, of just how terrible bread is for our guts, our moods, our poop, and based upon her tone of voice, our morality.
“Ang, you’re so healthy! You know so much about food. How can you eat bread? How can you let Dan and Soph eat bread?”
Couple issues with her question.
1. If you have met my husband, Dan, you will know pretty quickly that there is no “letting” Dan do or eat anything. Dan is a self-possessed man who eats and does whatever the hell he feels like when he feels like it. And, he is pretty healthy and his attitude can be inspiring when it comes to food.
He has zero food agony. He just eats. We should all eat more like Dan.
2. I am so healthy and I do know so much about food. That’s why I know I can eat bread.
You see, I listen to my body. I like to think of it as taking my yoga practice off the mat. I pay attention when I eat. I chew my food. I enjoy it. This is what tells me that bread does not bother me.
It also helps me ascertain what kind of bread I really like. Dan is pretty clear too. He writes on the store list, “Crappy white bread.” That means whatever loaf is buy-one-get-one at the grocery store. He likes it with Jif and jelly or sweet bologna and cheese. He also likes my homemade Crappy White Bread.
What kind do you like? Or, do eat the good-for-you kind? The problem with that is we all have different ideas about what constitutes the good-for-you-kind. We all have different food rules…that contradict one another. One friend only eats wraps because she has decided they are better carbs. Another only eats gluten-free bread that has very few ingredients that resemble bread. My yoga friend only eats whole grain. I realize that these choices are not based on enjoyment, taste, texture or even facts about nutrition. They are based on fear.
Yeah. Fear of ingredients. Fear of bread.
Paleo police! Low-carb police!
Bread is not bad. Bread is not anything to be afraid of. It’s not sharks off the New Jersey coast. It’s not being chased by a bear.
It’s just some elements that exist in nature put together and baked. My regular recipe is flour, yeast, water, salt, and olive oil.
Oh, pipe down. Flour and yeast are not bad.
They may bother some people though. And, paying attention will tell you if you are one of those people.
Paying attention when you eat is a great practice for all foods. Take a couple minutes to really experience your food. Maybe get something to eat and write down the answers to these questions:
How do you feel when you eat certain foods? How does it taste? Do you like the texture in your mouth? How would you describe the food to someone else? Do you like it? Is the choice satisfying? Is it what you expected? How does your stomach feel immediately? 10 minutes later? How is your energy? How is your mood? Why did you choose to eat that food? Based upon this eating experience, would you choose to eat it again?
Dan has found that all kinds of fruit bother him since turning 40. His mouth feels funny. He gets little sores inside his cheeks. Apples, pears, cherries, and all stone fruits are off my market list. I know the grower we buy the fruit from. No bad apples. Just over-40 digestion. My brother can no longer eat peas. You might think, “No big loss.” But, you have not had Mammy’s peas–my grandmother’s delicious combination of peas, onions, garlic, and salami. It is a great loss to my brother that peas cause him tummy troubles. I get hay fever when I eat certain foods. My eyes water and get red immediately. My nose runs. And, as Dan and my brother have found, the list of foods that create this response seems to keep growing post-40.
But, we do not live in fear of food.
This week, Dan, my brother and I are together eating a lot of bread. The kids have eaten multiple PB&Js a day. We are dipping bread in overpriced black cherry vinegar and rosemary-infused olive oil. We are using it to sop up Mom’s sauce that has bits and pieces of her meatballs in it. It’s been covered in everything from brisket to a broiled buttery-ranch deliciousness.
Right now, as I finish up this post, it’s 6:30 am. I’m having coffee with my dad and Dan. The sun just rose over the beach. I hear my 3-year old nephew coming down the stairs. This means pancakes will be started soon. I think I’ll grab a chunk of yummy bread from the local bakery and dip it in some oil for breakfast…with pleasure.
Crappy White Bread Recipe
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp active dry yeast
- 1½ cups room temperature water
Combine everything in a bowl. No need to proof the yeast. Cover with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel. Let rise in a draft-free spot overnight or 8-10 hours. My brother lets his rise in the fridge. I put mine in the microwave.
Pre-heat oven to 450.
The dough will be very sticky. It’s easier to handle if you wet your hands. Pour the dough out onto a baking pan that you can cover, such as a dutch oven or clay pot with a lid. You can also use a regular cookie sheet and cover the dough with foil. You want it tight enough so the dough steams, but leave some room for the dough to rise a bit more.
Bake, covered for 30-40 minutes, depending on your oven. Uncover and finish baking for another 15-20 minutes.
Whole Wheat Pizza Crust
5 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups bread flour
1 packet rapid rise yeast (who wants to wait hours for pizza crust?)
2.5 cups warm water
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
4 tablespoons olive oil
Combine the yeast, water and sugar. Let is stand for about 8 minutes until bubbles form on the top.
Two ways to combine the yeast mixture with the rest of the ingredients:
1. Use a dough hook on a mixer. Combine everything in the mixing bowl and let it knead until it comes together in a ball.
2. I mix the flours and then dump them on the counter. Make a well in the center. Add the salt and olive oil to the yeast mixture. Start adding the yeast into the well, a little bit at a time. Using a fork, combine the yeast mixture and flour. Slowly is the key! Otherwise the yeast mixture will spill out over your well and make a giant mess…I am familiar with cleaning this mess up. This takes a few minutes to get all the yeast incorporated and into a dough. Don’t rush. It will come together. I think of this as dough meditation. And, I think about my grandmother, Mammy, who taught me to make dough this way.
Once the dough comes together, knead by hand for 8 minutes or so.
Put the dough in a well-oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and let rise for 30 minutes in a draft-free place. I use the microwave. It should double in size in 30 minutes.
Pull off chunks of dough and roll out. Top with your favorite sauce and pizza toppings. Bake 10-12 minutes in an oven pre-heated to 500.