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Desert Homestead Bread: One of Life’s Little Miracles

Dave L HeadshotGood bread is no accident! While most bread recipes are simple and most bread ingredients are readily available in any grocery store, the fine art of baking great bread takes practice and mindfulness. No written directions can replace the knowledge of a good baker in determining when bread dough is ready. Watching Barbara work her magic in our kitchen is like watching an alchemist turning lead to gold.

As a kid in rural Minnesota, I often stayed at my Grandmother’s house. Each morning I woke to the smell of fresh bread wafting out of her kitchen. Those smells and my pleasure now are found in our kitchen.  I still react like I was 10 years old and can’t wait to eat that first warm slice with butter melting and honey oozing off the edges of the crust.

When Barbara and I were making the transition from a teaching career to homesteading, we began baking our own bread for healthy eating and low cost. We used a bread machine while we were teaching because of time constraints and now use a dough hook on a stand mixer prior to hand kneading. The results are incredible bread at a low cost either way.

While there are countless bread recipes, our default is simple, wholesome bread made from organic whole wheat that requires no exotic ingredients and is easy, especially if you are just learning the art of baking bread.

Basic Whole Wheat Bread Recipe 

Ingredients: 2 teaspoons granulated yeast 
1/2 cup warm water 
6 cups whole wheat flour, if possible stone-ground 
2 1/2 teaspoons table salt 
2 cups warm water 
2 tablespoons canola oil 
2 tablespoons honey 


1.       Dissolve the yeast in the 1/2 cup warm water in a small bowl; set aside until foamy, about five minutes. 

2.       Meanwhile, measure the flour and salt into a large bowl and mix. 

3.       Measure the 2 cups warm water and add the oil and honey; stir to dissolve honey. 

4.       Make a well in the middle of the flour; pour in the water/oil/honey mixture and the dissolved yeast. Mix well, either with a machine equipped with a dough hook or by hand with a large spoon. 

         Bread Doough Ready to Knead 

5.       Knead, either by machine or hand (turn out onto a floured board), until the dough is smooth, pliable and stretchy, about five minutes by machine or up to 20 minutes by hand. 

           Kneading Bread
 6.       Form the dough into a smooth ball, return it to the bowl, cover loosely with plastic or a damp towel, and let rise until doubled in volume. This will take from 45 to 90 minutes depending on the temperature of the room. 

         Bread Dough Ready To Rise
7.       Deflate the dough, form once again into a smooth ball, and let rise a second time in the bowl until doubled; this second rise will take 30 to 50 minutes. 

           First Rise
8.       Divide the dough in half, form into loaves, and place in two greased  4”x8”  loaf pans, and let rise until the dough arches up over the tops of the pans. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 425 degrees. 

9.       Place the loaves into the hot oven. After ten minutes, reduce the temperature to 325 degrees and bake for another 45 minutes, until the loaves are an even golden brown color. 

           Fresh Loaves of Bread
10.   Turn out the loaves onto a rack for cooling. Brush the top crusts with melted butter if you wish while the loaves are still hot. 

Note: This recipe was adapted from The Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book, by Laurel Robertson, with Carol Flinders and Bronwen Godfrey. Consult this complete guide for detailed instructions on the art of bread making. For more information on Laurel’s Kitchen food books, see our book reviews at 

At a time when ONE loaf of bread of comparable quality costs $4.00 or more in most markets, these TWO loaves of bread found their way to our kitchen table for just a bit over two dollars, a little time, and some skill in baking. Great, healthy food that is easy on the budget.

If you are still working full time, you can get excellent bread with a bread machine with about five minutes of prep time. If you are like  Barbara, who thrives on cooking “hands-on”, you can use a stand-up mixer or a big bowl and stirring spoon for the first mix and knead by hand. Whichever method you choose, I wish you joy in baking and eating your own fresh bread.

Happy Baking!!! 

dave larson
9/24/2011 12:02:33 PM

N Dave and Susan, Thanks for your visit and comments. Baking bread or pie and making a "from scratch" veggie soup are among the most satisfying and wonderful things about life. Have a great day baking and cooking real food.

9/22/2011 8:10:40 PM

Yum yum! I just put two loaves in the oven to bake and it smells soooooo good. I love experimenting with homemade bread recipes. Maybe one of these years we'll build an outdoor stone/brick oven--wouldn't that be fun for parties!

nebraska dave
9/22/2011 9:50:50 AM

Dave, baking bread smell is the best isn't it? Well, it's right up there with baking apple pie smell and well maybe the wake up call from bacon in the pan smell. Aw man any thing that's cooking in the old fashioned way leaves a good smell in the house. There's nothing like a good soup smell in the house on a cold winter evening. The bread machines are good in a pinch but there's just nothing like a good loaf of hands on kneaded and baked bread. I think it's the extra love that goes into the process that makes it taste so good. I'm with you on the melting butter oozing down into the crevices of the bread. I can remember when my older kids were growing up and I baked bread. They would stand waiting and watch the timer for the bread to come out of the oven. I had to bake four loaves at a time because one loaf was gone within minutes of being out of the oven. Then by the next day another was gone. So to have bread for a few days I had to bake the extra two loaves. I really should go back to baking bread. Especially during the winter months. Thanks for the reminder of country kitchen smells and how wonderful they can be. Have a great bread eating day.