Wednesday, February 17, 2010

17 February 1956 “Waste Not Want Not, A New Movie and Composer, The BREAD Quest”

womanwithbread I have started baking more of my own bread. It has been something I have wanted to work into my normal weekly routine. So, since this has been happening the past two weeks, I have not bothered to buy any new bread. Then, this morning, as I was retrieving the homemade bread (this one is a whole wheat bread, recipe below) I realized I had somehow forgot to remove the leftover store-bought bread in a bag in the bottom of my large tin bread bin.

I took it and and there was a bit of mold, so I simply took a knife, cut off that bit and tossed it into the yards for the birds and proceeded to cut up the rest into little chunks. I put it back into its original bag and popped it into the fridge to use. I figured, I will make a meat loaf tonight and can use that as filler.

This was all a simple little act that took not much decision and a few seconds of my morning. But, in the middle of it I was suddenly struck by what I was doing. I imagined myself a year ago, 1955, first learning and just getting my toes wet into the ‘ways of the Homemaker’. I think it very nice that such things are more natural or second nature. Really, it took very little more time that just tossing it away and it also made me think ,”How shall I use it? Stuffing? Filler? Croutons?” and that helped me to cement my dinner menu plans.

The old me would have tossed it without thinking. I sometimes shudder when I think of the amount of waste I used to create. It isn't’ even an issue of ‘being green’, but really just common sense. Even if bread is cheap and readily available at any store, why should I toss out any good bread and have to spend more money? But, we modern people, as a whole (I know most of you, my readers, are very smart Homemakers that could probably teach me a thing or two and believe me, I would be glad for the lesson)but as a whole we are a wasteful lot.

Now, I don’t want to go off on some tangent about how we are such bad modern people and we should do this or that. I just really thought it an interesting observation I had while about my ‘busy’ work this morning in my kitchen. I am often finding myself going along as if I have always lived this way and then little memories of ‘before 1955’ slip in and I think, “Wow, I have come a long way”.  I am still amazed at how completely we can change our view and actions. Persistence, determination, work seem to result in real change. That makes me feel good and more in control of my life.

Yesterday the 16th, here in 1956, the movie Carousel opened.

This Rodgers and Hammerstein play had great success on the stage and this was it’s film debut staring Gordon MaCrae and Shirley Jones.

Today, The Second Symphony of Chilean composer Juan Orrego-Salas receives its world premiere in Minneapolis, Minn. I could not find the second symphony, but this is nice and you can hear both the discordant sound of a ‘modern’ composition, but mingled with a sweet promise of the piano that seems to me often true of the 1950’s. The shattered way in which it came about from the war, the continued rationing, housing shortage and yet the promise and hope of a new tomorrow.

 craftmag56 This 1956 Craft Horizons magazine from this month, ‘56, seems so modern. The organic shapes and the lightness of material could easily be seen in any up market shop or gallery today.


As mentioned at the beginning of this post, I have been on a sort of ‘Bread Quest’, making and trying every recipe for bread I can get my eager little fingers on. As with most things I have discovered from 1955, once you just try a thing, just set aside the modern notion of, “Oh, when I have time” or “Well, when I get around to it I  will…” and fill in the blank. That was me very often. Now, I often find myself saying I want to try something and then the modern me might chime in and say, “well, after this or that” and then I turn and say to that part of me, “Now, come one. No time like the present, just get in there and do it!” I often have to be rather stern with myself, but I do learn in the end and anyway, my reward is a warm piece of bread!

Well, this ‘Bread Quest lead me to the recipe. It was a whole wheat bread and was really dense and wonderful, but it did not rise properly. I was not familiar with this form of bread recipe and was confused by its directions to make the ‘sponge’ and wait until it was bubbly.

Well, the sponge was the yeast and some white flour and warm water set in a warm place “ ‘till bubbly and light” which is certainly open for much interpretation. The recipe was rather vague about directions and it’s method called the yeast flour mixture a ‘sponge’ and I think I did not let that get ‘bubbly’ enough. It did get a little bubbly, and the this was a ‘no-knead’ bread, so I already felt as if I was cheating somehow. It did rise, but I don’t think I let it rise enough. However, the resluting little dense rectangular loaf was lovely!

My hubby even told me he shared half a slice with a co-worker who was eyeing his lunch. This happens a lot to hubby and he often gets a few people anxiously asking, “Oh, what did you get today?” recalling days of childhood sat at long tables littered with little brown bags and trading of Twinkies and ho-ho’s with the kid whose mother ‘baked’. The coworker took a bite, looked at hubby and said, “This is the best bread I have ever eaten”.

woman with sliced bread This made me smile, because I certainly knew it was NOT the best bread I have ever baked and I really have only been baking bread a few months total. I would sporadically try it in 1955, but was often left telling myself my 1955 counterpart would have happily filled her cart at the new Grocery stores with sliced bread. Even the saying, ‘better than sliced bread’ told of the greatness of the enriched pre-made loaves of the day. But, I digress…

The bread, though not properly risen, was good.

Here it is.wholewheatbread It is a sad little rectangle loaf, but really good. It made me think of images I had seen of the ‘national loaf’ they had used in the UK during the war which was made from potato flour and was suppose to be in taste, similar to cardboard. Mine, however, was really good.

Here is the recipe I used:

1 c. warm water
1 1/2 c. flour
1 tbsp. sugar
3/4 tsp. salt
1 env. yeast
1/4 c. hot water
1/4 c. brown sugar
1 1/2 tbsp. shortening, melted
1 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
Mix hot water with brown sugar and shortening and cool to lukewarm.
Mix first 5 ingredients and beat until smooth. Set in warm place, free of drafts, until light and bubbly.
Add the lukewarm mixture to the sponge and mix well. Add the whole wheat flour and beat smooth, but do NOT knead. Place in one greased loaf pan and let rise until double in bulk. Bake at 350 degrees about 45-50 minutes.
As this is a sponge type of dough, be careful not to move or shake the pan while rising.

So, I began, as I often do, to do some research. What was this ‘sponge’ of which the recipe spoke? So, I did some research and found an answer in another bread I have been wanting to try: Sourdough Bread.

Now, the making of bread for me has a three fold directive. First, I enjoy it. The making of food, I have found, is not unlike the creative process in a studio or art class. It is both tactile and cerebral. Secondly, the taste is far superior to anything I can buy and the quality is good and healthy as I know what is going into the food. And, finally, cost effective. I often find homemade can mean less money. Yet, with bread, the cost of each loaf would always be so highly affected by the cost of yeast, it does not seem to come cheap. So, with my research into the infamous bread “sponge”, my piqued interest in the realm of sourdough, I found the answers to both those questions.

First, the SPONGE: this is for all intents and purposes a bowl of warm fermented batter. Setting a bowl of this ‘sponge’ in a warm place to let it ferment or ‘proof’ is what was needed for my bread recipe. It was not clear about the time and I see now I did not let it ‘proof’ long enough. It can take only an hour or two or up to 6-8!

Now, my sponge was made by using store bought yeast added to flour and warm water. As I researched the sponge I found I had stumbled onto sourdough bread making. Wonderful, one path hooks to another trail I had hoped to follow ( I find this happening a lot in homemaking skills).

Now, I love sourdough bread and really had no idea what it was made from. I assumed, sour milk? Well, I was wrong. The wonderful thing is you make sourdough bread with a ‘sponge’ and the ‘sponge’ is a living thing you create and keep and feed. The best part is, you don’t need to start with store bought yeast.

Basically, from what I understand, it is a cup of warm water and flour and then over a few days your ‘feeding’ it gives you the starter that you then can keep and use and add to forever! This was an exciting find. This would and could help in overall cost and also be rather fun. Like a little helper, quietly growing in my icebox.

So, I have not made this sourdough starter to make my ‘sponge’ as of yet, but it is the next bread quest. I shall share my results and pictures of it and if it works, I may have a new little friend around the house, my little ‘starter’ happily residing in an old crock in my ice box that I can occasionally feed.

It really does begin to bring you closer to our connection with food. We modern people really are separated from the source and chemistry of what we eat. It is probably good we are, because when we begin to look at what is in what we actually eat, all the store bought pre-made, it can be a bit disconcerting. I am not sure, in this case, if ‘ignorance is bliss’. But, just as keeping your own chickens, gathering those eggs and using them makes a connection and a realization between animal and food, so to does bread making. I begin to see how with a small arsenal of flour, butter, eggs, milk etc you have the key ingredients to so many things. At one point in our distant past, this was our arsenal of food. We needed food, we didn’t just want to eat the grass and raw kill, so we, (We women I might add!) began to mix and meld and create. Food was born. Dishes made and created. The fresh smells of bread and food cooking, the very basic nurturing scent that makes all of us, close our eyes, inhale and think, “Ahhhhh”.

Forget aromatherapy candles and odd bamboo sticks sat in glass bottles filled with odd oils to soothe your frazzled nerves. Take two minutes to throw together an easy bread recipe (This one is good) and when it begins to rise and then bake, grab that magazine, a cuppa and sit back and let the relaxation begin.


  1. I love my little sourdough starter. She lives in a glass jar in my fridge. Mind you, I haven't made any bread in a wee while because it's so tasty but goes stale pretty quickly. Mostly I use it for sourdough pizza dough now, so good! I should haul it out and make some bread but maybe not today. Poor hubby just had some dental work done so it'll be a couple of days before he's up to eating sourdough.

    I suggest checking out for sourdough instructions. I followed his instructions for breeding a starter with pineapple juice and it's so easy. He has videos for a lot of stuff too so you can see the consistency and activity.

  2. You can take any bread recipe and make a sponge. Take 1-2 c of the flour, part of the water and the yeast and set it rise. It should be very light and almost bubbling before you beat it down. Then continue on. Your recipe will have 3 risings--one for the sponge, one for the dough and one for the loaves.

    A thermometer is a great little tool to have--yeast can be heated up to 115 degrees before it dies off. It take the guess work out of getting the water temp just right.

    Also, if you sub honey for your sweetener, it will not go stale as fast. The honey keeps it moist. Dont keep it in the fridge either--that drys homemade bread.

    Margarine and butter have different water contents--margarine is higher. If you get good results with butter, stick to it. You may have to add less flour. This is true of all baking.

    If you buy yeast in bulk, you can keep it in the freezer almost indefinately or in the fridge for long time. I add soy flour and wheat gluten to my loaves to bulk the nutrition and improve the crumb. I keep those in my fridge also. And keep your whole wheat flour in the fridge or freezer if you buy in bulk--it goes rancid otherwise. Just make sure to take some out the night before and bring it to room temp before baking.

    If you are making bread that you knead, you dont have to knead it all at once. If the recipe says knead for 10 minutes, take a break when your wrists are about to fall apart--a few minutes doesnt matter either way. Kneading time varies with the flour, the humidity in the air and your skill level. You are aiming at a texture similiar to your earlobe. ;o)Kneading is great exercise and a great way to work off stress!


  3. Rhonda-thank you, I will check that site out!
    Deb-thank you for all the info. I am very new to the bread world, but as with almost every aspect of homemaking, am finding it utterly interesting. There is so much science and creativity in it. I actually really love the kneading, as well. The last loaf of white bread I made was so perfect, I think I am really getting the hang of the kneading and the intuitive feel of the dough. A lot of cooking and baking, I have found, is intuition. It is as if you are a 'food whispere' and you just let the food tell you what it needs, as you begin to understand the chemistry of how food works, it begins to make sense, such as the liqud to dry ratio you spoke of with margarine, butter, flour. And it all seems such an artform as well and you get to EAT your creations!
    It is nice that with the internet a novice can really begin to give herself/himself the education of the Home. I barely boiled water before 1955 and now I am baking bread, making all kinds of baked goods, roasting meats to perfection and invention my own recipes! I feel, if I can do it, anyone can!

  4. I'll have to try this whole wheat recipe. Both of us prefer whole wheat bread.

  5. Even the easy white bread recipe could be made whole wheat, I belive, if you substitute some of the white flour for wheat.

  6. I keep a sourdough in summer for bread making. I dont refrigerate it because I'm baking every other day. I just take 2 cups of flour, 2 cups of water and a tablespoon of yeast and let it perk for a few days in a large crock. I cover it with a cloth napkin secured with a rubber band so it can breathe and nothing gets into it on the counter. I have to feed it a couple of times a week with flour and water and you do have to stir it every day but otherwise you can ignore it if you want. I put all my leftover flour from baking--the scrapings from kneading etc into the sourdough also so they arent wasted. Sometimes I throw in whole wheat, sometimes rye whatever...just nothing that salt or egg has been added to since salt kills yeast and egg will go nasty on you. The longer you keep it, the less yeast you have to use in your recipe and the stronger it will smell--kind of like beer since the fermentation process is producing alcohol. It usually dies off in winter because my kitchen gets so cold and I move onto other more complicated recipes but I remake it every spring for summer baking.

  7. Then there's the issue of TRUE sourdough, which only uses wild yeast from the air, vs. "second class" sourdough, which uses yeast organisms created by man.

    Sourdough Bread Blog

  8. That is right PL, I am trying the 'snob' version of sourdough which uses the air and the flour to make the yeast. I figure, if I am going to do it, do it up right!

  9. If I had have read ten years ago the saving of your slightly mouldy bread to cleverly use up in another way, I would have been aghast. Now I can proudly say, we waste no bread. Comparing then with now, makes me feel so good concerning the changes I've made in my housekeeping these past years (while trying not to feel bad for all my waste, slackness and mistakes.)

    Don't hold back, if you feel the urge to start to 'go off on a tangent' please do. We only benefit from it and they're always thought-provoking and inspiring.

    Reading the comments makes me realise what a talented group ladies are when they have learnt so much about bread baking. Real artisans; and you have 'caught on' so quickly. I think it's your artistic giftings coupled with of course DOING.

    (Food whisperer - great description.)

    Thanks for writing 50sgal. Linda

  10. I will be trying the easy white bread recipe with whole wheat flour. I'll be sure to report to the forum with my findings.

  11. Rachel, make sure you still use some of the flour as white and the rest as wheat, as i think this makes for a better loaf.
    Linda-Thank YOU for reading. I am glad to have anyone enjoy anything that I have to say and consider this blog and website a blessing. Thank you are for being a part of my life.

  12. I always make a sponge when I make bread. For things like baguettes or other slow rise breads it helps develop flavour. If I know I'm going to bake a day before I will mix 1 cup whole wheat flour with a teaspoon yeast (I buy in bulk) a pinch of sugar and a cup of water and let it work overnight. The next day it goes into the bread

  13. That is a wonderful tip, Teru.Have you ever made the sourdough starte without the yeast? I am going to try it and was wondered who has had success with it.
    How much do you pay, if you don't mind my asking, for your yeast in bulk? Is it from a local place and do they have a website?
    At some point we might have to compile "The Apron Revolution Cook Book" and give the money to a charity or maybe pay for a young girl to go to college for 'home ec'.

  14. I tried the honey oat bread, and it turned out wonderful. The family devoured it. haha

    The wheat bread is in the oven as I type. It didn't rise as much as I would have liked...but it smells like heaven. My hubby is a big fan of wheat bread, but I don't want to have to knead bread every day (because of the time and mess) so this is a great alternative if it turns out and he likes it.

    As far as a cookbook goes, I want to make my own by typeing all of my recipes onto 3 x 5 cards and then putting them into a nice photo-sleeve album. I started one a while back, but we moved and it got relegated to the back burner. I need to get busy with it again. The awesome thing is, if it turns out well, then I can make copies for my children (or their spouses) so they have all of "mom's best" recipes.

  15. Lori B-I am glad your family loved the bread, isnt' it divine?! The wheat bread did not rise well for me, either, but I shall try Teru's trick of leaving the 'sponge' to get all bubbly overnight and then it will most likely rise more. But, you shall see, even when a little flat and dense, it is very good.
    What a good idea and fun for you family, the recipe idea!

  16. This is off topic but I thought you 50sgal (and ladies) would share in my elation on this 'trivial' subject.

    It wasn't long after I'd happily farewelled my husband off to work this morning with a kiss and a wave that I realised I hadn't included as I had planned, the cold potato and sweet potato with his 'salad' (tomato, pineapple, tuna, carrot, red capsicum, pickled onions, grated matured cheese, peas, along with no fat Italian dressing and thousand island). So I texted(sp?) him apologising about my omission. His text reply, "It will still b the most delicious lunch in the staffroom. Love u." I answered, 'Well that makes it all worthwhile, Mr Bias.' For your information, along with his fruit (apricots, crimson grapes) I included two scones I made yesterday from your recipe dated Feb 14th, 'Best Biscuits'. Sad to say I did something wrong and they didn't turn out light, fluffy and gorgeous like yours so when my darling had some last night I described them as 'compact-damper-like thingies' so he didn't envision airy scones. He said 'yum, taste just like scones'.

    All this to say... It's enough to be pleased with one's own efforts but isn't it encouraging to get positive feedback? Makes one want to go the extra mile. It isn't unusual to recieve compliments from my dearest so it goes to show one never gets tired of them. I hope I don't sound conceited but I thought you'd understand. Thanks for your inspiration. (Linda)

  17. Being 'green' really is just common sense and being aware of what you're doing...all the time.
    Unfortunately...making bread (or anything for that matter) has NEVER been a relaxing thing for me (curiously working out seems to relax me), but it sounds like your bread making is a delicious way for you to unwind! :)

  18. Linda-what a lovely story and YES, I, too, love compliments. It does feel good to do something you love and then to have it loved and appreciated by others. I shall always be happy to get compliments and I think your pride is well found and not even slightly tinged with conceit. Well done, you.
    Well I have found being green is so much more, things one doesn't think about, water in bottles, even using plastic garbage bags when paper would break down and so, then, its contents. Saving and reusing old bottles. Making your own thing is green, as you have to buy the ingredients but no plastic bag or twist tie! I rather like my bread making, true. It can be theraputic but also vastly rewarding. The closer I get to the sources of food, as I am doing with life, that is to say, the more I keep unpeeling the layers of the Onion of Modern living, the more I understand and the more I feel connected to things, my food, clothing, home and even people.

  19. I buy bread yeast at the co-op. It's $4.99/pound and generally in half pound bags, which last ages.

    Once upon a time, I made my own sourdough as well. I was baking bread daily then and to start it I scraped up all the stuck on bits off of the counter after kneeding regular bread and put it in a container with some flour and water. I think I left it on the counter uncovered too while I cultivated it. After a week of adding scrapings, I just fed it like a regular starter and let the yeast go wild.

    For sourdough bread I would typically scoop out a cup of starter in the morning (and replace it with 1 cup water and 1 cup flour) and mix it with the same amount of flour and water to get a sponge going. Then when I came home from work I would add the rest of the flour and liquid to make it into bread dough. After baking for a while, I don't really measure so it's all by feel.

  20. Isn't it funny how that happens. So often now if I am cooking or baking, I just intuitively add or measure. I love that aspect of the scraps of flour etc going into the pot to feed the next loaves of bread. You can really see how in man's early days, beer and bread, made very similar, where the staple of diets. There could be no waste as there was nothing left TO waste. Another connection to the past, though much further back than the 1950's, has arisen (pun intended!)from Bread baking.

  21. I'll bet that that bread WAS yummy! DH used to bring home large quantities of pizza dough that went unused at the end of the night. I made this into bread, which was really quite yummy. I have also done a couple of starters over the years, and they are indeed fun.

    Now a question:

    Do you ever find yourself with your plate too full when you are always making yourself trying new things rather than saying, “Well, after this or that”? This is an area that I need to work on, and I am just wondering at which point you tell yourself to stop or that learning something new will have to wait until you have less going on. I really appreciate your insight, as I was just thinking, about an hour before reading this, that I have been wanting to try a particular new thing but that this year is taken up with other goals and maybe it would have to wait.

  22. Ladies,

    Does anyone have alternative to freezer burn? I save scraps and crumbs from bakings, cereal, etc. I also freeze my grains until I use them, as well as fruit that I put in smoothies. Long story short, the now-standard self-defrosting freezer puts a stale taste to everything after not real long. I do double wrap and/or use freezer bags. I would actually like to get a regular freezer (if they even still make them) that you have to defrost like in the olden days. There were benefits to them.

    If any of you have solutions that work for you, I would love to hear them.

  23. I just love the fact that your hubby’s colleagues are jealous of his lunch! Then you can really be proud of yourself. You just gave an anti-stress recipe too at the end of you post, did you know that!? Have a lovely weekend, both of you.

  24. My sourdough starter is a pure starter, no commercial yeast added. I used the pineapple juice method on the breadtopia site. You can do it with just water but apparently there's something about pineapple juice (a specific acid type or level or something) that makes it basically fool proof. It's wicked easy, you just need to mix it up a feed it a few times a day to start with and then it's basically impossible to kill.

  25. Sanne-it does make me proud! Forget aromatherapy, bake some bread!
    Rhonda-I am going to try it sans pineapple juice at first. Are you from MA as I noticed you used 'wicked'?
    Zebu-I am answering your question in my next blog post.

  26. Not originally but I've been here for about 12 years now. We live up near Lowell.

  27. Rhonda,

    How much do you feed your starter?

  28. I don't really have a specific rule. I know the consistency it should be and I know how much I want on hand. If the jar is particularly full or if I know I'm not going to use it much I put in a heaping spoon of flour (always whole wheat, just seems to like that better) and a splash of purified water. If it's running low or if I know I'll need a lot for pizza dough (1.5 cups of starter I think) then I'll give it a larger feeding in the morning.

    There are so many different rules about how much to feed and how often. Some people even dump part of their starter each time they feed but there's really no need for that unless you have a huge amount which should happen with good management. Really though, once you get it going it's so easy to take care of. Think of it like a baby. You can read all the books and listen to all the advice you want to but when it comes right down to it you just go with your gut and everything will turn out just fine 99% of the time.

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