I've been making my own bread following the no-knead recipe for coming up on...gosh, five years now. I love the process of it and I really love having fresh bread all week long. But every so often, on a weekend when time gets away from me and I'd rather be lingering over a book than reaching for flour, I wonder, "Is it worth it?"
For purposes of comparison, we'll use Pepperidge Farm Farmhouse Soft Hearty White Bread, my personal favorite from my pre-baking days. And for the homemade recipe, we'll use Jim Lahey's no-knead bread recipe. (FYI, I normally shape this dough into sandwich loaves.) All costs were taken from Peapod Online Grocery unless otherwise noted.
• Jim Lahey's No-Knead Bread Recipe from the New York Times
• Peapod Online Grocery
• Pepperidge Farm Farmhouse Soft Hearty White Bread
PER SLICE: $0.25
• No-Knead Bread
3 cups all-purpose flour: $0.60
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast: $0.06
1 1/4 teaspoons salt: $0.00
PER SLICE: $0.04
• Pepperidge Farm Bread: 0 Minutes
• No-Knead Bread: Active Time - about 1 1/2 hours; Time Including Rising - 16-21 hours
Bread takes time, there's no way around it. No matter how much time you trim off, it's never as immediate as when someone else makes it for you.
This said, Jim Lahey's recipe is about as easy and basic as it comes, as evidenced by its lasting popularity. It's so easy that even the most yeast-shy among us can turn out a beautiful loaf every time!
The biggest inconvenience is planning ahead. If I need a sandwich loaf for lunches on Monday that means I need to bake it by Sunday night, which further means that I need to start the loaf on Saturday. It's hard to think that far ahead sometimes. Other times, I flat out forget to make the dough! Forgetfulness, more than anything else, is my personal biggest deterrent to making my own bread.
TASTINESS AND HEALTHFULNESS
The best bread you'll ever have is the bread you make yourself. It's totally true. (Well, okay, unless you have the budget for a real artisan-made loaf every week. If so, lucky you!) In terms of flavor, freshness, and all-around quality, homemade bread can't be beat. Add to this the fact that you can tinker with other kinds of flours, add extras like nuts or dried fruit, and generally cater to your tastes and yours alone.
Yeah, we're going with homemade bread here!
MAKE OR BUY?
Was anyone else surprised by that cost comparison? I knew that homemade bread was bound to be cheaper, but not by so much. A loaf of homemade bread is pennies! This alone is a good argument for making homemade bread in my book. By the way, even using a "good" flour like King Arthur only bumps up the cost per loaf by $0.30. That's still a huge bargain over buying store-bought.
Yes, I believe I will continue to make my own bread. The cost savings is one argument, but homemade bread is just worlds better tasting than your average loaf of store-bought, and often healthier, too. Making bread every week can feel like a chore at first, but it becomes an ingrained habit before too long. It certainly has for me. And even the weeks when I drag my feet, I think it's still worth the effort.
Do you make your own bread? Do you think it's worth it?
Related: Essential Kitchen Tools: Bread Baking
(Images: Peapod and Emma Christensen)