Cooking at home was the norm in America throughout the 1940s. Then, “convenience foods” overtook the country in the 1950s, bringing classics like TV dinners and cake mixes, which were meant to shorten the time spent in the kitchen. By the 1980s, many families had two full-time wage-earners and the priority of cooking from scratch had all but disappeared.
These days, Americans spend $117 billion on fast food, and rely heavily on highly processed and packaged foods as part of an everyday diet.
Somewhat even more disturbing, is that we now think we’re “cooking” when we nuke a frozen dinner or assemble a meal from a kit. This notion is reinforced by Food Network stars like Rachel Ray, whose “cooking” consists of opening several packages, combining them, and heating.
Rachel Ray’s recipes lean on those 1950s kitchen shortcuts – her Cracked Corn and Cheese Squares use a store-bought corn muffin mix.
What does Mr. Everyday Dollar think of all this? Cooking does not mean adding an egg to a cake mix. That is nothing more than a trick to make people feel like they are actually making a cake.
So, I’m going to show you how to make bread from scratch that is super simple, delicious, fulfilling, and cheap. Like less than $1 cheap. I hope if you decide to make this bread, you think back to the 1940s when cooking at home – and from scratch – was the norm.
This bread is made from water, flour, yeast, and salt. Yes, that’s it folks.
- 1 1/2 Cups Water – Tap water is perfectly fine.
- 3 Cups Flour – All-purpose King Arthur Flour works well.
- 1/4 Teaspoon Yeast – Use active dry yeast.
- 1 Teaspoon Salt – Regular table salt will do.
- Combine all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl until the dough comes together. It will be a sticky, shaggy mess. Cover it with plastic wrap and let it sit for 18-24 hours in a warm place.
- The next day, dump the bubbly and sticky dough onto a surface dusted with flour. With floured hands, fold the ends of the dough over a few times and place the dough seam side down. Cover with a towel and let rest for 2 hours.
- After an hour and a half, place a 5-quart dutch oven into the oven, and pre-heat to 450F. For this “oven within an oven”, skip the $275 Le Creuset because the $30 Lodge Logic is perfect.
- When the oven is heated, plop the dough seam side up into the dutch oven and cover with lid. Bake 30 minutes, uncover, and bake an additional 15-30 minutes until the crust is beautifully golden.
- Remove loaf and let cool on wired rack. The best way to eat it is warm, smeared with good butter.
My favorite part of making this bread are the smells: there’s a cheap beer aroma from the yeast that spreads around the kitchen, the distinct smell of the dough as it rises, and the awesome fresh bread smell that overtakes the home as it bakes in the oven.
Best of all you can say that you made it – from scratch, and for less than $1 – and you won’t be fudging the definition of cooking. Start on a loaf tonight!