My husband is the young men leader in our church ward. He works with boys in our neighborhood ages 12-18. He loves working with these boys and they love working with him! The young men's program they have activities every week which include scouting, service, and personal development activities. The other night he brought the boys over after they raked the leaves of some widows in the neighborhood. They were cold from being outside working and they crowded into our kitchen for hot cocoa and fresh, homemade bread. The boys come from different backgrounds - split families, strong families, working mothers, stay-at-home mothers, financially sound and financially struggling. It was amazing to me to see how in a matter of a few minutes 2 1/2 loaves of fresh, homemade bread vanished! Completely disappeared! The bread was gobbled up, with words of gratitude and enjoyment expressed between each bite. One boy even came up and gave me a big hug, which I found out later he was intending to give me since the 30-mile hike they took this summer. At the top of the mountain, after hiking 15 miles, Brandon pulled out a loaf of homemade bread and split it with the boys on the hike. He told me later that there was nothing to compare with the gratitude and enjoyment these boys felt eating that 3 or 4-day-old bread on top of the mountain top. One boy mentioned that he was going to give me a hug when he came back and I received it the other night, 5 months later.
There's something about fresh homemade bread that does wonders for the soul. It draws people into your home. It draws your family together. It bridges barriers between people. It unifies and strengthens. When fresh bread is shared it can communicate love, empathy, gratitude or belonging. This experience the other night re-emphasized to me why I love to make homemade bread. Yes it takes time. Yes it takes effort. But things that are worthwhile always do. Yes the 30 minutes of prep time, 30 minutes of rising time and 30 minutes of baking is worth it, for the benefits far out-way the costs.
If you need a good, easy recipe for homemade bread, here are some of my favorites that I make all the time:
Honey-Oat Wheat Bread
Whole-grain Oat Bread
Whole-Wheat Bread (Pictured above - this is my quickest, cheapest and most-often made bread)
In these recipes, you do use a stand mixer which makes the bread lighter and much quicker to make. But if you don't have a mixer, you can still make bread! Just follow the same recipes and knead it by hand for 10 minutes. Then let it rise twice - once in the bowl and once in the bread pans. You also really should get a grain mill so that you grind the grains fresh. The flours are so much more healthy and tastier that way. But if not, you can find hard white wheat flour in the grocery stores as well. This is recommended as the second option. The third option is to use the regular (hard red) wheat flour. This has a denser consistency so you may want to consider adding an additional 1/4 C. gluten flour to lighten the bread up even more. Any option you choose will be wonderful. It takes a little practice, but it's well worth it!