You Won’t Know if You Don’t Try

“You won’t know if you don’t try.” This is a common household phrase on our homestead.

It’s said in restlessness over something unknown yet exciting. Homesteading brings a lot of those moments. I’m Sarah from @smithfarm1914 we live on a 100-year-old farmstead in the middle of Minnesota. We take people on our journey in homesteading, herbalism, and of course my bread journey.

December of 2021 we had come home from a 2 week trip out west to support my grandma over Thanksgiving, it was our first holiday without my grandpa so it was a rough trip that was full of love.

After a few days at home I went through our pantry, figuring out what to buy for groceries, when I came across my bread that I had bought at the end of October beginning of November… nearly 7 weeks and it looked so fresh, not a spec of mold anywhere. Where some people would say “that’s great! make a sandwich!” I instantly thought about how packed full of preservatives that loaf of bread had to be. Bread doesn’t mold like it use to and that was the beginning of one of the best challenges I’ve done to date.

Over the next couple weeks we lived without bread really, I didn’t want to buy more because I was a little freaked out about 7 weeks of no mold. And finally I called my husband while he was at work and said, “I think I’m going to try to bake bread today.”
“Do you know how to?” he replied. We have been together for nearly 11 years and he’s never seen me bake bread. “No,” I said, “I have no idea how to do it.”

“You won’t know if you don’t try,” he said.

And with that I set out on my bread journey. I scoured the internet for a recipe of all the ingredients I already had in my home. Found one that sounded easy enough and gave it a go.

I kneaded, and kneaded and kept adding flour “there’s no way dough should be this sticky” I said to myself. I let them sit, cut and baked them, and at the end of the first day I had…… two wonderful white ROCKS in the form of bread! Hahaha!

So……needless to say my first batch didn’t turn out. So the next day I tried again. And the next day I tried AGAIN. Each time I made a batch I would work the dough with my hands, and I realized how wildly therapeutic it was.

By day 3 I had made over 6 loaves and the last 2 turned out amazing. I had figured it out! Jeremy came home and I was ecstatic to show him what I made. It was warm, and perfect with butter and home made jam. And it got me thinking – Could I do this for an entire year? A whole year not buying bread, of any sort? Making it all?

Well today is day 308 of the year and I have yet to buy bread. I have since made my own recipe that is so versatile it has made every hotdog bun, every hamburger bun, and sandwich bread we have needed. I’ve expanded my breads to sourdoughs, cinnamon rolls, ciabatta breads and now even have added tortillas in the mix. Not only is it awesome to know EXACTLY what’s in my bread, it’s allowed time with God in a way I never imagined.

I called my bread “gratitude bread.” For the 5-7 minutes I knead, I’m mentally on my knees give praise to my Lord and Savior. By the time I’m done kneading I feel so uplifted and full of joy. When you spend that long giving the Lord praise and lifting up His name over everything you have it’s hard not to be filled with peace and happiness. So saying breadmaking is therapeutic is almost an understatement for me at this point. It’s restorative.

I encourage you to try this challenge! Even if it’s for one month! It’s the best feeling seeing what you have made and having it taste so good!

So here are some tips I’d love to offer you for your bread journey!-If it doesn’t turn out the first time its ok! Try again!-If you have a short attention span like me, set a timer while you knead!-If you live in high elevation, dough can often rise quicker, so monitor your rises. Also, cut your baking time down by around 5-7 minutes.-Mountain air can sometimes dry out your flour, so if it’s absolutely necessary, add a tablespoon-ish of water.-It’s almost always ready to pull out when its a deep golden color.-Wait 20-30 minutes before slicing.-Water temperature for activating yeast is everything. Try keeping your water around 110-115 degrees.-Keep your yeast separate from the main sugar and salts while activating it, they can quickly kill your yeast.-Bread flour might help a lot. Bread flour contains more gluten which gives bread its shape. So if you’re only using all purpose, try bread flour!-Have fun with it, get the kids involved!