Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Living Sustainably

This blog is intended for people who wish to follow my journey towards living a more sustainable lifestyle.  My intention is to endeavour to remove as many items from my shopping list as possible.  And to replace those items with things I can either make or are made by someone as locally as possible.  In addition the items have to be good for the body, good for the environment and good for the soul.

This mission of mine began with an epiphany in the supermarket.  I realised that I had blindly been buying items for years that I had the time and the ability to make myself.  And even if I didn't currently possess that ability I could very easily learn thanks to the sharing, caring world of the Internet.

For starters I believe everyone in the world can make bread.  If you're a busy working Mum or Dad a bread maker will do the work for you.  If you have the time and the inclination you can make it by hand.  The benefits - there is nothing quite like the taste or smell of freshly baked bread.  In my opinion a home doesn't become a home before the first loaf of bread is baked.  It is the first thing I did when we moved to Kaikoura.  Secondly, you control the ingredients - no additives, preservatives, flavour enhancers etc.  With a bit of trial and error you can make a loaf that meet's your family's personal preferences.  Don't be afraid to add seeds, fruit and nuts.  Bread is quite cheap so you can't really go wrong.  The third great thing about bread is that it freezes well - so you can make several loaves and pop them in the freezer.  A perfect solution for busy families.  Next time you are in the supermarket enjoy the feeling of breezing past the bread aisle.  Congratulations you have just eliminated one section of the supermarket!  You have made you family a little big healthier, reduced carbon emissions, saved some money, and taken back just a little of your consumer power.

Basic bread recipe:

Place 1 1/2 cups of warm water in a bowl and dissolve 1 T of sugar or honey in it.  Congratulations - you've just made the perfect home for a family of yeast.  Sprinkle 1/2 a T of yeast over the sweet water mix.  Leave in the sunshine for 15 minutes.  By the time you return you should have a nice foamy mixture.  Add 2 C of flour and stir with a plastic or wooden spoon.  Yeast doesn't like metal.  Then add a teaspoon of salt.  You'll need to taste the bread after to see if you need more or less salt in your mix.  Now add one more cup of flour.  You'll probably struggle to mix in all the flour.  It doesn't matter.  Now its time for the yeasty / flour mix to leave home.

Scoop the mix with the loose flour onto a clean flat surface.  You may need to sprinkle extra flour on the board before this depending on how much loose flour is in the mixing bowl.  You'll soon learn.  Now for the fun part.  Kneading.  You'll soon come up with an action that works for you.  Your goal is to amalgamate all the flour into a smooth ball.  I do this by pushing the heel of my hand into the middle of the dough.  Fold the top side over the bottom using the dent as a hinge.  Then push down and roll away from you - effectively sealing up the join.  Then turn it 90 degrees (whichever direction appeals) and repeat.  Keep going until the dough has a lovely smooth baby bum feel to it.  Then put a little oil in the original bowl and return the dough to the bowl.  Cover with a tea towel and put it somewhere warm.  On a nice day a spot in the sun, on a cold day near the fire or in the hot water cupboard.

In half an hour is should have doubled in size.  You now need to punch it down so that lots of air escapes.  This is to remove some of the yeasty gas and ensures it doesn't taste too "yeasty."  Then put it back on the clean surface with another sprinkling of flour.  Knead it briefly and then decide what you are going to make with it.  You can simply make one big free form loaf by slapping it (gently) on a baking tray.  You can cut it into pieces and make several loaves.  You can put it in a bread tin if you like a big square shape or you can put it in muffin tins and make bread rolls.  Leave it in these containers for another half hour to rise.  Preheat your oven to 200 c.

Now bake for 30 minutes and once cooked remove from containers and place it somewhere with air circulation to cool.  If you have a cooling rack great.  I don't and just put them onto top of my gas stove which has the metal protection bars over the elements.  These allows all sides of the bread to dry.

Now try not to eat the whole loaf before the family gets home!

You can make any changes you like.  You can try different ratios of wholemeal to white flour.  You can add seeds, nuts, dried fruits.  Just see what works for you and your family.

The next aisle on our target is the cleaning aisle.  Next time you at the supermarket (once you have completed the bread baking challenge) just stand in the cleaning aisle and ask yourself "what is the basic ingredient in all these bottles?"  You are not presented with a world of choice and wonderfully targeted products - you are being sold the same item over and over again in different bottles.  The answer of course is soap - or something that acts like soap.  Find a natural, healthy replacement for soap and you can successfully eliminate the cleaning aisle and a fair bit of the beauty aisle too.  Next blog I'll talk about cleaning products that are gentle on the body, as efficient as their chemically laced supermarket cousins, cost effective, and great for the environment.

Happy bread making!

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