The best sandwich bread you’ll ever make

So guys, I’m seriously into bread making. I can count on one hand the number of times that I’ve bought bread from the store within the last two years, and those were all “specialty” breads. So, naturally, I have my favorite bread recipe. So why make bread yourself when you can buy it? It’s fun! It’s tasty! It’s versatile! If you just don’t get it, then I really wouldn’t worry yourself about it.

So here it is. My go-to recipe for the softest, most delicious sandwich bread you’ll ever eat. Ok, that’s a little extreme. It’s good, but it’s not “slap your momma” good. But it could be. You’ll never know until you try it yourself!

Basic Sandwich Bread

(Makes 2 loaves)

  • 2½ cups warm water
  • 1 tbsp. active dry yeast
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 6 – 6½ cups flour (either AP or bread flour work for this recipe)
  • 2 tsp salt
  • ¼ cup butter, softened

Pour  ½ cup of the water into a big bowl (stand mixer is easier, but it’s more fun to make a mess with your hands). Stir in the yeast and sugar and let it sit for 5 minutes until foamy.

Add the rest of the water and about half of the flour. Stir (or you can use the dough hook of your stand mixer) until well blended, then slowly add the rest of the flour, the salt, and the butter (I like to cut it up into chunks and add them one piece at a time). It gets a little sloppy during this phase, and that’s ok! Sloppy is good. Let the mixer go for about 8 minutes on a low speed (I use the first or second speed on mine), or knead by hand for 10-15 minutes. You can add a little more flour if you feel like it needs some, but it’ll start to hold its shape better as it keeps going. You’re going for smooth and tacky, but not “sticky.” if it is, add a touch more flour.

You’ll know it’s done when you form it into a ball. It should hold its shape nicely, and when you poke it there should be a good spring to the dough. Make a ball and pop it back in the bowl to rise. There’s no need to oil the bowl for this recipe like most recipes seem to suggest. Cover with a towel and let it sit in a warm spot for 1-2 hours until doubled in size. I’ve found that the oven is a perfect place for proving dough. Just turn on the oven light, and it gets nice and cozy in there.

Punch down the dough and knead it again until smooth. Divide in two and shape into a roll the length of your loaf pan. Place dough in greased loaf pan and let it rise in a clean plastic bag until it’s 1 inch above the rim of your pan.

I usually use half the dough to make a loaf, and stick the other half in the freezer after the first rise (more about what to do with the extra dough in a future post!)

When it’s ready to go, bake at 375 for 30-35 minutes. Remove from the pan and let it cool completely on a cooling rack. Yum!

So there you go. Easy peasy. Now stop making excuses and give it a go!

Hilariously horrible

How can kids be SO funny and SO sassy at the same time? It’s an amazing defense mechanism. Some examples from this morning. Keep in mind that we’ve only been up for about 3 hours.

  • I got out of the shower this morning to find that Emmett had destroyed the puzzle we were building (not a big deal, because we just started the other day). He then proceeded to pick it up one piece at a time. 1000 pieces. And he gave an enthusiastic “thank you!” after handing me each piece. It was funny in an “omg, how is he still going” kind of way. (And no, I didn’t let him do the whole thing that way. We’d still be up there.)
  • Madeline asked for raisins to be added to her trail mix for second breakfast (because she’s a hobbit). I then found her picking out all the raisins and throwing them about the living room. When I walked in, she turned quickly, hands behind her back, and said “how can I help you, Mom?”
  • I was kneading dough. Madeline was rubbing her head on my legs like a weirdo. Almost tipped me over. “My hair’s so crazy now, Mom!”
  • Currently, Madeline is at the bottom of the stairs and Emmett is at the top. She keeps turning off the light, Emmett keeps turning it on. “Can you guys knock it off already?! You’re driving me crazy” “No, mom. We’re just fine. It’s not crazy. Thank you!”
  • They were playing a game earlier, and they were arguing to the point of hitting and crying about whether you count to 3 or 5 before pulling the lever. Emmett insisted on consulting the instructions. After careful examination, he determined “Toy Story,” to which Madeline replied “oh, ok.” At least they know what they’re talking about.

Dishwasher detergent, part 2

Brilliant. As in sparkling. As in “this glassware is so G.D. clean I can’t believe my eyes.”

Plus, when I opened the dishwasher my aura was cleansed by the refreshing scent of citrus (just kidding, but it did smell good). And it even got dried-on oatmeal off the kids’ bowls!

Madeline keeps asking to taste them, because she thinks they look like candy (and they really do smell lovely). Fortunately, though they will be locked under the sink, if she did happen to eat one it wouldn’t be the end of the world. Non-toxic dishwasher tabs for the win!

So if you want to be a crazy person like me, you should give it a try!

My recipe (makes approx. 24 tabs):

1 cup of washing soda

1/2 cup of citric acid powder

1/4 cup of salt

30-40 drops citrus essential oil

1 tsp dried orange zest (optional)

Water (in a spray bottle!)

Mix all the powders (and orange zest if you want) together, and add the citrus oil while stirring. Very, very slowly add the water ONE SPRAY AT A TIME. Make sure to stir well after each spray. There will be a little fizzing, but nothing too crazy. Keep going until it’s a “slightly wet sand” consistency. You want it to be able to hold its shape when you pack it in your mold. Put a rounded tablespoon of the mixture into each section of your mold (I used empty egg cartons, and it worked beautifully…popped out of both the cardboard and styrofoam cartons with no issues). Pack it in as evenly as you can. Really go to town on squishing them in there. Let them dry overnight and voila! For added sparkle, use white vinegar in your dishwasher’s rinse-aid compartment. All together, it’s 10-15 minutes of activity to make a month’s worth of detergent. How cool is that?

If you don’t want to leave your house, here are the Amazon links for the products I used.

(If you purchase any of these products after clicking on the following links I’ll earn a percentage of that sale at no additional charge to you.)




Or, if you don’t want to leave your couch, let me know and I’ll see what I can do about adding it to my store (coming soon)!

And now, I’m off to work on dinner. Chicken parmesan with homemade mozzarella, roasted brussels sprouts, and homemade deliciously crusty sourdough bread. It’s ok to be jealous.

[Edited 4/27/18]: For those of you keeping track at home, I’ve found that the overall cost amounts to around $0.10 per dishwasher tab. After using the homemade version for about a month now, I’m still pretty happy with the results. I’ve found that there are certain parts of my dishwasher that clean better than others (the corners are useless for anything that’s actually dirty), and when I have super dirty dishes or something really oily, I’ll add a small squirt of dish soap to up the de-greasing action. Results may vary depending on the hardness of your water. Now get out there and give it a try!

[Edited 7/26/18]: I’ve updated my recipe! Hard water was starting to leave a film on my dishes, but everything’s hunky dory again now! The price per dishwasher tab is a little higher, but not by much. Still cheaper than the store-bought stuff! Check out Part 3 to see the new recipe.

Dishwasher detergent, part 1

“What have you done?!”

“I really wouldn’t worry about it”

Dishwasher tabs are kind of fun to make, and they smell delightful. Two dozen made in about 10 minutes. Now I just have to hope they pop out of the “molds” without crumbling. I hope to be able to test them out in the next couple of days.

In non-DIY news, Madeline tried to eat the piano. It’s a miracle she doesn’t have lead poisoning [yet].

Say hi, Emmett!

My little man is 5 years old. He loves Beauty and the Beast, Moana, Mickey Mouse, goldfish crackers and hotdogs. He is also still wishing everyone a Merry Christmas, because apparently Christmas isn’t a time of year, but rather a state of mind. He likes to be my helper (“I’m helpful, Mom!”), and he spends more time with his books than he does with his toys. And I keep waking up way too early to find him staring at me, which is super creepy.

Emmett also has Down syndrome, which means it takes him a little longer to learn than a typical child. He’s determined, though. I’m teaching him to read, and he asks to “play the flashing game” (flash cards) multiple times per day.

He’s also a big fan of pushing his sister, because that makes her scream like he just ripped her arm off. So that’s fun.

Say hi, Madeline!

My little girl was a bald, jowly potato 3 years ago, but now she’s a curly-haired sparkle princess. She’s hilarious, overly dramatic, Minnie Mouse obsessed, fashion forward, and loves Target as much as I do.

So you know how kids tend to say whatever pops into their head, with no sense of propriety or sensitivity? Well it’s almost more funny when they behave “appropriately.” We were at Walmart today picking up a couple things, and a woman who looked older than God stopped us to complement Madeline’s pigtails. Maddie thanked her, the woman tapped her nose, and Madeline laughed. As the woman walked away, Madeline had this goofy grin on her face. Once the woman was on the other side of the aisle, Madeline turned to me, still smiling, and stage whispered through her teeth, “that lady’s really old.”

Milestones

My little man dressed himself this morning! I handed him the clothes so they weren’t backwards, but the rest was all him.*

The best part was when he had everything on and yelled “I did it, Mom! Look at me!”

You can see in this picture, taken about 2 minutes after his joyous proclamation, that the giddiness brought on by his newfound independence didn’t last. Now he’s all “No, no school. All done.”

*I also put on his socks for him, because socks were created by the devil to frustrate my child

Our magnum opus is complete

Behold, all ye readers, a masterpiece of epic proportions. We have been flummoxed by this behemoth for nigh on 2 years, but it is finished! And, once completed, it was immediately fortified with multiple laminations of the strongest adhesive. Set your eyes upon this paragon of puzzle perfection.

“But Dad, that wouldn’t fit in our yard!”

“It’s not going in our yard, Russ. It’s going in our living room.”

Whyyyyy

Why do we (I’m using the royal “we” here) keep putting things off that NEED to get done? I now have a broken toilet, a sopping wet beanbag chair, a wet carpet, and a toy sink which is almost certainly filled with water for the 100th time, all because I haven’t taken the 5 minutes it’ll take to install a lock on my bedroom door. I can’t even be mad at this point, because this is all me. As the famous saying goes, “Soak the carpet, shame on you. Break the toilet, shame on me.” At least I think that’s how that goes. I’ll do it tomorrow.*

*this is not a promise or statement of fact, but rather a noble aspiration which I strive, every day, to achieve

The beginning of everything

I’m not one for introductions, so let me start this off by pretending I started this a while ago and we’re all good friends now.

My house is filled with the sounds of a little girl’s screams. She’s screaming because she pushed her brother and he pushed her back. I imagine that this is how the tortured inmates in North Korean prisons feel. It’s like my brain is moments away from melting out of my ears.

“Cherish these times, for they’ll be gone in a flash. Children grow up so fast.”