One bite at a time together: Start cooking staples from scratch (project 26)

I’m working through Tsh’s ebook One Bite at a Time and hopefully you are too!  You can jump in at any time and follow my own journey!  Buy the ebook for only $5 HERE.

I‘m a big fan of making as few things from a box, can, or bag as possible so I loved the idea behind Project 26.  Over the years I’ve found that not only does the food taste so much better than anything you can buy pre-made, but it really doesn’t take nearly as long as you might think!

As long as you have the right ingredients on hand, you can usually whip things together faster than the time it would take to run to the grocery store and buy it.  (Not to mention the health benefits!)

I love making my own french bread.  Fresh, hot, easy…and your family thinks you’ve slaved away for hours.  You don’t have to tell them it only took about ten minutes of actual work on your part.  That can be our secret.

Recipe: French Bread


1 1/4 cup warm water
1 TB olive oil
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
3 1/2 cups bread flour
1 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
cornmeal (to sprinkle on cookie sheet)


1 egg
1 TB water


1. In bread machine pan, measure out the first 6 ingredients in the order listed.  Set to dough cycle.  Go take a nap.

2.  Divide dough in half and roll out into two 8×10 rectangles on a lightly floured surface.  Roll up along the long side.  Sprinkle cookie sheet with cornmeal and place loaves on top.  Cover and let rise 20 minutes.

3.  Whisk egg and water and brush onto your loaves.

4.  Bake in 375 degree oven for 20-25 minutes.  Place 5 ice cubes in an oven safe dish on the bottom rack of your oven.  Five minutes into bake time add 5 more ice cubes.  (This crisps up the crust while keeping the inside soft.)

5.  Sprinkle some flour on your face to make it look like you worked way harder than this to impress your family.

Bread machine?

I feel that now is the time I need to defend the clunky contraption that is the bread machine.  Sure, it’s huge and takes up a ton of space, but I’ve discovered the secret to bread machine happiness: never ever ever actually bake your bread in it or you’ll end up with dense little bricks…no matter how great the recipe is.  Just use it for the dough cycle and then bake in your oven.

Find a bread machine on Craigslist or ask your mom for the one that has been sitting in the back of her cupboard for the last 24 years.  Being able to toss a few ingredients in, pushing two buttons and not having to keep track of time or do anything else is worth every square inch it takes up.  Exhibit A: I baked this bread less than 3 weeks after giving birth to my fourth baby.  Easy peasy.

What’s your favorite “from scratch” food?


Jeannett Gibson is a mom to four and wife to one who loves color and believes in story. She loves to tell you hers and wants to hear yours, too...because there is really no sense in wasting our suffering or not sharing in each other's joy. She blogs, fund raises, and sometimes even gets her crafty pants on at Life Rearranged.

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  1. I make my own French bread too! And I’ve been making pesto like crazy this summer, thanks to the proliferation of the plant on my porch…
    Next on my list is attempting homemade yogurt!

  2. Make homemade yogurt in a slow cooker! Very easy, and plenty of online instructions. One of which involves wrapping your slow cooker in a towel, but go with it, it actually works!

    • yes, for sure. I just made yogurt this week in the slow cooker- my bff of the summer! I am trying anything I can in the slow cooker to keep my kitchen cool.
      And I baked a loaf of bread in it for the first time a couple of wks ago. Kids loved it. Right this moment I am resting the dough for a european peasant boule bread from Artisanal Bread in 5 minutes a day (ABin5) and plan on cooking it in the slow cooker. Google search and you will find the instructions on the ABin5 website for bread in the slow cooker.
      I love the no-knead dough recipes from ABin5- worth checking out for bringing back making bread at home.
      I make a lot of meals from scratch but I am trying to add more staples like the bread (buns next) and yogurt and drying my own herbs. I love how aromatic they are- not dry and dusty like the aging herbs from the grocer. So nice to open up a jar of whole leaf oregano in the middle of winter and be reminded of the herb garden glory of the summer.

  3. I imagined bread would require a lot more ingredients. And yes, I have always thought people slaved for hours to get fresh bread on the table. I’m ready to sprinkle some flour on my face and fool the family. Now I just have to hit my mom up for her old breadmaker.

  4. I agree completely, nothing can’t replace the smell, softness and the taste of fresh homemade bread.

  5. That looks so good. I’m gluten free and my attempts at home made bread are have lacked. We have learned to make some mean zucchini muffins this year though.

  6. I have two, and they go together! One is making my own broth in the crock pot, the second, is using the essentially “free” broth to make my own condensed soup from Simple Homemade:
    I just add a 1/4-1/2 cup of milk to the broth (depending on the consistency I want) and…Voila! Not only did I get to keep some of my favorite casserole recipes, it takes no time to whip together and tastes better.

  7. It’s ironic that just a few days ago I sold my break maker on ebay! A disaster, which ended up with the buyer getting a damaged machine 🙁 Anyway, I guess I’ll just have to make this bread the old-fashioned way!

    • oh no! I’ve been told that you can also make bread dough in your stand mixer and have friends that swear by it…I just haven’t bothered to look into it since I have the machine and space isn’t an issue for now. Maybe try googling?

      • I do this all the time, because I can’t justify the counter space for a bread machine and a stand mixer. If you’ve got a dough hook it works great. Generally I halve the time listed for hand-kneading in the recipe.

  8. I also LOVE my bread machine! I use it all the time. Seriously, I love that some women make their own bread without it… but I wouldn’t trade bread that only takes ten minutes of my time for anything! SOOOO worth it!

  9. I live overseas and don’t have a bread machine, but I made this recipe today and just proofed the yeast beforehand. I let my dough rise for an hour, punched it down, and then followed the rest of the directions as stated above. It was still a quick, easy recipe, and it turned out great! Thanks!

  10. Yum! We’re addicted to hubby’s/dad’s homemade bread and pizza! And of course the homemade ice cream. 😉 We’re working on perfecting the yogurt at home. So close.

  11. I recently splashed out on a Zojirushi bread maker. It was expensive (nearly $200!) but it turns out perfectly baked loaves that look just like regular bread loaves (i.e. horizontal, no strange shape and up to 2 pounds each). We have always eaten whole grain bread, but now I feel so good to feed my family bread that includes ONLY water, olive oil, lemon juice, whole wheat flour, whole rye flour, flax seed, hemp seed, salt and yeast. The kids (2 and 5) love it. I also love to make homemade white bean hummus.

  12. i have to disagree on the bread maker part…i bake bread in mine all the time and the bread comes out fantastic! plus, it doesn’t heat up the house in the summer time like my oven does. 🙂

    i prefer to make a lot of things from scratch, bread, muffins, pancakes, waffles, yogurt, granola, pasta, tortillas, jam, hummus, pesto and my list can go on!

    • Maybe it depends on the machine? I know that I always end up with really dense, tiny little boxes of bread when I try actually baking in it. That’s awesome that yours doesn’t! Even easier!!! (and who can argue with that?!)

  13. Cookies! Who doesn’t love something sweet fresh out of the oven. Plus you don’t have to worry what “preservatives” are in them. I also enjoy making sandwich bread. That fresh bread smell just can’t be duplicated.

  14. another suggestion when cooking staples from scratch is to simplify. I use homemade yogurt in place of sour cream (sorry, I know this is no no for purists)- where sour cream is used in a dip or as a garnish for mexican dishes, yogurt subs in fine.
    I also strain my yogurt through cheesecloth to make greek yogurt for tzatziki and strain it over night for a thick yogurt cheese that can sub for a soft cream cheese.
    It’s nice to know what your eating and you have many staples from just milk no crazy thickeners or preservatives.
    I second homemade chicken broth. We buy hormone/antibiotic free (but not organic) chicken from our butcher. It’s more expensive but buying a whole chicken is still cheaper than regular price boneless/skinless chicken breast. Sometimes I roast it whole and save the bones and bits for broth. Other times, I cut it into the pieces we need, thighs, breast, legs, etc and then save those uncooked bones for stock/broth. If your not making it right away, just stash in the freezer. Same for veggie trimming (celery tops, carrot peels, onion butts, etc)- I toss the veggies in with the chicken bits and add some bay leaves & a splash of apple cider vinegar and cover with water. No measuring or fussing- boil for a few hours, strain and place in mason jars. I even freeze the finished stock to have on hand (using wide mouth mason jars- straight sided- and leaving an inch headspace prevents the glass from cracking).

  15. Katherine Willis Pershey says:

    This looks like a great recipe. I have a fancy Williams-Sonoma bread machine (that I bought on Craigslist for $40) and it bakes bread beautifully, but I’m going to try this.

  16. I’ve learned to make bread in my Stand Mixer (How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman has some nice pointers). It’s AMAZING. I don’t have a bread machine, but I have to agree with the sentiment of “find a machine to do it for you”….it makes bread so easy!!!!

  17. Heather O says:

    We’ve been making pizza dough nearly every friday for years. EASY to mix in the Kitchenaid with the dough hook! It’s great for hospitality with friends and neighbors when the kids are young and fun 🙂

  18. I usually use my food processor to mix and knead my bread dough. I do have to put it in a greased bowl to rise, but no hand-kneading for this Mama!! Looking forward to trying out this French bread recipe after I replenish my baking supplies – I went on a baking spree this past week! 😉

  19. I make jam in my breadmaker – it’s INCREDIBLY simple and sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo much better-tasting than the artificial stuff you buy at the grocery store!

    But my faaaaaavorite thing to make from scratch are my cinnamon roll cookie bars!

  20. I have both Bosch universal machine and bread machine. Bread machine I got at a local garage sale and I use it all the time for French bread and French baguette and Oatmeal bread (family favorites). An idea for those with no machine, a friend of mine, sent out a message on our local Free cycle, anyone getting rid of their bread machine?? And she actually got a quick response and she got a bread machine for free.

  21. Oh my goodness I do the same thing with my bread machine! I just use the dough cycle and sometimes feel a wee bit guilty then saw nah! It’s still homemade with less mess! Thanks for the great blog, totally enjoying it! 🙂

  22. I adore my bread machines. No that is not a typo I have two bread machines. Both I bought at yard sales for around $10 a piece. I have a lot of counter space so I knew I had room for both and since we are a family of five, I find 2 to be very time and cost effective as I can bake up two batches in the oven at once. I make pizza dough, bread, pretzels, bread sticks, buns and cinnamon rolls all in the bread machine, but I have not yet tried french bread, seeing this recipe I am now going too! thanks for sharing.

  23. I’m going to try this out! I have never made a loaf of bread from scratch. My mom used to make it all the time growing up, and there was nothing like fresh bread, but I’ve never attempted it. Even though she did buy us a bread machine (that’s unfortunately still at her house in the box…)

    The staples I do make from scratch:
    -Marinara (Actually just posted about it today! I just kind of improvised on this one, but it came out really well)
    -Pizza Dough
    -Pancake Batter
    -Refried Beans
    -Vegetable Stock (we are vegetarian’s so no chicken stock for us, but we make some great stock after a lot of practice)
    -Salad dressing

    I do want to make homemade yogurt, tortillas and I would love to perfect a good cake recipe.

    I am so glad you’re doing these posts! I truthfully forgot all about the projects in the book! I’m off to re-read them and tackle some more. Love this book. Worth every penny and more.

  24. I think pizza dough or banana bread are probably our most made around here. I can make pizza dough into so many other things. And, banana bread can be baked like cake.

  25. Hello! My name is Rosaleen and I’m new to your blog! I’m really looking forward to reading though your archives. I just wanted to disagree in the nicest possible way (!) with you about breadmakers turning out loaves like bricks, I think it really does depend on the breadmaker. Here in the UK, Panasonic breadmakers are very good. I make all our daily bread in a panasonic and never buy bread from a supermarket/bakery because nothing tastes as good as an organic loaf I can ‘make’ in my breadmaker. It takes me two minutes to measure out the ingredients I and then five hours later I have a beautiful loaf of bread. Check out my top picture in my blog post here to see a slice of my breadmaker bread:
    It’s quite cool in the UK so I’m thankful I have the breadmaker to rise the dough at the correct temperature. That’s not to say I’m not going to try your French bread and bake it in the oven, because it looks beautiful!

  26. I love my bread machine too. I used to make bread by hand, but doubt I could have kept up the habit now with two little ones in the house. I used to have problems with dry, hard bread out of the machine, but I worked for a long time on tweaking the recipe and now I get delicious, soft, whole wheat sandwich bread every single time. I posted the recipe a while ago on my blog, Mommy Repeat:

  27. THANK YOU for this – I’ve been looking for a good French bread recipes – it’s addictive!

  28. Thanks guys… I’m starving now. And had to wipe a little drool off my chin!

  29. Katherine Willis Pershey says:

    Ok, I THOUGHT my Williams-Sonoma bread machine baked bread beautifully until I tried this. It’s so, so good. I’ve made it three times now and it’s a perfect complement to our CSA veggies. Now I need to find a whole wheat recipe that starts in the maker but bakes in the oven. Thanks for this!

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