Why have we ended up doing this?
We started the year buying ABSOLUTELY NOTHING with hydrogenated oil (and if I wasn't sure, I just didn't buy it - I still don't know about French sticks, but my suspicions are......well, obviously they are merely suspicions, and certainly of less consequence than my principles!)
We make perfectly good bread ourselves. Much better even than store-bought-fluff-that-leaves-you-hungry-in-spite-of-eating-twice-as-much-as-usual.
And to top it all off, we end up coming home with a plastic bag which is really not good for anything other carrying French sticks in - and we all know what I think of that!
What is a girl to do about it?
a) stop buying French bread until all ingredients are identified
b) take plastic bag to church in anticipation of the spontaneous bakery-drive-by on the way home
c) buy two linen tea towels at an op shop while you're waiting for KnitWorld to open (I wouldn't have been early if the clock in the car hadn't been running six minutes fast, so you could say that it was the car's fault that I ended up in a situation that lent itself to making an unnecessary purchase - oh, where HAVE my principles gone?)....then you come home and turn them into French Stick Carrying Bags.
By the way, that's not French bread in the bag. That's perfectly good homemade sourdough bread. Do you want to know how to make it? It's easy-peasy. You just need flour, water, salt and a big dollop of patience. Good things take time.
Mix together two cups each of warm water and flour. Cover with a cloth and set aside somewhere warm until it's frothy (could take a few days or as little as a few hours, depending what organisms you've got floating round in the atmosphere....stirring it every day is a good idea if you can remember to)
Take out two cups of this gloop (which is also known as a starter by Expert Bread Makers...you'll see I call it gloop). Feed the rest of the gloop with a bit more water and flour and put it in the fridge if you're not going to want it for a few days (which you won't, because you've already taken some out to use now). When you're ready to make more bread you can omit this first step and just take your gloop container out of the fridge and join the recipe at this point. (But before I go on, let me tell you that from here on in it's really hard to go wrong. Your gloop will appreciate being fed a bit of flour and water every few days if you're not baking, but it's not absolutely essential. You might think it's getting temperamental if it develops a black layer on top - this is called hooch - really, truly, it is. But don't worry - there's nothing wrong with hooch - just stir it in to your gloop and away you go. In fact, you can stir your gloop whenever you think of it if you like.)
So you've got your two cups of gloop in a big bowl. Add two and a half cups of warm water and four cups of flour (I use organic ground-at-home whole wheat, but you can use what you've got) Leave it to go frothy (this is where the patience bit comes in). You can leave it anywhere from 8-24 hours without causing any damage; and you can stir it if you want to. When it's nice-n-bubbly, add a teaspoon of salt and another four cups (more or less, depending on the humidity and temperature and type of flour and which apron you're wearing) until the dough is not sticky. Knead for about ten minutes (or longer if you get distracted and realise you're pampering the dough rather than kneading it).
Put the dough in a greased bowl, cover with a damp cloth and let it rise in a warm place for a few hours - you'll have to be patient to wait for it to get at least fifty percent bigger than it was. Trust me, it will happen and it's nothing short of a miracle.
Split the dough into two loaves and pop them into greased bread tins (or I guess you could just plop them on an oven tray if you don't have tins).
But you're not ready to bake yet! I told you, you'd have to be patient! You need to wait for them to rise for another few hours (one would be a bare minimum......five would not be too long....I'm not sure about longer as I haven't waited any longer than that).
Preheat the oven to 200*C and bake for about 40 minutes (or a bit longer if it doesn't sound hollow when you tap the bottom of the loaf).
Once it's cooked, you still can't eat it though. You won't be able to cut it tidily for another hour.
But once you cut it and smother it with butter you'd better get that gloop container out of the fridge and start again, because these loaves are not going to last long!!!
I realise it sounds like a massive long drawn-out process, but really it's not. Yes, it takes a lot of time...but most of that time you can be weeding the garden, making preserves, darning your socks, cleaning the toilet, sleeping, reading War and Peace, visiting your friends, feeding the poor...oh yes, feeding....the bread.....it only takes about 15 minutes hands-on time, and that includes grinding the flour. Give it a go!
PS this is the point in my blog-life that I realise I am actually writing TO you...it has turned FROM me putting my ideas into a plastic box TO a conversation with you (well, with those of you who comment and talk to me in real life and email me). I guess you're the ones I feel I'm writing to - there are plenty of lurkers according to my Stat Counter, and I suppose I'm writing to you too, just I don't know who you are!