How much does it cost to bake your own bread?

Now we’re making our own bread I thought it’d be worth working out how much cheaper / more expensive it is than just buying standard wholemeal bread.

So here’s the standard pricing of all the ingredients – I haven’t started looking for cheap bulk supplies yet so these are just from Sainsbury’s.

310 ml semi-skimmed milk 20.77p
225g Strong White Bread Flour 10.35p
225g Strong Wholemeal Bread Flour 14.85p
1 tsp salt 0.2p
3 tsp sugar 1.49p
25 g butter 7.5p
2x7g sachets of dried yeast 19.75p
Electricity 3.14p
Total 78p

So in total it costs 78p, which is about the same price as a Sainsbury’s wholemeal loaf. Cost wise then it doesn’t make much difference – as long as you’re not making a separate journey to buy your bread, as once you start your car up the cost difference would be substantial!

I’ll keep doing it because it tastes great, means we never run out, and it’s a good skill to have learnt for leaner times. I might also look for cheaper bulk ingredients.

Planting our tomato seeds

We’ve been taking (false) hope from all these false springs and started our January plantings with tomatoes. Planted them in little seed trays in an unheated propagator on January 24th on a beautiful south-facing windowsill and here’s the result two weeks later:

They are Beefsteak tomatoes “Big Boy” and Sweet Olive cherry tomatoes, and have been going really well. They survived a week of us being on holiday and a couple of days ago were ready to be potted up. I really wanted them to go straight into the polytunnel, but that is still dropping to near freezing overnight, so now we have them lined up along the windowsill in the kitchen

Before potting up:

And all the beefsteak seedlings, now without propagator lids, on a slightly cooler windowsill:

We didn’t have space, or enough pots, for the sweet olive tomatoes – they’ll have to hang on for another week or so.

Feels great to be growing seedlings again!

Baking our own bread – even better recipe!

Never happy to settle for good-enough, I’ve been tweaking our easy, reliable bread recipe to respond to a little family criticism that it could be lighter. So here’s the new result:

IMG_0391[1]

It’s about an inch taller than the previous recipe but it is not as reliably pretty:
Home-Made bread

But I’ve used the new recipe three times so far and had no failures – just great, delicious wholemeal bread. It’s significantly lighter, and now there are not even the slightest complaints! It even seems easier to slice.

Here’s the revised recipe:

  • 310 ml of lukewarm semi-skimmed milk
  • 450 ml of strong flour (I use half white, half wholemeal)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 tsp sugar (I use golden caster sugar)
  • 25 g butter
  • TWO 7g sachets of dried yeast

Put the milk into the breadmaker, followed by the flour. Add the salt, sugar and butter into each corner, then make a well in the center of the flour (not all the way through to the milk) and pur in the yeast.

Run it on the breadmaker’s express cycle. In our case that takes an hour, and only 0.24kWh.

Anyway, that’s enough talking about it, I’m off to slice it up for breakfast – the smell is divine.

Our Seed Potatoes ready for chitting

Another great step here at the Eco-House, chitting our first potatoes!

We’ve been collecting eggboxes for a little while now so we’d be ready, and today I took the kids out to the Hulme Garden Centre in advance of this Sunday’s Potato Day. Here’s our haul, all ready to “chit”:

I got a whole range of different ones to try, to try and liven up one of our less exciting, but important, crops:

Swift – First Early

Pink Fir Apple – Salad Variety

Maris Peer – Second Early

Setanta – Highly Blight Resistant Maincrop

Kestrel – Second Early

Sarpo Mira – Blight Resistant Maincrop

Sarpo Axona – Blight Resistant Maincrop

Salad Blue – Blue-fleshed Salad Potato



Baking our own Bread

After a lot of experimentation we’ve finally got a recipe that reliably produces delicious bread! It even looks like the real stuff, rises properly, slices nicely and tastes great. Don’t believe me? Here’s one I prepared earlier:

Home-Made bread

Now I know the recipe it takes me less than 10 minutes to prepare it, and it’s then baked in exactly an  hour. OK, you’ve guessed it, I am cheating – I’m using a breadmaker that we freecycled from my Mother-in-law. It’s a Kenwood Rapid Bake and has an express, 1-hour cycle – it uses only 0.24 kWh to bake a loaf. I have a feeling that’s less energy than it’d take for us to fire up the oven and bake it conventionally, and it does the kneading for us.

Kenwood BreadmakerHere’s the model we’ve got. Not sure how much they cost new, but definitely worth it if you can Freecycle one!

The recipe is simple:

  • 310 ml of lukewarm semi-skimmed milk
  • 450 ml of strong flour (I use half white, half wholemeal)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 tsp sugar (I use golden caster sugar)
  • 25 g butter
  • 7g sachet of dried yeast

Put the milk into the breadmaker, followed by the flour. Add the salt, sugar and butter into each corner, then make a well in the center of the flour (not all the way through to the milk) and pur in the yeast.

Then  just run it on the fast cycle and – one hour later – delicious bread!

As I was writing this I came across another great bread article – includign the cost of making it – have a look at it here: the only bread recipe you need.

Our new Orchard

I’m really keen to have as many permanent plantings as possible – I don’t want to be dependant on my year-in, year-out digging skills – so we’re putting in a nice compact orchard. This should give us most of our fruit once it gets going, and then I just have to worry about the veg.

After much deliberation, we’ve finally ordered the trees, and they’ll be here in early December – plenty of time for us to dig their new beds. We’ve ordered them from the excellent Agroforestry Research Trust and here’s what we’re getting:

Apple Trees

These are £14.30 each, and are all on M26 rootstock except for the Sanspareil, which is on the smaller M27. The Semi-Dwarfing M26 should produce trees 2.5-3.5m high, and the Dwarfing M27 only 1.5-2m.

The descriptions from Agroforestry are excellent, so I’ve reproduced them below so that I don’t forget! I tried to get a mix of good-keeping eating & cooking apples plus apples for cider and juice.

  • Ashmeads Kernel: Dessert apple. Pick October, use Dec-Feb+. Flower group D. Fruit medium-sized, greenish-yellow with some russet. Flesh aromatic, excellent flavour. Tree moderately vigorous. Also used for cider & juice.
  • Braeburn: Dessert apple. Pick Oct, use Oct-Feb. Flower group D. Good crisp flavour – new clone suitable for planting in the UK. Good crops of medium size red fruits.
  • Dabinett: Cider apple. Very reliable, producing a high quality juice.
  • Golden Harvey: Dessert apple. Pick October, use Dec-Mar. Flower group D. Fruit round, golden; flesh aromatic with an intense rich flavour. Tree vigorous, good cropper. Good cider & juice apple.
  • Howgate Wonder: Cooking apple. Pick October, use Nov-March. Flower group C. Large fruits, good for juice & cider. Vigorous tree, heavy cropping.
  • Keswick Codlin: Cooking apple. Pick & use Aug-Sept. Flower group B. Medium sized greenish-yellow fruit, cooks to a good puree. Tree has ornamental flowers. Part self fertile.
  • Sanspareil: Dual purpose apple. Pick October, use Nov-April. Flower group C. Large fruit flushed & streaked scarlet. Flesh juicy, crisp, aromatic, good balanced fruity flavour. Also used cooked. Heavy cropper with ornamental flowers.
  • Saturn: Dual purpose apple. Pick & use Sept-Oct. Flower group C. Large fruit with crisp juicy flesh of good refreshing flavour. Good for juice. Tree heavy cropping,

Pear Trees

Also £14.30 each, the Concorde on Quince A (4.5m high) rootstock, and the Williams Bon Chretien on Quince C (4m high).

  • Concorde: Dessert pear. Pick October, use Oct-Jan. Flower group E. Fruit medium-large, pale green turning yellow. Flesh pale yellow, sweet and juicy. Very heavy cropping, compact grower. Quince A rootstock produces trees about 15 ft (4.5m) high.
  • Williams Bon Chretien: Dessert pear. Pick & use Aug-Sept. Flower group D. Fruit medium-large, pale green turning golden yellow. Flesh very juicy and sweet. Self-fertile.

Plums & Gages

Again, £14.30 each, all on Pixy rootstock, which’ll limit them to 3.5-4m.

  • Marjorie’s Seedling: September-October. Flower group E (psf). Fruit large, flesh firm, juicy, quite sweet, good flavour, hangs well on tree, good cooked. Tree vigorous, upright, heavy cropping.
  • Victoria: August-September. Flower group C (sf). Large fruit of good flavour fresh or cooked. Tree very heavy cropping, hardy, vigorous, a good pollinator.
  • Oullins Golden Gage: August. Flower group D (psf). Yellow fruit, flesh firm, sweet, good flavour, also good cooked. Tree large, vigorous, upright, fair cropper, good pollinator.

Peach

Grown on St Julian A rootstock, it’ll get to 3.5-4m high, and cost – £14.30!

  • Redwing:  Fruits very dark red, superb flavour, late flowering, bears good crops. This variety has some resistance to peach leaf curl. The late flowering means it’s more suitable to our northerly climate!

Raspberry

Not strictly for the orchard, but we’ll be planting them at the same time. They are sold at £12.65 for a pack of 10. We’ve tried to go for a good range of fruiting times so that we have the longest possible season – I love raspberries!

  • Autumn Bliss: Ripens mid-August onwards. Heavy crops of large red fruits. Canes medium high – easy to support.
  • Allgold: Autumn fruiting. Recent variety with yellow fruits – less likely to be eaten by the birds!
  • Glen Moy: Early season. Canes erect, spineless. Bears good crops of easily picked large fruits of good flavour.
  • Tulameen: Mid and late season. Fruits very large, good quality. Canes with few spines.

So that gives you a flavour of what we’ll be planting in early December – at the moment the places they’ll be planted are full of grass or ornamental shrubs. If anyone want a free mature shrub, come down and bring a spade!

    Redwing / St Julian

    Fruits very dark red, superb flavour, late flowering, bears good crops. This variety has some resistance to peach leaf curl.

    First frost in Manchester

    This morning we awoke to the first frost of the season, which probably means it’s our first frost for about six years. I just thought it was worth recording the date so we can use it to plan next year’s planting and harvesting.

    For the record, the forecast was 2°C !