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How Baking Makes Me Feel Like a Million(Aire)

By Elizabeth Dunkel July 17, 2021 Lifestyle

One of the ways I live like a millionaire in my retirement, or jubilation as I call it, is by baking. Yes, I’m back. And yes, it’s this simple. Baking can improve the quality of your life in countless ways. This is another article in my series of How to live like a millionaire on a retirement budget. The previous articles can be found on Sixty and Me, and in my inexpensive (!) e-book, available on Amazon.

We imagine that a millionaire’s lifestyle means being able to afford the best that life has to offer. Life is in the details, and if we pay attention to the details – the myriad of small things that add up to make the quality of our lives – we can insure that we are living our best lives.

Bread is “the staff of life,” one of the most basic things we eat. Maybe you can’t afford a new car or an exotic vacation, but you can eat The Best Bread In The World. No sticky sourdough starter needed. No kneading needed.

Interested? Keep reading!

My freshly baked loaf out of the oven is a crackly crusted, beautifully textured loaf. A millionaire can’t enjoy my bread because it is priceless – not for sale anywhere.

Do the Math

A loaf of seriously good bread from a gourmet bakery in Chicago where I live can easily cost $8 – $10. A loaf a week, is $40 a month; $480 a year. And we all know we eat more bread than that in our lives, what with family, guests, a raisin tea loaf here, a foccacia there. It adds up. And up and up and up.

The loaf I bake, an artisanal country boule, costs me pennies. Another issue that makes my bread priceless is its quality and health. My bread has organic flour, salt, a pinch of yeast and water.

Read your labels. One bread I picked up at a crowd favorite grocery store listed things like reduced iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid, malted barley flour, water, soybean oil, dextrose monohydrate, salt, mono & diglycerides, yeast, ascorbic acid, sorbates. Really?

A Loaf So Brilliant, a 4-Year-Old Can Make It

I feel so clever when I walk past the bakery stands at the Farmer’s Market and don’t hand over a $10 bill for a loaf. Instead, I go home, and with a recipe that is brilliant, make my own.

I direct you to the brilliant Jim Lahey, owner of Sullivan Street Bakery in New York. He was featured by the New York Times’ Mark Bittman on a viral video on “No Knead” bread. Yes, the year was 2006… where have you been? And it’s still making my life better once a week. (It’s all over the internet, I’m sure you’ll find it in whatever country you live in.)

This is a gorgeous loaf that a child can make. It takes me, I kid you not, 3 minutes to assemble the flour, yeast, salt and water. I give it a stir and put it aside for 20 hours to rise.

Just mix it up and forget about it. No kneading. Often, I quickly mix up a batch after I finish the dinner dishes, or in the morning after I’ve cleaned up breakfast. I am the boss of the bread. It is not the boss of me. I don’t baby sit it or worry about it. I mix it and forget it.

Anytime from 12 – 20 hours later (I often let it sit overnight), I shape it into a boule, let it rise again for two hours, and pop it in the oven for 45 minutes.

There’s a whole story about why this bread works, why it doesn’t need kneading. I’ll let you ask Auntie Google about it when you type in “no knead bread.” One thing is crucial: you need a Dutch oven to bake it in.

That’s a big, heavy cast iron pot with a lid. Setting the dough in a pre-heated, screaming hot Dutch oven and putting the lid on it is what creates the steam that creates the magical rise, chewy texture, and the crackly crust.

Priceless Gifts That Money Can’t Buy

Baking bread saves me money in other situations. Invited to a friend’s house for dinner? You don’t need to spend a fortune on a decent bottle of wine. Bring the gift of your truly priceless bread. Have you ever noticed how people go gaga when they have a slice of freshly baked something? They just can’t believe it is so good. And that you made it!

I have learned that people positively melt when I bring them something I’ve baked. Adults become children around freshly baked, homemade goods. That’s another huge savings – in gifts alone. At Christmas, I have gifted friends with evocative mini madeleines, wrapped in cellophane bags, tied with a ribbon. An extravagant gesture, for pennies.

Savings All Around

Baking in general can improve your life in many other ways. Let’s say you go out to the museum, or you’re out window shopping. You’re tired and you want to sit in a cafe. Definitely sit in the cafe. Definitely order the coffee. But don’t buy the $6.75, hard-as-a-rock scone.

Out of my handbag I take my own amazing bran muffin or a slice of pound cake and enjoy it. I’ve just upped the quality of the moment. It’s not the coffee that’s expensive, it’s the treat you add to it.

I can make an entire batch of my favorite blueberry muffins in a matter of minutes for about $3.00, instead of paying more than that to eat one, not so fabulous, gummy muffin.

Yes, it requires effort. Yes, it requires planning. If you stock your kitchen with flour, sugar, butter, yeast, eggs, vanilla and have some cinnamon, chocolate chips, raisins (or dried cherries!) – you are ready to bake when the moment calls. Plus, you get the priceless satisfaction of a new hobby which is creative, earthy, arty and soulful. Most important, it is loving.

Worried about calories? I have a saying in my home: I can eat whatever treat I want; I just have to bake it myself. It makes you pause. It requires an effort. It’s healthier and because you took the time to make it, you cherish it, you respect it, and you tend to eat it in moderation.

Bake It All

My high school BFF was visiting me recently, and we stopped in a famous upscale bakery in my neighborhood. She bought an expensive Swedish cardamon bun. I tasted it and said, oh my, that’s very good. I now had a benchmark for taste. When we got back to my flat, I started researching recipes. I didn’t want to pay $4.75 for one cardamon bun when I could have a batch for less.

The variations are endless. You can pay $25 for a pizza, or you can make pizza dough for a few cents. Homemade pizza is one of the most sublime things you can enjoy. Then there’s a beautiful coffee cake. A comforting loaf of cinnamon raisin bread. Don’t get me started!

I kid you not, while I wrote this article there was a loaf baking in my oven. I’ll leave you now because it’s done. Can you smell it? The butter is ready; this is the baker’s treat.

If you haven’t tried baking, do give it a try and see whether it is something you might like. Remember, practice makes perfect. And if you are a baker, please tell us what your favorite bakes are. We want to know!

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The Author

Elizabeth Dunkel is a writer and novelist who recently moved back to the U.S. after living in Merida, Mexico for 25 years. Elizabeth is the proud founder of the Merida English Library. As a Cambridge CELTA certified teacher of ESL, she considers herself not just a teacher but a dream maker. “Teaching English empowers people to reach their dreams.”

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