Poor baker looking for deals...
This is pretty pathetic, I'll admit...but here I sit, 3:50am on a Saturday morning, watching my starter bubble waiting to make English Muffins. A bit nervous...I've had a 50-50 success rate...first batch was amazing to me, recognized areas of improvement...second batch went in the trash at the grill stage. I'm new to this realm, but in these economic times, I'm looking for both cost-cutting and fulfilling projects...making my own baked goods saves me scads of cash that my office building's cafeteria will never see. As i browse the site, I try to act like the starter sponge...absorbing knowledge and nutrition slowly. I love it in here. Now comes the pathetic part.
I was sitting here thinking about buying Peter's books...having the internet as a resource is the best, but sometimes you just like to have something tactile to peruse...pages to dog-ear, highlight and splash flour on. Add to that an unreliable laptop and cable access that seems so frivolous to pay for...the thought occured to me that my sponge development could be halted at any moment. Equally frivolous is the concept of paying $30 for a book right now...borrowing out of the local library is out of the question (ask the daughter that "borrowed" a $50 Japanese-English dictionary on mom's card that she now can't find)...so I look in the forum for help.
I know it's a lot to ask, but if anyone has an copies of any bread books and baking paraphernalia...in any condition...or a line on a garage sale in Upstate NY, keep me in mind. Every other Saturday (I get paid bi-weekly), I make the local rounds of tag sales, hoping to find that baker that's upgrading their kitchen...or moving to Europe and can't take the cookbooks, utensils and gadgets they've accumulated...the best I've done so far is a really wobbly GE plastic stand mixer with a detachable beater but without a bowl. Pathetic to the hilt...but there it is. Thanks for being here, for listening, and for giving me something constructive to do with my free time...
That's where I find most of my cookbooks, including bread books, and I can understand how you feel completely! I haven't paid full price for a cookbook in years, either buying them second-hand, or getting a discount from a friend who works at a regular bookstore. Keep looking through garage sales, you'll be surprised at what you can pick up, and if you have any nearly-new or charity shops close by, have a look in those. Heck, there have been times I've had to put off buying flour so the rest of the family could eat something other than bread. Another place to look for books is the remaindered section of a bookstore; you can get some really beautiful stuff for up to a quarter of the regular price. I made friends with a guy who ran a remaindered book stall, and he used to give me a couple of dollars off the sale price! Take heart and keep baking; all things come to those who wait, but in the meantime, all you basically need is the desire to bake, some flour, water, salt, and yeast. A bit of sugar never hurt anyone either!
Doesn't really take much to make a good loaf of bread. You're halfway there if your starter is ready to rumble!
Take heart, and start reading. Please go to my TFL blog at http://www.thefreshloaf.com/blog/susan and read Sprouted Wheatberry SD and Here's an H-G flour SD Recipe, Monstergirl.
Use the Search box here to answer your questions, and there are enough recipes right on TFL to keep you busy for at least the next three years, if not longer. Don't worry about what you haven't got. You probably don't need it. After all, do you want bread, or a book?
Susan from San Diego
I genuinely appreciate all the positive suggestions...and I know I can do without that hardcover Bread Baker's Apprentice...i will check the used sites recommended below and hope for that culinary tschachke garage sale. And the English muffins came out great! Thanks to all for listening to a late-night pity party on my part...
Google seems to have whole books for viewing. You can't print pages, but you can read them. Here is a link to one of the new bread books. Hope it works.
I too,rekindled my bread baking skills to save money. Here's a few cheap outs that have been successful for me.
1. The cheapest unbleached flour at the supermarket is fine for everything I bake with white flour. Trader Joe's new line of flour has a white whole wheat that is fine for anything requiring whole wheat. You don't need more expensive brands.
2. Whole foods bulk section is where I buy specialty flours and ingredients--you can buy only what you need, thus keeping the price and waste down. And the bulk prices are pretty reasonable in most cases.
3. Thrift stores are a great source for equipment. I found a clay baker for a few dollars, and a bread slicing guide I paid only $1.49 for (plus some sand paper to clean it up). They are more reliable than garage sales. Sometimes our local Goodwill has half off days where everything in the store is half off. I've seen mixers and bread machines in perfect condition.
4. You can still use your library to read the books there--write out the recipes if nothing else.
5. I second the use of googlebooks.com. Bread Baker's Apprentice is there on limited view and many others. And just about every recipe you read about on the Fresh Loaf will be somewhere on the internet.
6. Costco has yeast in bulk--1 lb of RedStar for about $5--I calculated it out to about $0.03 per loaf. The starter may actually cost a bit more (but STILL very inexpensive) unless you use every drop of discard (that's a guess, I didn't calculate that).
7. Sometimes you just HAVE to get something new because you can't find it anywhere. For me it was a $9.99 oil sprayer. We get 20% off 1 item coupons from Bed Bath and Beyond constantly. So I got mine for $8. Over time, this sprayer will save me a lot over the cost of commercial non-stick sprays and it is much better for the environment, my pans, and my lungs.
8. The Dollar store has LOTS of useful item including all sorts of plastic containers to store dough and stuff I buy in bulk, foil pans for steaming, tea towels and pretty baskets for gifting bread, & kitchen utensils.
I'm lusting over Hamelman's $40 book. I get 30% off coupons from Borders (Borders Rewards.com free membership) which brings it down to $28 plus tax but still out of the budget. So I'm saving up for it, bit by bit. It's hard to wait--I used to just go ahead and buy something if I wanted it. But I'm learning ;o)
Man, I hear nothing but wonderful things about Trader Joe's...I'm in Upstate NY...I think the closest one is down Poughkeepsie way..we do have a wonderful food cooperative, Honest Weight, in Albany...that's where I get my bulk ingredients...so right about the quantity thing. Any and all suggestions to remain frugal but not feel deprived are always welcome!
You can get "Bread" (an excellent choice, BTW) at Amazon for $25.20. No tax and it ships free.
Here's the link
That I lost track of the minimum for free shipping, so I thought I'd have to pay shipping. Yay, I'm a few dollars closer! ;o)
I take out a lot of cook books from the library. I either hand write the recipes that I want to try or did try and liked. Or, I scan them with my scanner and print from my computer.
Also, do not ever buy books from Barnes and Noble or Borders (if you have these stores in your area). I bought the Bread Bakers Apprentice from Amazon, it is $23.10 with free shipping! I think the book is completely worthy of purchasing and it was about $10 cheaper than in the store.
Garage sales are also a great place to buy books.
I love garage sale shopping. That's where I buy most of my kitchen gadgets. I found my old Oster Kitchen Center for $15. It comes with a food processor with all sorts of slicing blades, meat grinder, dough hooks, beaters, and of course, a set of two glass bowls. The other very useful items I found were a vacuum sealer, two slicers (one for meat and the other for breads), and a yogurt maker. Sometimes I go for estate sales where young people don't want to keep their parents old gadgets so they sell them dirt cheap. Don't pass by one without looking. You will be surprised to see what you may find.
I agree that garage sales are a good place to begin your "hunt" for the gear/gadgets you may need. I spent this morning as a vendor at a local flea market where, at a nearby booth, they were selling baking sheets, loaf pans, and other items that would serve the bread maker well at ridiculously low prices (like a loaf pan for 65 cents) and this stuff was in very nice condition. I had a bread machine (not recommending that) at my booth for $20; it originally cost nearly $200. So take some time and do some looking. You'll find what you need if you're patient. Second hand shops, shops run by various charities (Salvation Army, Cancer Thrift, etc.) are other good sources for what you need.
You also don't need to spend a lot of money on fancy ingredients. For a long time I did (and sometimes still do) use the "on sale" brand of bleached AP flour for bread making. It makes pretty good bread. Not prize winning, but tender and tasty and worthy of any family dinner table. You can use tap water in most places so "filtered" water isn't usually needed either. Salt is so cheap it isn't worth discussing and you can use active dry yeast in place of those expensive packets of instant stuff (just use about 1/3 more than the recipe might call for if it calls for instant yeast) and it will work just fine.
This site and the review of books have saved me from the heartache of a book of mistakes and spending $ I don't have. I did order Hamelman's book from Amazon and got free shipping. I also went to fresh loaf first and linked to Amazon to order my printer toner. Maybe cheaper elsewhere but I got the brand name, free shipping and hopefully fresh loaf makes a few pennies.
I love garage sales and have found some great bargains but you really have to work at it. An early arrival at a rummage sale or neighborhood sale will bring more bargains. Used restaurant supply have yielded half sheet pans for a dollar. A great docker and pastry cutters for a dollar. The thrift store had a tin can of very nice biscuit cutters of graduated sizes for a dollar. Saw the same at kitchen Kaboodle for 26. Muffin tins, bread pans, thick pizza stones, clay bakers and many stoneware pampered chef items all for a dollar or two. Mostly less.
Sometimes it seems overwhelming and everything seems like the junk most of it is. Talk to the folks that work there. Look, observe when they put out stuff. what color are the tags for that day. Are they overpriced? Or underpriced? What day was that. Come back that day of the week. Do different people price on different days? After a week or two checking stores, eliminating some, garage sailing in more expensive neighborhoods and finding your favorite restaurant supply you will be an trooper at it. In and out in a couple of heart beats. It is a new language like learning to bake.
I have to admit I had to pay full price for my popover pans but I did save about half by buying them at an outlet store. I also paid full price for my baking stone from Bob's and it has been worth every penny and more.
Nuff said, my apologies
If you are still buying yeast in the packets, stop. It is so inconvenient and expensive. They sell jars of yeast that are equivalent to 16 packets and cost the same as 4 packets of yeast, about. You can get even bigger quantities online but with shipping it doesn't really make sense. The jars keep for a year in the fridge but mine don't last more than a couple of months at the rate I am baking now. Also, the jar I have is instant. It is what most recipes in my books use (Baking Illustrated, the BBA, etc) and is no more expensive than active dry and you do not need to proof it.
I pulled an oops trying to be economical...being the newbie that's overly entusiatic, when a friend told me she was ordering out of the King Arthur catalogue I put in a order for not one, but two bags of yeast. Problem is, it's fast-acting, which is apparently what the bakers recipes in the castle use exclusively. All the recipes I'm gravitating to are the regular active dry. I've looked at sites for substitutions, and they generally say that it's a 25% reduction from the regular to the fast-acting. I hope it works, or else I was not very economic at all...
Just decrease the amount of yeast and you can skip the blooming or softening of the yeast in water. Instant yeast can just be thrown in with the dry ingredients. I find that much simpler.
My local restaurant supply place has very inexpensive peels and various forms of food safe plastics for dough. Also the local home brew supply store has inexpensive buckets (and grains in bulk if you want to try sprouting or grinding). I got two lidded buckets for dough at the home brew supply for under $5 (they thought they were for malt syrup).
The least expensive "peel" though is one I read about here. You can get a thin plastic "cutting mat" at the dollar store and it works great for transferring dough to the hot stone.
One way I'm trying to have some joy in this economic disaster is enjoying the hunt for good bargains and make-dos for what I need. I was fortunate to already have a KA (a 20 year old wedding gift) and a stone--everything else is gravy.