Listen: don't panic.

Making bread by hand is not hard - not even remotely hard. For me, making bread is a peaceful pastime, something to help me relax at the end of a long day. There's nothing quite as satisfying (for me) as the smell of fresh-baked bread filling up my home or watching dough double or sometimes triple in size as it rises.

The first time I made homemade bread, it was a disaster. Flour everywhere; a half-dozen soiled bowls obscuring my kitchen counter; a dough that would not rise despite my vigorous kneading. I didn't even bother baking it.

The second time, things went - remarkably - smoother. It actually worked. And there I was with this heavy, sweet-smelling golden loaf in my hands, so proud that I’d made this thing that usually comes squished up in a plastic bag.

The point I'm trying to make is this: like playing an instrument or reupholstering furniture, making bread from scratch is a skill that develops through practice. It requires a bit of time and patience, but the payoff, in my opinion, is worth it. Healthy, preservative-free bread is much better for the body than that other stuff in the bag. And believe it or not, it's pretty good for your wallet: the cost of flour, water, sugar, yeast, milk, and salt doesn't amount to much.