There is nothing like the smell of fresh baked bread permeating every room in my house. The feel of the warm, soft bread dough under my palms as I knead it. The taste of it all crusty on the outside, soft and warm on the inside.
I've just recently discovered the joys of baking homemade bread. I'm not very good at it yet. It feels like a big chemistry experiment that I can never get quite right. I am constantly tweaking my recipe. Substituting milk for some of the water. Slowly inching up the amount of whole wheat flour I use in place of all purpose.
There are so many little details to be aware of. I have to get the water temperature just right. Too cold and the yeast won't activate. Too hot and I kill the poor guys. I have to make sure I knead it long enough. All the recipes say 10 minutes, but that depends on the baker. If you are new to the process like me, you may knead at a slower speed, meaning that you have to knead the dough longer than 10 minutes. Supposedly I will get a hang for what the kneaded dough should feel like and I will know when to stop. We shall see.
Then there is rising. The temperature of my house plays quite a role in this. On especially hot days, my dough may rise in as little as an hour. Cold days may take two or more. If I let it rise too long, my dough looks like a saggy, deflated balloon. So I am constantly checking on it, afraid to leave it unsupervised for long.
It is all very confusing and intimidating at first. I checked out several books from the library and learned step by step how to knead, what risen dough should look like, and what proofing was. The best book I came across was The River Cottage Bread Handbook by Daniel Stevens. He does a good job guiding the clueless newbie through the maze.
I can't describe the feeling of satisfaction I felt when I turned out my first lopsided loaf. Then there was Nick's groans of rapturous delight as he ate it piping hot and without a thing on it. Success!