Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Bread

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!

So now I'm hooked. Some days my bread doesn't turn out at all. Other times it is near perfection. I make at least two loaves a week and we have stopped buying bread from the store all together. Who needs bread with preservatives and high fructose corn syrup when your ingredients can be flour, water, salt, and yeast. You just can't beat that.









2 comments:

  1. Hot bread is the food of the gods! In college, I would make it in secret, because if I let anyone know about it, everyone would come over and eat all my bread. 10 years later, I still feel like it's a chemistry experiment I haven't gotten quite right, but I've stopped worrying about it. Even too-dense or too-crumbly bread is good if it's hot and buttery!

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  2. That cracks me up that you had to bake in secret. Hopefully the smell didn't alert anyone! Also, I'm glad to see that I'm not the only one that has difficulties. Hopefully we will get it right one of these days. Probably my favorite way to eat it is hot and buttery with honey drizzled on it. Its like dessert!

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