27 October 2008

About Baking Bread

I've been told many things about baking and cooking by some wonderful people throughout my life. What I have always considered to be the "cardinal rule of the kitchen" was repeated many times by both my grandmothers, my aunt (a WONDERFUL cook and baker), and several others: "When you bake, follow the recipe, especially with breads and cakes; when you cook, follow the recipe of your tongue."

Well, I baked some bread tonight. You read correctly - I BAKED some bread. Without a recipe. I didn't even measure what I used. I won't ever have this exact same loaf again. I broke the cardinal rule of the kitchen - I didn't follow, let alone use, a recipe.

So, what do you think happened? I made a flop, it didn't rise and came out of the oven looking like a pancake and slightly softer than a slab of concrete? I made a horrible tasting, foul textured, pathetic looking loaf of inedible wheat product? No. It's the best freaking loaf of bread I've ever made.

So, here's what I did:
  • I decided I wanted to make some bread, but didn't find a recipe in one of my three bread books that I wanted to use, so I decided to wing it.
  • I dumped some yeast in my favorite bowl (it's ever-so-lightly tinted green, it has a dime sized chip in the rim, but it's dishwasher safe, it's got character, and it's glass...).
  • Then I put some water in the microwave.
  • I found our emptiest container of honey (apricot... mmmm.....), stirred it, and mixed a dollop of it in with the yeast. I then grumbled about being stupid and using the spoon to mix - now I can't lick the spoon. Phooey.
  • I stuck my finger in the nuked water - too hot, so I poured it back and forth with a bit of cool water in a glass... stuck my finger in again... not bad...
  • Dropped in some water, stirred, more water, more stirring... maybe a splash more water....
  • After a few minutes, I wasn't seeing many bubbles (perhaps it is because our house hovers around 60 degrees, perhaps the water wasn't warm enough), so I added some (re-nuked) hot water. Nice bubbles...
  • I added a bit of gluten flour and a bunch of whole wheat flour to my sifter and sifted it into the pretty bowl. Mix, mix, mix.
  • Kneaded forever. Kept adding flour to sticky dough.
  • Oiled pretty bowl... made dough into a pretty circle-y shape to set in pretty bowl.
  • Made sure that dough was covered in oil (put in top side first, then flip)
  • Let it rise for a while... I literally have NO idea how long. It was a little more than doubled.
  • I then realized I'd forgotten to add salt and flax seeds to the dough... so I kneaded them into the risen, oily dough. Kept kneading....
  • Let it rise again... and yet again, no idea how long that took.
  • Realized I was planning on using a loaf pan, I punched down the dough and made it fit in my pretty, little, oiled, glass loaf pan.
  • Let the dough rise again. You really expect me to have looked at a clock? No go... sorry.
  • Turned oven onto 350 ('cause that's what it comes on to when you hit "bake").
  • A few minutes later, I put the loaf in and left it for a while...
  • When it started smelling really good, I looked at it... it was a pretty color, so I stuck a chopstick in the middle - no sticky dough...
  • All done!
  • Removed from pan, sliced, ate, blogged, forgot about using subjects in sentences, etc.
There you have it. My best, favorite, yummiest bread non-recipe.



1 comment:

RazorFamilyFarms.com said...

Very cool post. Takes all the fear right out of it.

Not that I was afraid - I make bread all the time but lots of people are terrified of it.