Last week I read a thousand recipes for bread. I found a few that sounded good but I didn't have any yeast, so I downgraded my ambition for kneading bread and made a quick bread loaf instead. It was a bit less than stellar, but totally edible.
My quick loaf tasted just like banana bread, but without the bananas, so a bit lacking in the deliciousness area. A nice layer of jam made it much better, and now that loaf is gone.
When I was at the grocery store this week I indulged in some yeast packets and today I am making "real" bread. I guess they call it yeast bread in the cooking world.
Never before have I felt the desire to bake bread. Suddenly the idea struck me, so I've acted on it. My household doesn't actually eat a lot of bread, but maybe homemade bread will change that. I guess time will tell there.
The recipes all look so easy. Activate the yeast, mix the few ingredients together and knead, let it rise, knead again (or not depending on the recipe) shape and bake. For me the hardest part is knowing when the dough has risen enough.
I've read about 5 websites about baking bread, proofing dough, and measuring and knowing how to tell if it's time to bake. They are all similar, but all have differences. My method is to read a ton of ways, then use my best judgement and hope for the best!
The recipe I chose is from Allrecipes.com. It was called Traditional White Bread. The only thing I changed (after reading other reviews) was to lessen the salt to 2 tsp, and I used one cup of whole wheat flour in place of 1 cup white. I also didn't have "bread flour" so I used regular all purpose.
I have a lovely Kitchen Aid mixer with a dough hook. I actually had to dig out the manual/recipe book that came with it to do a quick read on their bread-making ideas. I used the dough hook and after my yeast was "activated" I added the first few ingredients and got started.
Everything was going swimmingly until I tried to add my 3rd cup (or so) of flour. The dough was coming together, starting to pull away from the sides as the recipe suggested and then I poured in another half cup of flour (which is difficult to start with as the bowl lip is close to the top of the mixer) and when the hook got going it "poofed!" half the flour back out the top and all over the counter and the mixer. It did this every time I added more flour. I know I lost at least half a cup, but I don't know how to stop that from happening. I think part of the deal is that my mixer is too small to make 2 loaves at once - although that's how almost every recipe is written.
After the first "proof" I kneaded the dough and split it into the two loaf pans and left it to rise again. Just when I was pre-heating the oven we had to leave unexpectedly for 2 hours. I imagined the bread was toast (nice pun, eh?) but my hubby said we could likely salvage it if we put it in the fridge while we were out. Apparently hubby makes delicious cinnamon buns - says his family; I've been with him 12 years and I've never seen him bake anything - and he used a 24 hour recipe. So that's what I did - left it to slow-rise in the fridge 2 extra hours over what the recipe suggested.
The bread baked for 35 minutes and turned out of the loaf pans beautifully. I didn't decide until after baking that photos would have accompanied this post wonderfully. So here's one of the loaves fresh out of the oven.
I couldn't wait for the loaves to cool completely. I cut into the more rustic looking one, slathered some butter on it and ate it. To my surprise it was good! It's a smidge more dense than the recipe led to me believe, but since I added whole wheat flour and proofed in the fridge for some extra time, I'm not surprised by this. I don't anticipate it will be hard to eat these loaves of bread!
I welcome any critiques or suggestions on my process. One of the loaves is perfectly rounded and the other is lumpy and uneven on the top. When I put them in the pans I could see this would happen, but short of removing it from the already greased loaf pan and re-kneading and shaping it I couldn't see a way to alter the appearance.
Also readers, if you have any other delicious easy bread recipes, feel free to share those in the comments as well! Or tricks for add-ins or changes to make better/different tastes to my bread - I'm hoping to continue making bread, but maybe only one loaf at a time so I don't overload my mixer again!