Breaking bread

It’s cookin’ Monday! Last time, Ami and I had risotto and roasted vegetables cooking in our kitchens, and just about a week ago, we decided to try our hands at home-made bread. When I told my mom what I was baking, she had a decidedly negative reaction. “Bread is SO hard to make. Good luck, chump,” is basically what she said, and when I was with Susie this weekend, telling her about the bread, she asked incredulously, “You made it from scratch?!?!?!” Well, yes, I did, and so did Ami, and with little more than a few e-mails back and forth with our initial uncertainties, we truly accomplished this most impossible feat. We created bread with our very own hands, and the flour runneth from our fingers and the dough riseth most mightily…

Chef Michael Smith’s Country Bread

Ingredients

3 cups all-purpose or bread flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup any multigrain mix
1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 1/4 cups warm water

Directions

In a large bowl whisk the dry ingredients together, evenly distributing the salt and yeast throughout the flour. Pour in the warm water and stir with the handle of a wooden spoon until a moist dough forms. Continue stirring until the dough incorporates all the loose flour in the bowl, 1 or 2 minutes in total. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rest in a warm place for 18 hours. The dough will double in size and bubble (don’t worry if you don’t see this happening – I didn’t notice a difference in the dough until the 18 hours were up), and long elastic gluten strands will form without laborious kneading.
Knock the dough down and toss it with a splash of vegetable oil, evenly coating the dough ball. Form it into a 9- x 5-inch (2 L) loaf pan and, without covering, rest it a second time. In 2 to 3 hours it will double in size once more.

Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 425°F (220°C). When the dough is ready, bake for 45 minutes.

My ingredients, minus the vegetable oil, which I forgot to photograph.

Ami’s ingredients, minus her oil (she used olive), which she also forgot to photograph.

I was very curious to find out what “long elastic gluten strands” are. Now I know, and so do you.

This is Ami’s dough, just before it went into the oven. I had made my bread before her, so I sent out the alert that she needed to watch for this phenomenon. Our solution was to simply tuck the errant dough back into the pan. As you will see, hers turned out looking better than mine did…

…it looks perfect!!

Mine oozed…

…but looked much better when it was out of the pan and cleaned up a bit.

What do you think? It’s not bad, if I do say so myself! All the ingredients were easy to find in the grocery store, and I’m sure many of you have many of the required items in your cupboards right now – Ami did, and she opted for rolled oats as her multigrain mix, while I chose to try out the Red River cereal. No complaints from either of us on our choice of “mix-in.” Other differences between us were my bread flour versus Ami’s all-purpose flour, and the aforementioned use of vegetable oil (me) or olive oil (Ami). Oh, and while I used a plastic-wrap shower-cap-with-elastic thing to cover my bread, Ami used a tea towel, which is good to know if you don’t have plastic wrap on-hand, or if what you do have doesn’t stick to your bowl (which is what happened to me, and was the reason why I scrounged out the shower-cap apparatus).

During the entire process, we found out there isn’t really much of a process at all. There is a lot of waiting. And sleeping. The dough does have to sit for 18 hours, after all! Our agreed words of warning are regarding the crazy dough-ooze that creeps up and flows outside the pan during the last 2-3 hour part of the recipe. Unless you have a deep pan, the escaping dough is going to be a part of your life. Stop being judgmental, and just accept it for what it is, OK?

As I said in the dough-ooze’s caption above, we just tucked the extra dough back into the pan as best we could. In the “after” pictures, you’ll also notice that my bread is slightly burnt on top – for some reason, the crust started to get a little too brown after about five minutes, and I had to put the pan on the lowest oven rack, as well as lower the temperature by 20 degrees. This wasn’t a problem for Ami at all, though, and her loaf of bread looks lovely!

And finally, Ami and I want to reassure anyone who tries this recipe that if your crust feels rock-hard when you take the pan out of the oven, don’t immediately jump to the conclusion that your bread is ruined.We literally knocked on the tops of our loaves, and we both thought we had messed something up, but when we sliced into our bread, it was bliss! So soft and delicious! I had a bit of trouble getting the loaf out of the pan, but I think that’s because of the ooze, since Ami didn’t mention that she had any difficulties.

We found the bread to be pretty filling, with two (thick-cut) slices the maximum we could eat in one sitting, but damn (or day-um!), it was good. Ami rated this recipe a 4.5 out of 5 (it lost a half-point for the mess of the ooze), and I agree with her score, but I withhold half a point for my slightly burnt crust.

I have already stated to Darcy that I will make this bread again, and Ami’s husband asked her bake more the day she made her first loaf, so I foresee more bread-baking adventures in our futures. If we can do it, you can do it!

8 thoughts on “Breaking bread

  1. lol your bread “after” picture had me in tears laughing. When you said that mine looked better than yours when it came out of the oven… I wasn’t anticipating that photo haha. It looks amazing all cleaned up and sliced though :)

    PS I am making more bread this week!!

  2. Funny, my mom never uses a pan when baking her bread. She just molds the dough into the shape she wants and lets it grow — so there’s never any spillage and it always looks perfect, haha.

    Nice job ladies!

  3. Now I want to try making my own bread! I’ll have to give it a go one of these weekends.
    Did you compare the nutritional value against a store bought brand?

  4. Ami, my bread looks pretty deformed, doesn’t it? Haha!

    Joanne, are you serious that your mom doesn’t use a pan? How is that even possible?! Please elaborate!

    Susie, no, I don’t know anything about the nutritional value versus store-bought bread, but considering the ingredients, I can’t imagine that this bread is bad for you, other than the fact that it’s loaded with obvious carbohydrates, which is, of course, a factor for you…?

  5. It’s true! It’s true! My mom just molds the dough into a large ovular shape and then places it on a baking sheet. It does grow in size, as yours did…. but it still keeps it’s shape, more or less.

    I’m sure if I tried replicating her recipe, though, I would fail miserably, haha.

  6. Wow! Congratulations! I definitely would have panicked over the ooze, the brown top and the hardness. But knowing it all works out in the end makes me want to try it now.

  7. Do it, Erin! Try it! I’m making it again today/tomorrow, and I can’t wait to have it with your clam chowder, which is what I have planned for tomorrow’s supper!

  8. Pingback: Birthday blowout | de facto redhead

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