thoughts on baking bread, part 2

part 1

{ bread made for our thanksgiving dinner a few weeks ago }

i have gotten into a rhythm of making bread, and seem to be coming to a basic recipe that works well for our needs as a family of 5. on average, i’d say i bake about one batch per week.

each batch contains:

  • 7 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1.5 tsp yeast
  • 3.5 to 4 cups warm water

this is by no means a complete set of instructions, and i’d recommend checking out some of the links at the bottom of this post to learn your own method. this is a basic outline of how i’ve been making mine for anyone who is curious:

i mix it in a bowl, and let rise loosely covered for about 2 hours on the counter, then refrigerate overnight. when i’m ready to bake, i prep the oven (preheat to 230C/450F). if i’m using my glass loaf pan, i grease it lightly (i don’t have nonstick pans). if i’m baking on the pizza stone, i use a piece of parchment or cornmeal underneath. depending on the size of loaf i want, i cut the dough and shape it (great videos on handling dough at the ktchen) add toppings (like sesame seeds, onion flakes, etc.) and score it (slashes made with a sharp knife).

one batch makes 4 loaves, or two loaves and about 12  dinner rolls. i spray the top with water. this keeps the crust from baking too quickly and lets the dough expand further. i bake for about 30 to 40 minutes, until it is golden brown and the loaf makes a hollow sound when tapped on the bottom.

i’ve been reading a lot about baking bread, and every author has their own approach,  what they feel is the “true” way to bake bread. they’ve obviously dedicated a good portion of their lives to this, and with history of bread dating back some 30 000 years, different schools of thought are sure to have evolved. that said, i think it can be intimidating for someone just coming into this bread baking thing, as a home baker and as a novice.

the good news is that the most basic loaf, like the one above, involves only 4 ingredients (flour, salt, yeast and water). how the other variables (temperature, time, kneading method, elevation, humidity, etc.) affect the outcome can only be learned by trying. even if you find the most perfectly perfected no-fail recipe, know that it can still fail, but it’s not personal!

all i can suggest is to try. i’m sure there have been many loaves of “woops, well that didn’t quite work out” over the last 30 000 years. actually, i read somewhere that the first loaf of bread may actually have been a mistake, when a bowl of porridge was left near the fire too long — sounds like something i would do. and if a batch turns out tougher than expected? well, you can always make croutons and bread crumbs.

some resources to get started if you’re interested in baking bread:

the ktchen has great links within to get you started.

artisan bread in 5 books and online videos.

as for me, i’m going to try pita and naan next.

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2 Responses to thoughts on baking bread, part 2

  1. Jess says:

    I’ve made naan before! YUMMY!

    and it took me an entire year to figure out that my water wasn’t hot enough to make my yeast activate. Or that I needed to knead the bread longer.

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