Recently – thanks to my avid viewership of the Great British Baking Show via PBS’ Roku channel (a plea: please show us the previous seasons, PBS!) – I’ve been fascinated by the idea of baking bread.
Let’s start at the very beginning: cooking/baking and I have a difficult relationship. I have a lot of Southern background in me; therefore, food = love, in my mind. Biscuits? Gravy? Macaroni and cheese? Mashed potatoes? Anything fried? Anything sweet? Yes, please.
However, my waistline does not agree with this ideal eating plan, so I don’t bake sweets and try not to even buy them. I like the idea of cooking more than the actual process, just as I like the idea of baking. The Great British Baking Show introduced me to the non-sweet side of baking: breads, savory pies, etc. In particular, it introduced me to the idea of baking from scratch – starting with yeast and using the old world recipes.
So, after reading a recipe on the Kitchn that inspired me, I started with a 50-50 loaf: half-white, half-whole wheat. I should say that this recipe is not for those who are short of time: it took 5 hours from start to finish. Starting with yeast and warm water, I took advantage of the Florida heat and didn’t even have to put the bowl in a warm area to rise – the heat in my house took care of that.
While I would love to have a KitchenAid stand mixer (blue or green, if you’re buying), the fact remains that we don’t have enough counter space or interest to make it a sensible purchase. So, I hand-kneaded the bread, and let me tell you: there’s something cathartic about it. You have to put a LOT of effort into it – but be careful about overkneading. (Trust me, I did not get there: if anything, I was afraid it was being underkneaded.) I wouldn’t say that you can knead your troubles away, but it doesn’t hurt.
Also, I didn’t realize that there were special instructions for making your bread into a loaf shape: again, another article on the Kitchn saved me on this. But here’s a picture of the loaves as they went into the oven:
And here’s a picture of the finished loaves (already half-eaten, as I forgot to take a picture before we cut into them).
We just finished them up today (with a little help from my mom) and I will be baking another loaf this weekend. I bought some raisins, so we’re either having cinnamon raisin bread, or if we’re out of cinnamon, just plain raisin bread.
(The ultimate goal is to make a braided loaf – a challah-like loaf, if you will – but I want to get my bread-baking confidence up first!)
Have you baked bread before? Did you find it surprisingly easy? Or will you never bake it again?