Thursday, January 13, 2011

Baking Bread

making artisan bread

Toward the end of last year, when I began thinking about things I'd like to do differently in my life, the bread we eat was at the top of my list. I loathe buying bread at the grocery store. That long row of loaf after loaf of perfectly rectangular-shaped packages of sandwich bread. The way it all smells. If I pulled something that smelled like that out of my oven, I'd never make it again. It doesn't smell like any homemade bread I've ever been around. And the texture when you bite into it-bleck. When I was little, I used to take a slice of Wonderbread, break it into small pieces, roll the pieces up into balls and play with them. Did you know if you do that it returns to raw-dough consistency? And that's what it feels like to me when you bite into it, the way it sticks to your teeth when you bite down on it. So I buy the ridiculously over-priced loaves of 12-grain or 7-grain bread. But my boys (all 3 of them) refuse to eat it, agreeing that it tastes like cardboard. I buy them the "wheat" sandwich bread which, if the producers were honest, would be labeled wheat colored sandwich bread. So with this all in mind, I decided I'd really like to start making most, if not all, of our bread. The problem is the time needed vs. my propensity to wait until the last minute to start things. I make bread a couple of times a month so knowing I'd need to stop whatever I'm doing to punch dough and knead it and roll it and all the little steps that are involved with making bread, I was honest with myself and admitted homemade bread making would probably last about 2 weeks and then I'd be right back in the bread aisle grumbling.

I've owned a bread machine in the past and they really aren't my thing. It might just have been the machine I had but the bread always baked around the little dough-mixer in the bottom of the pan so between the teflon coating (which I don't like to use) not releasing the bread and the little mixer-thing not releasing the bread, it was frustrating. Plus it was another appliance taking up room in my kitchen.

Even though I'd given up on the idea of being organized enough to make homemade bread on a regular basis, I started researching homemade bread books on Amazon anyway and found several books that claimed you can make homemade bread with no more than 5 minutes of time a day. I reserved several of them from the library and started with Tartine Bread by Chad Robertson. It was an interesting read full of gorgeous photography and I really liked his process because it doesn't even require yeast. You make your own starter, feed it regularly, and always have some on hand when you're ready to bake bread. While I'd like to try it, I know my attention span with bread starters. Whenever someone gives me a batch of Amish Friendship Bread Starter, I forget about it after making the first batch of bread.

I read through a few more of the artisan bread books and they were all yeast-based breads. After being intrigued by the idea of making breads without any yeast at all, that didn't seem like much fun. And none of the breads had the rustic appearance the breads in the Tartine Bread book had. The book in this photo was the last one I opened and I think I may have found what I'm looking for. No starter is required but it works on the same premise. You mix the ingredients to form a very wet dough, let the dough sit on the counter for 12-18 hours, gently shape it, and bake it in a covered pan. It all sounds very much like the Tartine Bread method, the loaves have a similar appearance, you also bake them in a covered dutch oven, but I don't have to maintain any starter. The trick to getting the starter results is beginning with a tiny bit (1/4 tsp.) of yeast to get the bread going. I just finished mixing up my first batch and, as promised, it took 5 minutes. I'll know the results tomorrow afternoon! I'm expecting a sourdough bread taste, which I don't care for, and anticipate I'll end up trying the Tartine method anyway since it is supposed to result in a more mild flavor. Regardless, it's fun experimenting and I really hope I end up with something I'll stick with for the long haul.

I really just intended to write, "This is what I'm doing today," under that photo! That's the wonderful thing about blogging. I know my guys don't want to listen to me ramble about bread making and sewing and scrapbooking. I can just blabber on and on about it all here and someone out there will actually be interested! I still have more to share but I'll save it for tomorrow's entry. I'll be sharing photos of some kits I have available for purchase through Frost It Pink so I hope you'll check back!
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Anonymous said...

Please let us know how this turns out, especially the taste since mt husband does not like a sour dough flavor either.

Kathy R

tammy said...

Yummy! Think I will make some homemade bread this weekend! Thanks for the thought!

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