This past weekend, I went to KC and stayed with my grandma. Over the course of 2 days, I spent an hour cleaning out 1 closet and over 12 hours sorting mail. Granny had a LOT of mail. She made a donation at some point to a "religious" organization and has since been added to dozens of other "religious" organizations' hustling lists. As far as I'm concerned, any "religious" organization that sells or buys your name and badgers you by shipping you packages of greeting cards, rosaries, recipe books, photo albums, saints' medals, and blessed candles that you didn't order and includes a "bill" for them deserves to be worrying about whether they're going to be able to continue doing God's work. The God I serve wouldn't approve of that kind of tactic. And it's shameful that there are so many of them that it makes Catholic charities that are legitimate look suspicious.
My grandma has been bothered for years about all the stuff she's received but didn't pay for. She felt it was just as wrong to throw it away. Catholics can't just throw anything that's been blessed into the trash and there's no way she was going to drop a rosary in there. So it accumulated into a huge stash in their house, tormenting her daily. Except for a couple of rosaries that I knew she would use, I went through and pitched every bit of it this weekend. When I left her, I used my own form of manipulation and sternly told her that if she loved me and didn't want to see her poor granddaughter go through that again, she was to throw that stuff away the minute she took it from the mailbox. She giggled. The reality is I have planned to set aside 10 or 15 minutes from all future visits going through her mail.
All that to explain why I didn't share the results of my bread experiment on Saturday! I am officially committed to making fresh bread every day. I am baffled at how it is we've come to the process where bread making is so time consuming. This literally took less than 5 minutes to mix with a rubber spatula and 5 minutes to form into a loaf and clean up my mess. This is the basic bread and there are other recipes in the book that require a bit, but not much, more time to form rolls and such. But no longer am I going to have to plan to stay home for an entire afternoon just to make sure I'm here for each phase of the bread making process. As long as I mix my ingredients the night before, I need an hour and 45 minutes for rising and baking time the following afternoon.
I thought I'd share a few photos of the process. I didn't take one of the first step which is just mixing flour, salt, 1/4 tsp of yeast, and water.
This is what you have 18 hours later.
It's a very wet dough so if you've made bread in the past, this will look different to you. Instead of a smooth, elastic dough you have a lumpy surface covered with bubbles from the fermentation process.
You can see it still forms gluten strands that you've probably been trained to believe are only possible with long periods of kneading the dough. You don't knead this bread.
Right before the final rise.
Nighty-night! Because the dough is so wet, you're supposed to use a cotton towel that isn't terrycloth so it won't get lint in your dough. I don't like cotton tea towels so I don't own any (yet) and had to improvise with an apron.
A little over an hour later, the bread is ready for the oven. See the dimple in the middle? When the dough will hold that dimple after pressing down gently, it's ready.
The risen dough (still very soft and wet) goes into a pre-heated cast iron dutch oven. If you don't have one, the book lists other options. Basically you need to use a covered container to trap the moisture that's released from the bread to create steam.
And finally, what you end up with. The examples in the book are darker but I thought they looked a little too artistic for my family so I stopped here.
My heart sank when I took the first loaf out of the pan because it felt like a brick. But as it cooled (it makes these really cools hissing and popping noises in the cooling process), the crust softened. My family was thrilled with it and immediately asked if I was going to start making it regularly.
The book I used is My Bread by Jim Lahey. I can't recommend it highly enough!