Bread Baking: A Solid First Effort

Lately I’ve been in the mood to make food from scratch. I feel like when you do this, it helps put you in better touch with what you put in your mouth, and it also gives you a better appreciation for all the work that goes into quality cooking and baking. For example, a couple weeks ago I was all MUST MAKE PIZZA DOUGH FROM SCRATCH! So I tried, and I failed so hard that we had to run out and buy frozen crusts from Whole Foods at the last minute because we getting hangry. (I blame the yeast that I used—it was a bad batch that didn’t rise, even though it was a year from its expiration date.) I now have a much greater appreciation for pizza that’s done right—dough seems like a simple thing to make, but it requires plenty of finesse and, of course, the right ingredients.

I didn’t let the #pizzafail get me down, though. I got on a MUST BAKE BREAD FROM SCRATCH kick, and—Spoiler Alert!—this time it worked out pretty well. Here’s a peek:

breakd_loafI searched for bread recipes online, and decided to go with King Arthur Flour‘s Classic 100% Whole Wheat Bread recipe. I had intended to make actual whole wheat bread, but we had a bag of King Arthur Italian-Style Flour that needed to be used, so I went with that instead. I knew it would be risky to swap out one flour for another, but I did it anyway. I did make sure to buy new packets of yeast; I picked up some Red Star Dry Yeast packets at Whole Foods.

Mixing up the ingredients for the dough was very easy. The recipe gives the option to use honey, maple syrup, or molasses, and I elected to use maple syrup. We have a bottle of the stuff sitting mostly unused in the fridge, so I figured this would be a good use for it. The dough came together quite nicely even when mixed by hand:

IMG_4653As directed by the recipe, I let the dough rest for about 30 minutes. Then it was time for the fun part: kneading! Because I don’t have a fancy-ass stand mixer with a bread dough attachment, I had to knead the old school way: by hand. And I liked it. Thanks to my husband for taking photos of me getting kneady with it:IMG_4654Time for The Rise: although I had used a newly-bought batch of yeast, I was worried that the dough wouldn’t rise. But lo and behold, the ball of dough rose, and it was magical!

BEFORE:

IMG_4659AFTER (about two hours of rising time):

IMG_4665I then shaped the ball of dough into a log that fit in my cheapo aluminum bread pan and covered it with a lightly oiled sheet of plastic wrap for Rise #2:

IMG_4666And the dough rose! Again! Here’s how it looked after approximately two more hours:

IMG_4668Into the 350°F pre-heated oven the pan went, for about 40 minutes. I loosely tented aluminum foil over the top after 20 minutes, just like the recipe said to do. I checked the temperature in the center of the loaf after 35 minutes, but it wasn’t hot enough yet (the recipe said it should register 190°F) so I left it in for about 5 more minutes. Et voilà! A finished loaf of bread! Doesn’t this look good?

IMG_4670Slicing the loaf was the real test. I waited for the bread loaf to fully cool down, and then I took a bread knife to it. What you see in the first photo in this post is what I got!

Okay, I lied. Slicing was not the REAL test. I had to taste the bread to find out if I had made legitimate bread or if I had actually made some sort of inedible loaf-shaped brick. And you know what? The bread tastes pretty good! It’s no light, fluffy store-bought loaf, but it’s totally edible. The consistency is denser than your average store-bought sliced bread, and it crumbles more easily, but it tastes nice and sweet and has a good crust: not to hard, not too soft. I’ve been using the bread for toast and sandwiches and I’ve enjoyed every bite:

sandwich(That’s tzatziki in the above pic, not ranch dressing, BTW. Not that I’m above dipping bread products in ranch.)

The whole process from start to finish probably took around five hours, but the majority of that time was spent allowing the dough to rise and napping* while that happened. Depending on your location (elevation, temperature, and humidity factor in here), the rising process might take you more or less time. Because of the time commitment it takes to make bread from scratch, I’m not sure how often I’ll do it—but I should be able to double the recipe and make two loaves at once. I would definitely use this recipe again, and next time I’ll actually use whole wheat flour (probably this kind). I’m not much of a white bread eater but I had to make sure our Italian flour didn’t go to waste before expiring!

Have you ever baked bread from scratch? What’s your favorite bread recipe? Sharing is caring.  🙂

*I’m 36 and I love naps. Don’t judge.

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