Musings, thoughts, and ponderings about children, family life, homeschooling, and anything else that comes to mind.
Monday, February 16, 2009
I Did It!
Yesterday, I accomplished something that I honestly did not think I could do. I baked bread from scratch! In my Simple Pleasures post a week or two ago, I confided how I wanted to learn to make bread from scratch and was actually feeling some pressure to do so since my parents had given me a bread-related cookbook for my birthday. And as of now, it is now my absolutely favorite cookbook. I was also very intimidated by the prospect of making bread because the recipes violated two of the key principles I use when cooking. One, the recipe involved equipment I do not own. In this case, a pizza peel which I have since learned is the wooden slab that chefs use to take pizzas in and out of an oven. The recipe also contained terms that I did not understand, and the recipe was over a page (actually 5 pages with lots of explanation) long. I'm still not exactly sure what a gluten cloak is, but the pictures and description were very helpful.
After visiting two grocery stores, I found all the ingredients. The unbleached unsifted flour kind of threw me for a loop. I then had to master the scoop-and-sweep method of measuring flour. I didn't realize determining ingredient amounts was so complicated, and I have apparently been measuring all wrong for many years.
Next came the mixing which was a bit challenging since I do not own a stand mixer. I honestly never thought I would make any dishes that required one, but I am having second thoughts and thinking about investing in the appliance now.The directions also very clearly stated not to knead the dough, and it was hard to resist doing so when I had both my hands in it. Next came the hard part . . . waiting. The dough had to sit for several hours which was so hard for me. I am not a patient person. I am definitely an "I want it my way, and I want it now" kind of gal. Regardless, I found something else to do and managed to leave the dough alone to rise.
The tricky part- making the gluten cloak- came next. First, I had to cut a grapefruit-size hunk of dough out of the batch. I wasn't really sure about this because I don't eat grapefruit and can't recall ever buying one either. So I took a shot in the dark and sliced off what looked to be about a pound of dough. Then within thirty seconds I was supposed to shape it into a roundish lump that resembled a loaf of bread.
The bread-to-be then had to sit for another forty minutes before I undertook the dust and slash technique. I'm still not sure why I was supposed to dust and slash, but for whatever reason it apparently worked. Now the loaf was ready to go in the oven.
It baked 30 minutes and ta-da!!!!After baking, it tasted fabulously with a hard crust and soft inside. I have to admit that I was raised to be a bread snob. My father lived in France for several years as a teen where he rode his bike to the village bakery for fresh baguettes everyday. I was indoctrinated that the best bread has such a hard crust that it can't be cut with a knife, only torn with the hands. And guess what? My bread is like that. I was so pleased with the results that I immediately prepared another loaf so I could send one over to my dad. The best part of my recipe is that one batch of dough makes four loaves so I still have enough dough for two more crusty loaves waiting to be baked in the fridge.
Now that I have mastered the basic boule, artisan free-form loaf, I think I am brave enough to branch out to the other recipes in my cookbook. I'll probably try the baguette next, then perhaps chocolate bread, pita, batard, beignets . . .