I’ve been having fun with cooking, as usual. My most recent kitchen escapade was baking bread! I have never made a yeast bread before without the breadmaker at my parent’s place. I don’t own a breadmaker, so I decided it was high time I learn how to use yeast and start kneading!
I found an excellent recipe in a cookbook that my Grandma gave me. It uses one cup of whole wheat flour and two cups of white flour. I figured it would be best to start off with a mostly white bread recipe, as it would rise more easily. This particular recipe suggested that I not use a loaf pan and instead form the loaf myself with folding and pinching and such. I actually succeeded the steps it lays out with one loaf, but with the second loaf that the recipe instructs you to make, I decided that forming a loaf was too difficult. Instead I made a bunch of little buns.
One bun on a plate.
Making the bread itself was easy enough when you follow the instructions. I made sure to use warm water so that the yeast would react properly (I don’t even want to admit how many loaves my dad and I ruined in our breadmaker by using cold water!). Kneading for ten minutes solid was quite enjoyable. It’s relaxing and the time went by surprisingly fast. I found that making bread isn’t that tricky at all; it’s simply the resting time that all adds up to make it appear as though it’s a daunting task. It took about three hours in total to make, but so much of that time is spent wandering off to clean the kitchen or to read blogs while the dough runs rises and rests that bread is- dare I say it- simple to make.
The bread turned out beautifully! It didn’t rise a whole lot, but the cookbook is quite old and I expect that “back in the day” their loaves of bread were much smaller than they are today, anyways. I was immensely pleased with the bread. It tasted delicious. Next time, though, I will use a loaf pan to give it more structure. I think I’ll also add a little bit more whole wheat flour in ratio to the white and add in some flaxseed meal and/or wheat germ for extra nutrients.
This is my pastry board! It’s actually a table cloth. But it has the same bumpy texture as a pastry board so it does the trick. Plus it folds up and takes up much less space than a big pastry board would!
Segue in which I question my sanity:
I’m still in mild shock that this experience went by without a hitch. I didn’t drop anything on the floor. Or forget to turn the oven on. Or burn my oven mitt*. Or set the smoke alarm off. Or forget any ingredients. The bread didn’t even stick to the pan, for goodness sake! But I think that the bread made me cocky because then I tried making chocolate pudding for my sister and, although it was decidedly thick and pudding-like while on the stove, as soon as it cooled off it turned runny as water. I was disappointed, but the fact that the pudding didn’t turn out also assured me that no alien has taken over me and turned me into Nigella Lawson overnight (not that I’d be complaining if I turned into Nigella Lawson, obviously. But it would also be a little disconcerting to magically find cooking to be so easy). Anyway, that particular mishap was remedied by dipping frozen bananas into the runny chocolate. Delicious!
Back to the bread:
I’ve been looking for more yeast bread recipes to play with them so that I can see which one is my favourite. In newspapers and on blogs there are a surprising number of whole wheat beer breads. I’m going to make one of those soon, but I’m curious as to why these recipes are so common. Does it taste like beer at all? I mean, is it worth it to turn a beer into a loaf of bread? Most people I know who are beer lovers would much rather drink the beer straight than mix it into bread dough.
I’ve also found this recipe for regular whole wheat bread, and it looks delicious, but it calls for five cups of flour to make one loaf! That seems like an enormous amount of flour, especially because the recipe that I used called for three cups of flour for two loaves. But maybe that explains why the loaves were so tiny. What do you all think? Is five cups of flour for one loaf a normal amount? Could I get by with less or would that distort the recipe horrifically? (Normally I’d be all for finding out on my own through trial and error, but, that’s rather a lot of flour to waste. That’s the worst part about kitchen experimentation. If someone goes wrong, everything goes to waste).
Also, I’d love to hear any tips and advice that all of you seasoned bread bakers have to share. I’d like to make a bread with a higher whole wheat to white ratio, but I’d still like the bread to be light. I’m not looking for a super dense bread! Any ideas?
*Does anyone else have this problem or is it just me? Seriously, about once a month I catch my oven mitt on fire when removing a dish from the oven. Consequently all of our oven mitts are blackened or have holes in them. I wonder if people with their own cooking shows ever have this issue?
Raspberry jam and a mixture of light cream cheese, honey, cinnamon, and vanilla extract smeared on freshly made bread