Autumn · Uncategorized

A day baking bread

Baking bread takes time and therefore patience.  It also seems to take some intuition, gusto, and a firmer touch than I previously thought.  The process is frustratingly challenging at times and yet remains deeply fulfilling despite mishaps along the way, or even at the end.This morning I was excited to see my leaven pass the float test; that is, when I dropped a tablespoonful of the stuff in some warm water, it floated, confirming that my yeast was active enough to use in bread.  This was already an improvement upon my last baking experience.  A few weeks ago, the leaven sank (I used it anyway).  When I went to make my leaven last night I added an extra tablespoonful of starter, which I believe is what caused the leaven to float today.

I think most of my challenges occurred while trying to divide and shape the dough, after bulk fermentation (see Michael Pollan’s Cooked for details on the process I am following.).  I’m not sure if my dough was too wet, or if I didn’t let it sit long enough in bulk fermentation, but when I went to divide and shape the loaves, they just weren’t showing much surface tension and were sticking quite a bit to the countertop, despite my best efforts to keep my work surface and hands floured.

I did my best to roll the formless masses in some wheat bran and put them both in separate bowls dusted (albeit a bit heavy handedly) with rice flour to proof.

You’ll laugh, but I tucked one bowl in my daughter’s crib and pulled the covers over it warmly.  The other, quite a different approach, went into the refrigerator so that the flavors could further develop.

After about a couple of hours I preheated my mom’s Princess House casserole & plopped the crib-dough inside.  Then I was to score it with a straight-edged razor blade or a lame, neither of which I have, so I used a knife to the best of my ability.  The dough pulled in a way that felt wrong, and yet I was reluctant to press into it any firmer, though I made myself do it anyway.  I placed the lid on top of the casserole and put everything in to bake for 20ish minutes, after which I took the lid off and baked for another 20ish minutes.

I was pleasantly surprised, again!  The bread filled the house with a light yeasty scent, the crust turned a beautiful shade of caramel, and best of all, it tasted wonderfully complex.  The contrast between the crusty outside and the moist, fluffy inside kept me, my husband, and even our baby, wanting more.  Maybe we are easily pleased, because there still was that matter of the unidentifiable score marks & extra rice flour that, sorry to say, made me think of those two-toned monkey bottoms (but in white, rather than red) when I looked at the loaf!  I would really like to refine my scoring skills down the line, as I have seen some beautiful pictures online of really artistic loaves.

I realize that I must be more confident with my hands next time, firmer in my kneading & shaping of the dough, and more assertive in scoring the loaf.  I want to say, this is work for the soul.  As any worthy endeavor, it is frustrating at times because it tests us, making us feel vulnerable as it exposes those aspects of ourselves or our work that need some extra care.  At least, that is how it has been with me.  To foster confidence, trust, and intuitiveness while baking is in some way to foster the same within myself.

Goodnight, all!

Bread rests on the dining table
As you can see, I was very heavy handed with the rice flour!
What it looks like from the inside.
I could get lost in all these special holes 🙂

10 thoughts on “A day baking bread

  1. I love the way you tell things. It is an invitation to enjoy the journey without running to the finish. It reminds me a cake recipe that circulates in a chain (bizcocho del Convento de “Las Carmelitas” de Sevilla). Preparing the dough took ten days and at the end you had to hand over part of the dough to other person to start the process again. It was probably a way to train the patience, sharing things and try to enjoy the process unhurried. Greetings.

    1. Thank you, Isaac! I’m so glad that you were able to stop by & read a little from my blog. That recipe sounds amazing & very traditional. Have you ever read Like Water for Chocolate? The recipes in there are fictional but are on the same kind of grand scale & as meaningful as the kind you’re referring to.

  2. OMG, I’m dying. That bread. I want it *grabs at the screen*

    Making bread sounds like a complicated & wonderful activity. I’m so impressed to hear that you conquered each step, and that the imperfections in the bread were points of pride (as they should be), rather than failure. Because bread should have character. It needs personality. And it sounds to me like it tasted delicious!

    “I want to say, this is work for the soul. As any worthy endeavor, it is frustrating at times because it tests us, making us feel vulnerable as it exposes those aspects of ourselves or our work that need some extra care.”

    YES. This is how I feel about writing – especially now, while I’m going through a bit of a rough patch. I need to return to this little quote to remember that even the tough days mean something. That my own bread, with it’s little holes, roughness, and missing chunks, will become something great if I just continue to work on it *_* Thanks for the inspiring post.

  3. I have a great method for you to help your bread rise – you don’t have to put it in the baby’s crib! Before you are ready to let your bread rise the first time, boil up some water and move your oven racks so that you can put a pyrex dish on the bottom of the oven (which you pour the boiling water into quickly) and the rack just above it for your bowl with the bread covered with a clean cotton cloth to rise. You have to put in the bowl of bread first, then pour the boiling water into the dish under it. CLOSE the oven door for the required time for the bread to do the first rising and do not open!

    The boiled water will create a warm, moist environment which the bread absolutely loves and it will rise very nicely for you! Give it a try – your bread will double nicely.

    You are also correct, you don’t have to be gentle with bread dough. Knead it really good – leaning your body weight into the heel of your hands to really work it well. It if it sticky, it needs more flour. Sometimes, it needs more or less than the recipe calls for – it all has to do with the day’s weather/humidity. No two loaves come out alike on different days!

    Keep up the good work! Baking healthy, fresh breads is such a treat!

    1. Thanks so much for the advice! I love to hear from you. I will give it a try next time around. I think you are right, my dough was a little bit sticky and probably needed more flour!

  4. Is there a way you can capture the aromas coming from your kitchen and send to the Food Network. They need some healthy alternatives. Keep it coming. I’m blessed !!!

  5. Is there a way you could capture the aromas coming your kitchen and send them to the Food Network. FN could use some healthy alternatives. Keep it going… journalist supremo !!

  6. Thanks for visiting my blog. Your bread looks delicious…a perfect accompaniment to minestrone soup. Now if only I’d made bread too! Maybe next time 🙂

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