Do not attempt too large a loaf if you have any doubt about your oven’s capabilities.
When I had finished the starter last week, I felt a glimmer of hope: Was I actually going to bake something, and have it turn out well? History dictated a horrible failure was in the cards. But I was determined to make this work, for no other reason than to exorcise my baking boogie-men.
I gathered all of my ingredients and portioned them out for mise en place.
A whole pound of the starter (well, a little over if you go by the scale) was pulled out of the starter bucket. At this point, I’d like to point out how much I wish more recipes asked for weighted amounts of ingredients instead of volume. It’s a much more precise method, which means that recipes will be that much closer to what the recipe writer intended. Michael Rulhman is a big proponent of scales, and has mentioned them here and here. If you don’t have a scale for your home cooking, go grab one now. I foresee them being big in the near future.
To the starter I added yeast, some warm water, lots of bread flour and a pinch of rye flour. I then mixed everything together, and at the final moment I added what I consider now way too much fine sea salt. I’m thinking that rather than two tablespoons, they probably meant two teaspoons. Rather than question the recipe, I followed my marching orders.
The dough was tipped out onto a surface dusted with flour and kneaded for about five minutes. The directions instructed me to gently and purposefully knead. Fighting with the bread was right out, as too much or overly aggressive kneading would make the bread tough.
The dough was placed into a clean bowl, covered loosely with plastic wrap and placed in a warm place for 45 minutes.
Once the time had elapsed, I kneaded the dough gently again for another five minutes, and then wrestled it into two poorly shaped loaves. The loaf-like shapes were covered in plastic wrap and allowed to rise for another 45 minutes before I placed them into a hot oven.
Halfway through the baking time I sprayed the loaves with water, which is done to improve the crust. I tried to get a few images of this part of the process, but unfortunately none of them came out very well.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I MADE BREAD.
That’s right, I made honest to goodness, real, edible, tasty bread. Here’s a cross section:
It was a nice, dense bread with a fine crumb and a crispy crust. On top of that, the absolutely divine smell of baking bread permeated every square inch of our house.
Since the steps for making the brown bread are almost exactly the same as the white bread, I’ll just show you that lightning managed to strike twice.
Now, both breads tasted fine, reminding me very much of the french bread I can buy from local bakeries. The excess salt was noticeable though, more so in the brown bread than the white for some reason. It didn’t make the bread inedible by any stretch of the imagination, but at the same time it was a bit frustrating that my bread wasn’t perfect. I took some into work on Friday, and gave samples to my co-workers. They too noticed the salt, but everyone seemed to not mind it as much as I did. I was interested in the opinion of one co-worker in particular. His father is a retired french baker, so when Jerome told me that I had done a decent job for an amateur, I was thrilled.
Maybe, just maybe baking isn’t as hard as I had feared.
Two down, one hundred and three to go.