I recently decided I needed to bake some bread. I’ve been wanting to for at least three years now. I’ve been reading and re-reading bread recipes for awhile now and finally, somehow, decided it was time. I would not just buy some dinner bread at the grocery store. The perfectionist in me would just have to be willing to fail.
And I did!
I wanted to make an artisan bread loaf using the recipe in my glorious and loved America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook because it had no dairy and looked simple enough. It is a simple recipe. I just can’t read. I’ve always struggled with reading directions thoroughly. This presented itself as a huge problem in math classes because, as I eventually realized, I was reading the directions at least five times before I had read every single word. And even then, my comprehension was often doubtful. It’s like I’m reading as fast as I talk and skipping vital info in the process. This isn’t as big of a problem when reading novels because each individual word isn’t as important. And I think that with math problems and recipes, I’m a little stressed and so my reading acuity suffers.
All this to say that in preparation for errors, I made a practice loaf the day before I wanted to serve the bread with dinner. In the middle of the second step while I was letting my KitchenAid mixer do its dough hook magic for about 10 minutes, I thought the dough looked awfully watery. In fact, it didn’t look like dough at all. I read and reread the ingredients list again and didn’t see anything I missed. And then, to make a long story short, I finally figured out that I’d left out half the flour!
I was supposed to put in 2 cups of bread flour–which I had–and 2 cups of all-purpose flour–which I had not. So I had to clean everything and start over. The second, successfully baked but not successfully risen bread (I over-proofed it, which is what I had been worried about all along!) was rather sad and burnt on the bottom but still surprisingly tasty. I think it also suffered from my lack of a baking stone. No pictures of that loaf were taken.
The next day, however, I produced a successfully yummy loaf!
Then I wished we could have some sandwich bread which would feel less indulgent than eating huge slabs of bread with dinner over and over before the bread spoiled. But my cookbook only had sandwich bread recipes with dairy. Kristin Stone to the rescue! She pointed me to this delightfully easy recipe, and I’ve now made it twice. One of the best things about it is that there is only one rise, which makes the whole process much easier to incorporate into my day. For example, Monday morning I started making it at 5:45 a.m. (Benji was up early) and they were out of the oven by 7:45 a.m.
**I also used the trick of heating my oven to 200 degrees and letting it heat up for 10 minutes, then turning it off, and letting the dough rise in there. That way, it all happens in about 30-40 minutes. This is particularly helpful when it’s cool in the mornings like it is here in Oregon. Thanks, America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook for that little tip.
These pictures are of the first round. The second round I made Monday morning and they turned out better. I’d been afraid of over-proofing with the first two loaves, so I let myself be a little more risky the second time and got much better results. Of course, I wrapped them up and stuck them in the freezer without tasting them, so they could be horrible. But I’m an optimist!