Back when I lived in Victoria and didn’t seem as busy, I spent many a Sunday baking bread. It started innocently enough, and turned into something I did for the entire year.
It was wonderful to have fresh bread every weekend, and to have it work out most weekends too! The smell would fill our cozy little basement suite, and to this day I can’t bake bread and not think of my roommate and lovely Island Friends.
This Friday my friends and I were down on Granville Island, passing by a bakery late at night… and the smell! Divine. Fresh bread filled the air for almost the whole island.
Well I knew what I would be doing this weekend…
Bread – Even students can Bake it
Bread gets a bad rap of being difficult to make, but it really isn’t. Here’s some tips I’ve picked up over the years. These can be applied to any basic whole wheat or white bread recipe.
(Sorry I’ve been so lazy about my nails!)
The first step to good bread is the yeast. In fact this is the one most crucial step. The temperature of your water must be perfect. You know how mom’s test bottled milk on their wrists for babies? This is also the best temperature for your yeast’s liquid. You don’t want it to burn, but you want it to be warm.
Also place the yeast in the water with some sugar, it needs food to grow. If you do everything right, you should go from this:
Look at that fluffy yeast!
Add the rest of your liquid ingredients. Make sure they aren’t too hot, or too cold as well.
Now begin to add the flour.
Use a whisk. I know, it sounds weird, but whisking at the beginning gets the gluten (sorry for all you gluten-free folks out there, I don’t know how it will work for non-gluten bread…) going. And it makes for smoother dough.
Once you’ve added 2/3 if not all your flour and you have a doughy ball, not unlike this:
You are ready to start kneading!
When I first started making bread back in high school, I was so afraid of over kneading that I usually underkneaded and ended up with bread that just… wasn’t right. You have to knead for a good 10min.
There’s a lot of good videos out there on how to knead bread. And a lot of good websites, books like The Joy of Cooking offer great tips on kneading (actually on the whole bread process).
The best advice I heard: knead until your dough is soft like a baby’s bottom. I don’t touch a lot of babies’ bottoms, but I do know soft dough. It’ll look something like this:
Into a greased bowl, then covered with a damp towel and placed in a draft free warm area of the kitchen.
Two hours (roughly) later it has doubled:
Now get Violent! Give it a punch or two:
Do a wee more kneading, a little shaping and put it in some pans. I made two smaller loaves instead of one big loaf:
Then cover with that warm damp cloth and let them rise for another hourish, until doubled in size again…
Then preheat the oven, and stick a small pan with water in the bottom. Now I don’t know why (though I feel like I should, having taken food science classes and all) but this is supposed to help make good crust. You can also periodically spray the tops of the loaves, or butter them, or coat them in egg, all of which I am too lazy to do.
I need me a piece of that now! I think I’ll go and make myself some well earned din-din. 😉
If you have any more questions about bread making, send them my way. I am by no means an expert, but I’d say I’m fairly decent at the basic stuff. There is nothing like the smell of homemade bread in a house. Or like the taste of a fresh piece with a little buttah!