Today I tackled one of my most intimidating challenges yet.
I have said before that I am not a baker. Really, I do my best work on top of the stove, and generally the area inside the oven is a scary place for me. I do a few things well, like pizza (with store-bought crust), scones (from scratch), and the occasional batch of cookies. Recently I’ve added to my repertoire: granola, oatmeal breakfast cookies, and brown rice pizza crust. I’ve had more than my share of burnt cookies, drippy frosting, and leaning towers of cake. I have even given up halfway through a recipe because it seemed that success just wasn’t in the stars that day.
The main reason I have so many baking disaster stories is that. . . I keep trying. After all the sticky dough, crumbly muffins, and icing explosions, I still try new recipes in an attempt to learn a skill that doesn’t come naturally to me. I flour the counter and fire up the hand mixer, knowing that the chances are far greater that I will be fanning the smoke detector than creating a masterpiece. That’s okay, because it makes me enjoy the surprising successes even more.
So it came about that I felt a strong urge to conquer one of my greatest baking fears: yeast. I have had so many issues with getting bread dough to the right consistency and to rise properly that I was almost ready to give up on yeast entirely, and resign myself to a life of quick breads only. I don’t know what got into me this weekend but I decided I was going to go for it one. more. time.
I found a fantastic recipe here, courtesy of Budget Bytes. I made my dough exactly as Beth describes in her post, placed it in an oiled bowl, covered it, and let it rise for about an hour. While the dough was rising, I ran out to the store to get a new pan. I read somewhere that a baking tin is better for making bread than the standard non-stick loaf pans that I have in my pantry. Whether that claim is true or not, this tin made me feel like I knew what I was doing.
Next, I sprayed the tin with olive oil, patted down and kneaded the dough and formed it into a loaf that fit inside the tin. By the way, this tin is 12″ long and about 4″ wide. I think it’s about 4 inches tall too.
I covered the pan and let the dough rise a second time, for about 45 minutes. When I uncovered the pan it looked like this.
Looking good, no? I was so happy that so far it was working. The hard part was over and now all I had to do was pop it in the oven for 35 minutes at 425 degrees F. I might have let it get a little too crispy, but I was still very pleased with the end result.
A beautiful loaf of sandwich bread!
This bread is dense enough to slice thinly and still hold up to sandwich ingredients, but soft enough to enjoy alone. The outside has a nice crisp crust and the inside has a very fine crumb. And the taste. . . the taste! It has that nutty graininess that you get from whole wheat flour, with just a hint of sweetness from the honey. The yeast is more pronounced in this loaf than in the store-bought pre-packaged and pre-sliced varieties. If I could be attentive to the process for 4 hours one day a week, I might never buy bread again.
So today’s lesson, kids, is about perseverance. You have to burn a lot of rolls before you find your honey wheat sandwich bread, but it’s out there and you will find it someday. The one recipe that breaks down barriers in the kitchen: for me it’s bread, for you it might be barbecue. The point is if I (Smokey the Baker) can do it, so can you!
Have a successful week!