Thursday, June 4, 2015

bread ruminations

I've been very into bread making for the two months or so. There were two things which finally got the fire under me: one, something Jane Brocket said in an email response. She told me she was making a loaf of bread every day with her sourdough starter in order to practice her technique. The second was simply what you'd expect from any restaurant; Crescent Dragonwagon was saying that in her restaurant they had a nice assortment of rolls at all times. Before reading these, I think I was too focused on finding the perfect recipe for rye bread, which is our favorite. Afterward, I suddenly felt freed from this endless searching - I was just going to try any and all bread recipes which sounded good. And that's what I've been doing.

I'm just looking for ingredients lists, really; the directions are only a suggestion. I have my own method, which is based on Leila's (she uses her KitchenAid).  I've got an old Better Homes and Gardens bread machine cookbook from the library, which means I have to figure out what temperature the oven needs to be, and how long to bake it, but it's working!

This is what I made today -

an Italian-style bread with some whole wheat flour in it, and a bit of sage.  So, here's the recipe, and this is what I did.

Italian Whole Wheat Sage Bread  from BH&G Best Bread Machine Recipes

1 1/3 c. water
4 tsp. olive oil
2 2/3 c.  bread flour
1 1/3 c. whole wheat flour
1 T. fresh sage, crumbled
1 tsp. salt
1 1/4 tsp. yeast

I didn't follow this, exactly. I used all-purpose flour, because I wasn't using a bread machine, so didn't need to use it. I used only one teaspoon of yeast, because I like to use as little as possible, and I figure one teaspoon per loaf is usually enough. (in my opinion) Also, they said if you have only dried sage, to use 1/4 tsp, but I had the powdered, so I used only 1/8 tsp.

My method:  last night, I dissolved the yeast into the 1 1/3 c. of water - cold water. Then I put it the whole wheat flour. This is what I always do: mix the yeast with the entire amount of water, cold, and add an equal amount of flour. Whisk it till smooth, cover with a thin towel and leave it on a kitchen shelf overnight, till I'm darn good and ready to get back to it the next day.

What I do next is scoop it into the mixing bowl and add everything else. I mix it and see how things look. Today it seemed a little thick so I added two teaspoons of water - one at a time - until I was satisfied.  I then shut off the machine and left it for twenty minutes or so (not more than one hour) and then mixed it up some more. At this time it formed a nice ball, and I got it into a greased bowl, turned it over and put it in a corner with towels over it. Almost three hours later it looked good so I deflated it and got it into the greased bread pan and covered it again to proof.  It was about an hour later when I decided I'd bake it at 400 degrees, so I heated up the oven for ten minutes and put it in. I think it took forty three minutes before the loaf seemed brown enough to take out.

It's very nice, and they all are!  I like this cookbook, but I have a feeling that it doesn't matter which one I use - there are a multitude of great bread recipes out there.

There's a funny thing about these breads, too. After the first day or so leaving it out on the counter, I put the loaf in a plastic bag and into the fridge. I often forget about it in there, and I have eaten two week old (or more) bread from the fridge which has no mold on it whatsoever. No green, not even the whitish stuff. It's lovely toasted. I did hear recently that sourdough bread keeps very well. This isn't sourdough, but it's a slower rise and I wonder if that's what makes it keep so well. Anyway, I'm really having a lot of fun with this, not to mention the benefit of eating something with such a short list of ingredients. Hooray for homemade bread, made when it's convenient!


  1. OH!!! LOVE this... I've been meaning to make bread again... we are about to enter the Apostle's fast ... I really should get back to bread baking... so fun! and how fun for you! :)

    1. It's a good method, I think. And I have more to say about it - pretty soon.

  2. I once baked all the bread we ate; haven't done much baking in awhile. This sounds wonderful!

    1. Wow, Nellie - well, things change, don't they?