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Monday, April 12, 2010

Five Minute Bread

One of the wonderful things about my mom's forum is the amazing women who push my domestic limits.  One such friend recently introduced me to homemade artisan bread.

In a word...heavenly.

Tara assured me that anyone, even a non-baker, can bake bread following the simple instructions laid out in her handy dandy book.  In turn, I assured her that I'm not a baker.  Who can forget the Chocolate Chip Cookies of 2006 where I doubled the butter but forgot to double everything else?  Or the Great Breadstick Fiasco of 2001 which resulted in breadsticks that resembled drumsticks in size, shape, texture and taste?  Or even more recently, Broken Pie.

But I was intrigued.  Could it really be as easy as Tara said?  She loaned me the book - a collection of beautifully simple recipes encased in a colorful cover illustrating perfect artisan bread.  It temptingly teased as it sat on my counter.  It begged me to try to bake bread.  To clear my mind of past baking disasters.  To reaquaint myself with a task my ancestors did on an almost daily basis.  To delve into an craft that brought together yeast and flour instead of thread and felt.

It also looked really yummy.

So, yesterday, with my chores mostly finished, I opened the book and began to bake bread.

And, because I thought it best to document this historic process, I took pictures.  Lots and lots of pictures.

The most important first step is to have a good sous chef.  Joseph, my normal partner-in-culinary-crime was taking a nap, so I drafted Elizabeth.  She was more than happy to help Mommy out.

After we established that all the enthusaism in the world wouldn't help her read the recipe, I took control of the book while she looked on, measuring spoon in hand.

We heated water to 100*.  The book actually said "lukewarm, slightly above body temperature. About 100*."  I couldn't take any chances, so I enlisted the help of my candy thermometer.  Not sure how much it helped considering 100 was the lowest setting it had.

We poured the water into a large bowl, following it with yeast, salt and flour.  That's it.  The small ingredient list was encouraging.

I stirred the dough until all the dry ingredients were incorporated into an ooey-gooey mess.  I looked at the picture in the book and then back at my dough.  The picture.  My dough.  Still a bit unsure, I posted a question on Facebook for Tara.  She and fellow Domestic Goddess Sarah assured me I was on the right track.

And here's a picture of Yeast and Flour hanging out with Bread Dough.  They're so excited to have made a bread baby.

After two hours, I popped my bowl in the fridge to hang out overnight.  Now, apparently, at this point I actually could have baked bread, but I wasn't taking any chances.

This morning, as Chad got ready for work, I opened my bowl and began the actual baking portion of this enterprise.  I sprinkled flour on top my dough and then grabbed a grapefruit size ball to shape.

Here's my problem with that.  How big is a grapefruit?  Are they talking about those huge monsters you can find on trees or are they talking slightly larger than an orange.  Fruit size is so inconsistent.

Then came the "hard" part.  I had to shape the dough in 30-60 seconds.  This was a bit stressful.  Overthinking it, as usual, I couldn't help but compare my lumpy mess to the beautiful dough ball pictured in the book.  Mentally shrugging, I did the best I could.
I made two loaves.  The first was just a bit...odd looking.  The second?  Even more odd.  Hoping that everything would work itself out, I started preheating the oven.

Forty minutes later, I cut an "x" on my loaves, put them on a hot pizza stone and closed the oven door.  The smell of baking bread permeated the house while Joseph and I set about our morning activities.  My little sous chef decided it was all too much for her and took a nap.

After 30 minutes in the oven, I took out golden, crusty loaves of bread.  The crust was chewy, the inside soft.  One of the loaves was a bit...dense...but I think that was from overworking the dough.  Overall, it was actually fairly easy and low work.  I can't wait to try again tomorrow. In the meantime, Joseph is devouring the first loaf and I'm taking the second to a beach picnic to share with friends.

I might just turn into a baker yet.

Mandy Dawson is a mom and wife living on the beautiful Central Coast of California.  She shares her forays into the world of children, crafting and gardening on her blog She's a member of SLOCountyMommies where she's met many like minded women who encourage her domestic addictions while supporting her domestic failures.

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