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Baking bread

January 6, 2011 - Kathie Evanoff
Bread baking

This weekend I’ll be baking bread.

I’m a bread-baker from way back. When I was first married, I remembered the fragrance, not to mention the warm fuzzy feeling from my childhood when the steam escapes and the scent fills the air after cutting into loaves still warm from the oven. My mother often made homemade bread, and while by the time she was a homemaker in the 1950s, commercial sliced bread was the thing to buy, once in a while she still got the urge to make it by hand.

Whether the bread-baking urge is hereditary or whether I just wanted to emulate that nostalgic feeling, one of the first things I attempted as a young homemaker myself was homemade bread.

There is nothing more satisfying than working with soft, yeast dough. It never ceases to amaze me when a small mound of dough becomes a huge mound in an hour or so simply through the power of yeast. I love forming the loaves, or rolling the dough out into ropes and making braids. I’ve made dinner rolls in all shapes and sizes, baguettes and fat round loaves. I’ve made pizza crust and doughnuts.

Even so, I’ve never made real artisan bread, ciabatta, foccacia or brioche. And then for Christmas, my son gave me a copy of “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home

Baking” by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois. This book is said to revolutionize the art of bread-baking. I can’t say it will, but it certainly has left an impression on several bread-bakers, besides myself.

According the book, all you need to do is whip up a batch of bread dough and store it in the refrigerator for a week or more if needed. When needed, you only have to pull off a hunk of dough, form it into your loaf, let it rise for 20 minutes and bake it. The five minutes is the actual time you spend handling the dough. It does take longer for the dough to rise and bake, but according to this book, fresh bread doesn’t have to take hours and hours to achieve.

Not only that, but depending on how you handle the ingredients and the baking, you can have all the types of artisan breads you want.

I’ve only just perused the book so far but the difference I see is that the dough is a little wetter than my normal recipe. The high moisture, according to the authors, not only gives the bread a longer shelf-life, but doesn’t require the hours of rising as does plain bread dough.

There is no need to “proof” the yeast in advance, according to the book’s authors, nor is it necessary to knead the dough, a step I would have never eliminated as I was taught kneading the dough was necessary for gluten to be activated.

This weekend, I’ll be baking bread. I expect my kitchen to be filled with wonderful scents. I am hoping to hear the crunchy, crumbling sound a good bread makes when I cut into it and I fully expect to get that pleasure of true comfort food when I slather it with butter or jam to have with my afternoon tea.

Wish me luck.


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