This is what bread can look like. It’s not fancy, but it’s everything I want it to be. It’s flour, water, salt and a bit of leftover dough that I had in the fridge from Monday. I can’t really say what kind of flour I used… unbleached probably, or maybe white whole wheat. I didn’t look too closely.
Yesterday afternoon, Jessica had just made brownies and cleaned the kitchen. Cooking was a good activity on a snowy day. She mentioned making bread in the bread machine. “Here, I’ll make some.” I said.
I put about five and a half cups of flour in a bowl, mixed in a tablespoon of salt.
Then I added a little old dough, hoping it hadn’t gone bad. And I added about three cups of water.
After stirring the ingredients until combined, which was less than 30 seconds, I covered the bowl lightly with plastic and forgot about it.
This morning, I saw the bowl on the counter and figured I’d better use it. I floured the counter lightly, poured out the dough, chopped a little piece off for the future, and formed the remainder into two loaves.
It didn’t really need much proofing. Proofing is when you put the loaves in a warm, moist space. Over 45 minutes or so, depending on the conditions, the loaf relaxes. It goes from being firm to bouncy, but not too bouncy, as the yeast has time to work.
Because the dough started so moist in the first place, the proofing aspect wasn’t such a big deal. I just left the bread by the stove for 20 minutes.
I set the oven to 450. When it was hot, I realized I’d forgotten to move the top rack down to the middle. So I did this, put the bread in, and threw a half cup of water into the bottom of the oven before closing the door.
After 10 minutes, I turned down the temp to 375°. The bread baked for a total of 40 minutes. It could have used an extra 10 minutes.
When bread comes out of the oven, you can tap the bottom to tell if it is done. Listen to the thud and hope for a hollow sound. Feel the vibrations as well.
I cleaned the kitchen for 10 minutes to keep busy as the bread cooled on a wire rack next to the stove.
Jessica came down to the kitchen to make breakfast of pancakes with a berry reduction. She was talking with a friend on the phone and said, “Oooh, my dad made fresh bread.” I thought she’d have some, but she proceeded to create pancakes from a box while showing a friend the Master Chef Junior apron we’d given her for Christmas in the past.
Bread makes me feel good. When I give it time, it’s transformed into something delicious and nutritious. It permeates the room. It stands on its own. A bread that has time to mature is more satiating than any meat.
I just started another batch. When I give the extra loaf to someone, I’ll suggest that it gets heated in the oven at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. This will bring out the smell, and warm bread is always fun to eat.