Recently on Facebook I mentioned something about baking bread. In response a friend asked me a bunch of questions about baking bread. Since I haven’t written about baking in a while, I figured I’d repost my response to her here. I’m not above recycling material to make blog posts. I am, however, too lazy to find the photos I originally intended to add to this post. But it’s been sitting in draft form for several days now so I’m just going to post it anyway.
Until a few years ago I’d never baked bread. Then after we were married Dom started baking occasionally. He tried a few different recipes and then settled on a sandwich loaf recipe from Cooks Illustrated as his standard bread. He worked from home for the first two years or so and it wasn’t too hard for him to squeeze it in.
Then he got a different job and began commuting every day. He still made bread on weekends but sometimes we were too busy on the weekend and he didn’t have time. We could go weeks without homemade bread. I finally got so desperate for the bread he somehow never had time to make anymore that I decided to give it a try. I’d watched him enough times that I thought I had the basic idea.
Here’s his write up of his standard bread recipe. It’s what I most often use except that I usually substitute whole wheat flour for about half of the bread flour to make it into a honey whole wheat. Often I add a couple of tablespoons of ground flax seed because I like the flavor. And sometimes I add a bit more honey and butter. Another tablespoon or so of each. This is great bread for snacking on and makes wonderful sandwiches and fabulous toast. The kids all love it and a loaf can disappear in a day.
I would love to make all the bread for our family; but I’m not quite there yet. So we usually alternate between store-bought and homemade and sometimes we don’t have bread on hand because we’re somewhere in between. So often I plan to bake but run out of time or something comes up. (Fortunately the kids like pb&j on tortillas.) The honey whole wheat recipe is great, a perfect sandwich bread and is the kids’ favorite; but it does require that I be at home for several hours together, which can be a challenge. Therefore, I’ve started experimenting with other recipes.
For my birthday this year Dom got me a great book, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. Following their recipes, you can mix up a batch of dough in a couple of minutes. Then it has to rise for two hours (you could totally go out and run errands in that amount of time) and after that you can throw it in the fridge and bake it whenever you have time. It keeps up to two weeks. When you want to bake you need to let it rise for 40 minutes and then it takes 35 minutes to bake. That’s much less time consuming than the process for a whole loaf by our standard recipe. A batch makes three small loaves or two bigger loaves of bread. I love it and think it is great bread, if not quite as fluffy as my standard loaf. The kids aren’t quite as excited about it, mainly because it is crustier; but they will eat it. Bella pulls off the crusts or makes me cut them off. Ben and Sophie sometimes eat them and sometimes don’t.