Friday, November 29, 2013

Knead until smooth and elastic

In the past I have always been in a hurry during the bread making process, just get it done!  That may be why I haven't made any in a loooong time.  I even tried to use my Kitchen aide mixer that is supposed to do a really good job of mixing, but since I was inexperienced with this method, I did not know when the dough was kneaded enough!  I tried using bread machines and while I enjoyed the bread, I was put off by the shape of the loaf. (I know silly right!?)  I also missed being part of the whole bread making process.  I even bought a grain mill and grain, thinking that using the freshly ground flour would make all the difference in the finished loaf.  Not surprisingly it didn't make any difference at all!  My loaves were dry and barely loafed shape at all!

Fast forward a decade or so, and I found myself on a special assignment for an unknown amount of time.   My duties on this mission were quite straight forward:

3 meals a day + snacks for a team of 4
laundry 3 X a week
and basic housekeeping

When I began this mission, I was sure I could keep up with the housekeeping and the laundry, but I was unsure whether I could step back in time, and cook like I did back in the day!  When my 4 children were small, I had no choice in the matter, if I didn't make it we didn't eat!  Now that Dear One and I are empty nesters, we take a much more relaxed approach to cooking.  We rotate between our 7 or 8 favorites, and are rarely home for lunch.

For the first week or 2 while I was getting my act together, we bought bread in the neighborhood, I was happy to leave that job to the local bakers.  In the meantime, I tried my hand at scones, which after a couple of tries, were a success!  I made Zucchini bread, and when I ran out of zucchini, I substituted grated apple, and added more cinnamon, which was fantastic!  With those successes under my belt, I tried an old family favorite, cinnamon rolls, which were also well received.

Well it is a small step from cinnamon rolls to a loaf of bread.  I did a bunch of looking at recipes on the different cooking sites, and I chose a whole wheat bread recipe for one loaf, mostly because I only had one loaf pan, and we didn't have much storage.

I gathered the ingredients together and realized that for the second time that week we had purchased something besides whole wheat flour.  ( We were in another country!)  I looked around to see what I did have, because I did not want to do plain white bread.  I did have some left over oatmeal that needed to be used.  After a quick calculation I spooned half of it into the proofing yeast mixture.  I left it to proof a little while longer, then I started to add the white flour, a little at a time, stirring really well after each addition.   I would even let it rest before adding the next spoonful, usually distracted by some other task that needed my attention, but also because I wasn't exactly sure how much flour it would need.

Finally, the dough was formed enough for me to knead.  Again, I took my time with it.  Letting it rest now and again, trying not to use all the flour called for in the recipe.  During the first rising, I tried to ignore it as much as possible until it was doubled in size.  I punched that puppy down and kneaded it a few strokes to get  all the air bubbles out.  It was then that I felt the truly elastic nature of the dough....I was thrilled!  Have I always been in such a hurry to get it done that I ended up with a brick instead of bread!  (Maybe I was always adding too much flour, or not allowing sufficient rising time, but more often than not it was a disappointing loaf!)

 I formed the dough into a loaf and left it to rise until it was well over the top of the pan, then into the preheated oven it went.  I baked that loaf until I could see that the sides and the bottom of the loaf were brown through the glass pan.  It took a long time!  In the end I had a loaf of bread that was well shaped, moist and chewy with a crisp crust!  The bread was so moist that it takes twice through the toaster to toast!  One loaf lasted us 2 days, since that is what we had for breakfast every day, so I got a lot of proactice in slow relaxed bread making. 

I wonder how many other things I rush through in a hurry to "get it done", only to settle for less than what It could be!  Not going for perfection by any stretch of the imagination, but something that would please my sense of accomplishment more.

Sewing comes to mind!!!!  Hmmmmmm

It is good to be back home, Happy Weaving and Spinning, Tina


LA said...

Nothing makes the house smell better than home baked bread!!! I'm glad you got the kinks worked out of your process.

Maggie said...

And yet, you do not describe the luscious knitting photo?