Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Baking Bread - the lazy way!

About to begin - bread making ingredients prepped and ready to go!

This is how *I* make bread using my bread machine to assist me. There are about a billion other ways, but this is my simple way. It's easy, it requires little effort on my part (good when you've got a full time job!), and it produces a nice bread that allows us to stop buying bread at the store. It's also very cheap...particulary if you can buy the flour in bulk.

First I gather the ingredients. For this basic loaf, I need yeast (in the black container), bread flour, salt, oil, warm water and oats. I also need a bowl to hold everything will I pre-heat the container with hot water.

'Bowl' of the bread machine filled with hot tap water to pre-heat it.

Because our house is so cold (from a yeast's point of view), I have had to make a few modifications to get the bread to rise in a timely manner. I start with pre-heating the mixing bowl. This is the insert to my bread machine and I fill it with hot water and let it sit while I measure out all the ingredients.

Dough being kneaded by the bread machine.

Then I dump everything into the container. If I'm using a timer (which I don't do very often), then I'll make sure that the flour and oats keep the yeast away from the water. I don't use the timer right now because by the time the dough would start mixing, my container would have cooled off and so would both the water and our house. It just doesn't work well for me in the winter.

I use the oven on its lowest setting to do the second rise if our wood stove is not in use.

I don't like the shape of the loaf I get from using the breadmachine to bake, so I use the knead/rise setting on my machine. This way, it does all the work AND it keeps the dough reasonably warm for the first rise. Then I take the dough out, shape it as necessary, cover it with a clean towel and set it in the oven or next to the wood stove (if it's in use) for an hour or so for the bread to do the second rise.

I often use a honey wheat bread recipe to make dinner rolls this way. I let the bread machine do the kneading and first rist and then I just shape the dough into balls, place them on a baking sheet to rise, and then bake them (this is what is pictured above). Then I freeze the rolls and reheat them in the toaster right before dinner.

Oatmeal bread after the second rise awaiting baking.

After the dough has risen suffiicently, then the bread goes in the oven to bake.

Oatmeal bread after smells divine!

A fully baked loaf will sound hollow if you thump the bottom of it (out of the pan). If it's not done, it's fine to put it back into the pan and continue baking. I've done this many times as I am slowly learning to adapt my bread machine recipes to oven baking.

Oatmeal bread after slicing.

Then I slice it with a serated blade and stick it in a plastic bag. If I'm going to freeze it, it's much easier to pre-slice the whole loaf.

Baking your own bread is super simple, super cheap and super delicious (most of the time)! Lucky for us, flops don't go to waste. As I'm trying to learn what works best in my cold kitchen, I have screwed up a few loaves here and there. Failed bread luckily makes awesome goat treats! They just love it and since we have no more apples or things to give them as treats, home-made bread mistakes are just the ticket!

I recently acquired two awesome bread making books. One I've pretty much finished reading and I can't wait for some free time to try some of the recipes. All of the recipes are a more traditional method (hand kneading), but it's definitely something I hope to have more time for in the future. The second book just arrived last night, so I haven't had a chance to even open it yet. I've also tried the infamous 'no knead' bread from the NY times article. It turned out fairly well...but again, my cold house makes rising a bit of an issue. I'm going to give it another shot this spring. As I branch out in my bread making adventures, I'll be sure to keep my blog up to date. Maybe if I'm consistent enough, you'll be able to smell the bread baking across the internet! ;-)


JES said...

Have you seen the Tassajara Bread Book? It's the classic book on bread making. I've just received a new copy and I'm thoroughly enjoying baking bread again!

Cat said...

Thanks, JES! Based on the reviews I just read, this is a book that I should have in my library. I added it to my Amazon wish list (my list of books I need to read or buy!).