I may not be ready to open my own bakery, but I can now check off another HBL item -- learn to bake bread. A couple of weekends back, I drew a deep breath and dumped the flour into my trusty stand mixer. And voila, the next day for dinner, Bate and I had homemade bread.
OK... it wasn't quite that simple or smooth. I am baking bread from the book Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day, by Jeff Hertzberg, MD, and Zoe Francois. After mixing the dough and refrigerating it overnight, I faced the first challenge. Was the chunk of bread I was holding in my hands the size of a graperfruit? It was hard to tell since the dough looked more like...well, like paste.
Next up, challenge #2, the step Hertzberg and Francois call gluten cloaking. I reread and reread that passage. It seemed pretty easy and straightforward, until I held that chunk of dough in my hands. Stretch under, quarter turn, repeat, repeat. HUH? Should be done in 30 to 60 seconds? AAGGHH!! I know it took me longer than that. Now I worried my bread would be a bust.
Then came challenge #3. The dough had to sit out for 40 to 90 minutes to rise a little more. That wasn't the hard part. The challenge was keeping Brillo from getting her nose stuck in it and Bailey from knocking it off the counter just for the fun of it.
After 60 minutes, it didn't look like my dough had risen much, if at all. I felt as deflated as that dough look. My little but loudmouthed internal editor started in. "Every other woman in the world can bake bread. What's wrong with you?"
For the first time in my life, I answered back. "It's only January. I have 11 more months to master this!" And I shoved the pasty, flat hunk of dough into the oven.
I was supposed to wait 30 minutes, but patience has never been one of my strong points. At the 15 minute mark, I flicked on the oven light, expecting to see disaster. Instead, I saw a loaf of bread taking shape. When I took the pizza stone out of the oven, nestled in the center was a round, normal looking peasant loaf.
It smelled like bread. It looked like bread. Best of all, it tasted like bread. Like I said, I may not be ready to open a bakery yet, but I am ready to tackle the next recipes in the book. Cinnamon rolls, here I come!