Wanted: Bread or Alive

(I will never apologize for my puns, I’m too proud of them, you’re welcome)

I will however, apologize for not having posted in two weeks! Getting back into the swing of things has been a bit of a struggle. I found myself missing the relaxed pace of the holidays, and decided that I needed a project to get myself excited about this new year.

While I have mixed feelings about new year’s resolutions, I did make a goal for myself for this year to master, or perhaps more realistically, get more practice with bread making. I love homemade bread SO MUCH, but somehow I’ve gotten the idea in my head that making bread is this big song and dance, and no way can I possibly make it, or if I could, it wouldn’t be very good, etc.

But no! This is a new year! We’ve travelled all the way around the sun once again! The possibilities are endless!

Therefore, I will be trying out a series of so-called “easy” or “foolproof” bread recipes, putting them, and my skills to the test, and hopefully learning a thing or two along the way.

To start, I decided to make Chef Michael Smith’s “Heritage Bread”. He goes on and on about how easy it is, how he makes this everyday for his family, and how you’ll wonder why you never made bread before that. I was drawn to this one, not because of his idyllic description of homemade bread every morning (although, let’s be honest, that’s how you know you’ve made it right?), but because of the fact that you quite literally, just mix the ingredients, let them sit overnight, and then pop it in a pan in the morning and bake it. That’s it. No complicated proofing of yeast, just that.

I followed his directions to the T, even mixing the dough with the handle of a wooden spoon (does that actually make a difference? Does anyone know?) but the dough remained exceptionally moist. I could (with some significant effort) form it into something of a ball shape, but after a minute or so, it had settled back down in the bowl into what I can only describe as a thick puddle. I tried adding more flour, but he did say it would be a very high-moisture dough in the book, so I didn’t add as much as I might have liked. Feeling mildly skeptical, but still hopeful, I covered the bowl with plastic wrap, tucking in my gloopy mess for the night.

Lo and behold, the next morning it had doubled in size, as promised…but it had yet to firm up. I transferred it into the loaf pan (really I poured it) and after one more quick rise, into the oven it went. Forty five minutes later…I had bread! Real loafy-looking bread! The smell in the apartment was fantastic, richly yeasty and toasty, making it pure torture to have to wait for the bread to cool before I could finally cut a slice.

That first day, my friend and I dined like royalty. There is very little in this world I believe, so good as fresh bread dipped in olive oil and balsamic vinegar. We stood over the counter, laughing and tearing into the slices (which, I confess, were still warm. I couldn’t wait any longer, and I regret nothing). It was heaven.

The next day however… it was still good (she said hesitantly) but the lovely crackly crust that seemed so baguette-y (yes that’s an adjective, I decided it) was now rather chewy. The inner layer (which I can never remember the name for…it’s just the not crust part, you know what I mean) was deliciously nutty, but it was hard to enjoy when you found your jaw getting tired after one bite.

I made a revolutionary discovery on the third day. Toast! This bread, past the first day, is made for toast. It brought the crust back from the dead, killed the bad chewiness and allowed you to enjoy it all over again!

Flavour: yeasty and nutty

Crust: Very thick and crackly, chewy past the first day

Crumb: fairly dense, small-medium bubbles formed

Texture: nicely chewy, slightly spongy past first day

Great for: toast and oil and vinegar

Overall, I rate this bread a 7.5 out of 10.

(I was going to make a yeast joke, because I was afraid that without one, this post would fall flat.)

Makes 1 loaf

Ingredients

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 heaping tsp active dry yeast (not the instant kind)
  • 2 1/4 cups warm water

Directions

  1. Whisk together the flours, oats, salt and yeast in a large bowl.
  2. Measure in the water, and combine by stirring with the handle of a wooden spoon, thoroughly until a dough forms. Continue stirring until all the flour is gathered up into an evenly mixed ball (Okay, so this never happened for me, as I said, but add some more flour if it seems really wet)
  3. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, then let rest overnight on the kitchen counter (for 8-12 hours or so, until it’s doubled in size)
  4. The following morning, preheat the oven to 425 F.
  5. Lightly oil a large loaf pan (I used a 9×5 pan, that seemed to work well)
  6. Uncover the dough and dust with flour. Gently gather it up, flip it over, and transfer it to the loaf pan, making sure the dough gets tucked into the corners of the pan nicely.
  7. Let the dough rise in the pan, uncovered for an hour or two, until it’s risen above the rim of the pan (it might not get that high, but it should more or less double.)
  8. Bake for exactly 45 minutes.
  9. Remove from pan immediately to cool on a rack (This is crucial! It’ll get a soggy bottom otherwise)
  10. Wait for the bread to cool almost fully, then tuck in!
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