Sunday, February 23, 2014

Bread Baking Day

Once a week, I make a couple loaves of bread.  Two smallish loaves are plenty of bread to keep me in toast and the occasional grilled sandwich during the week, and I love the smell of fresh bread, hot from the oven.  While it is a little work to knead it, and it takes time to allow the dough to rise and the yeast to work its magic, I feel it is time well spent.
Smallish hand-shaped loaves, proofing to perfection.
I have, in the past, kept a batch of dough in the fridge (a la Bread in Five Minutes A Day method).  It worked okay, although I found being a household of one sometimes the bread would get condensation or turn an odd color/smell before I could use it all.  And then I was left with scraping out smelly, gooey dough and tossing it...well, the worms liked it, but no one else could eat it.  After a few attempts at this, I decided it was just better for me to make a two-loaf sized batch of bread once a week, and call it good.  One loaf stays out on the counter, while the other is wrapped and popped into the freezer until it is called into action.

My dough mixture is usually some version of a peasant style bread: a few different flours mixed together with salt, all rising with a yeast-honey-warm water starter.  I don't really measure any more, as I've figured out by eyeballing how much water and honey to start with (I always add three teaspoons of yeast, though), and the amount of flour varies by how humid it might be in the house.  I've mastered the trick of kneading in the final bit of flour, so you wind up with a sticky but not too wet nor too dry loaf that rises to perfection.
After baking, two perfect oval loaves for the week.
The latest loaf used all-purpose, dark rye, and whole wheat flours, with a handful of rolled oats kneaded into it.  Sometimes I'll add herbs, like dill or dried lovage leaves, or even a bit of dried winter savory.  But mostly, I like my bread to be "plain", so it can serve as a vehicle for butter and jam at breakfast, or a more savory salsa-esque bruchetta topping at dinner time.  It's also perfect for eating a fried egg breakfast while driving off to work on a weekday morning.

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