A couple weeks ago I decided to try my hand at baking bread. When I was much, much younger we were gifted a bread machine, but as young people we only used it once or twice and that was about it. I saw some pics on the twitter feed of Wil Wheaton of some of the bread he’s been making and it got me inspired to give it a go myself.
I decided to go with a very simple white bread recipe, until I get better at feeling how the dough should behave. The recipe I used was very simple and apart from the yeast, contained ingredients I already had at hand. One of the benefits of being a beer brewer is that I know how yeast is supposed to behave and smell. So I knew right away when I re-hydrated the packet of bread yeast that it was exactly the way it should be. It smelled like yeast, and looked like yeast, so therefore, it was yeast.
I got everything mixed together, and then my wife reminded me that when bread recipes call for flour I shouldn’t be packing the scoop tightly. I ended up only using about 1/2-2/3 of the flour the recipe called for because of this. I got the dough kneaded and then left it to rise, hoping I had everything done right. Sure enough a couple hours later it was ready to be punched down and formed into the loaves. I made a traditional loaf in a loaf pan, and then a round loaf on a cookie sheet. A few hours later and they came out of the oven, perfect as could be.
We brought some over to a gathering (with some compound butter my wife made), and within a few days the bread was all gone. I decided to try again this week and since my wife was making a stew that goes over bread really nicely, opted to make some small dollar buns with half of the dough. I also decided to give my stand mixer a try with it’s bread hook. This worked OK, but I feel that until I have a better handle on how it all should “feel” I should probably stick to mixing by hand.
I got everything formed and baked, but things didn’t come out perfectly. Because I was trying to create small dollar loaves I ended up severely over-kneading the dough and ended up with some weird textures on the top of the buns. They also tasted a little too flour-y, and had more of a dumpling character to them. However, the simple round loaf I made with the rest of the dough turned out much better. Maybe a bit too much flour, but not too bad.
I’ve really enjoyed making bread, and I’m anxious to try a third batch to make sure I’m feeling comfortable with the techniques before branching out into other creative styles. I’m considering some soda bread or potentially a sourdough with some homegrown yeast.