To understand my breathless excitement when baking an edible loaf of bread, one must understand my psyche. I am overcoming my ingrained inclination to not prepare for anything, get in over my head, muck it up terribly, and then through slick maneuvering and omission, deflect the blame from where it rightly should be: square on my shoulders.
This 'it' might be ambitious sewing projects with myriad fabric purchased and cut, maybe professional quick sand situations, or even planning a 100' x 100' garden (lets hope not because that is coming soon to a homestead near you).
Anyhow, I am trying to take on things that interest me and feel right, read and seek the knowledge of friends and acquaintances, plan the project with realistic expectations, and then keep working through the project once I am committed. This is an area I want to feel authentic in. I need to know that I am accomplishing things through my own commitment and labor, and that with successes I also admit my failures and learn from them.
So with all of that in mind... I was expecting another bread hockey puck disaster. I gleaned multiple recipes looking for common threads and tailoring my final recipe to my family — simple, wholesome and tasty it had to be. I had organic unbleached white flour from the Moscow Idaho Food Co-op bulk section, tomorrow when we go to the co-op I will look for a whole wheat pastry flour for a finer texture. I will also cut the salt by half.
Add 1/2 cup boiling non chlorinated water to 1 1/2 cups cold water. Stir in 1 Tbsp. sugar and 2 tsp. of active yeast. Leave for 10-15 minutes until its a little frothy looking. In the meantime mix 4 cups unbleached pastry flour (don't use all whole wheat-no gluten for the rise) with 2 tsp. sea salt (I will go to 1 tsp in the future.)
Add the water to the flour mixture and stir to combine. Cover with a warm damp clean dish towel and set the bowl near some heat. Mine was happy by the woodstove. Leave for at least an hour, up to two is best.
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. I buttered a 1liter pyrex bowl and a pyrex loaf pan, you can do one 2 liter bowl or two smaller bowls. The bread should basically fill the vessel.
Use 2 short tined forks to punch the dough down, it will be sticky. Go around the perimeter of the original bowl punching the dough down and folding it onto itself towards the center of the bowl. If you are going to bake two loaves, use the forks to separate the dough right down the center. Flop the dough lump(s) into the buttered vessels.
Put the dough back to its happy warm spot and cover for a second 15-30 minute rise. It should end up within a half inch of the baking vessel top, over or under.
Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes, crank the heat down to 375 and bake another 15-20 minutes. Dump onto a cooling rack and hold yourself back for about 15 minutes before slicing.
This is pretty darn simple, easy on the kneading muscles too. I think you should experiment with different flours and vessels. I would like to incorporate molasses and oats and do maybe a muffin tin for great soup rolls. I will keep you updated.
Try not to tear up as your bread actually goes as planned, makes your house smell like Martha's, and comes out of the oven ACTUALLY LOOKING LIKE BREAD! Hallalujah! It even tastes great!
Enjoy your delicious success and whatever it means to you to honestly master a skill, with butter.
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