Although my last attempt ended in utter failure, I decided to put aside my fear and give bread baking another chance. I also wanted to take my newly acquired KitchenAid Stand Mixer in Komen pink for a little spin, and I thought making bread would be a perfect way to welcome the arrival of the newest member of the kitchen family (I think she and the lime green Le Cruset pot will get along well).
I used a recipe I found on the Food Network site to make a white bread loaf. (click here for the recipe). I decided to go with this recipe instead of using the baking books I have because of the success rate I’ve had with recipes that came from Food Network Kitchens. All their recipes are very simple to follow and I’ve been quite satisfied with the outcome. Let’s just hope that this will provide a similar result. (Oh, and please note that this post is not an instruction on baking bread … it’s merely a documentation of my first attempt of a potentially-disasterous bread baking endeavor.)
Yeasts scared me a bit at first. First off, they stunk like a mo-fo, and second, they were … alive (ewwww)! I knew all these but watching them grow and get foamy in front of my eyes was … well … interesting, at best, and yes, pretty unappetizing, at worst. But I quickly developed a special attachment to these hard-working cooties, and I found myself talking to them during the course of the proofing process (“come on, guys, get frothy and make me proud”). What you see here is a mixture of warm milk, melted butter and sugar, with a packet of yeast sprinkled on the surface of the liquid. This was added to the flour and salt, and got massaged in the mixer for few minutes.
When the dough came out of the mixer, it was bouncy and sticky, but after kneading for about 10 minutes, it firmed up and becomes tough. This was strange for me because cakes and cookies discourage you from mixing too much but I guess it’s encouraged to knead continuously for breads. (Even though I was slightly sore afterward, I really enjoyed the kneading process. Seriously, who needs to go to a gym when you can work on your upper body like this?)
When I finished kneading, I put the dough in an oiled bowl and let it multiply in size (it took me 1-1/2 hours). I used extra virgin olive oil to grease the bowl. Some recipes discourage the use of olive oil because the flavor is strong, but I did it anyway.
Well, the next step got me confused. The recipe didn’t call for more kneading at this stage but every other white bread recipe did. So I decided to go with my gut feeling and kneaded some more.
I placed the dough in a baking pan, and let it sit again until it enlarged in size. This took about 1-1/2 hours. I took the dough out, kneaded a bit more, and put it back in the pan for baking.
Drum rolls, please! Ta daaaa … here’s my baby fresh out of the oven.
Okay, okay, please don’t laugh. I realize that the dough turned out a little funky in shape and it pretty much exploded on top, but I was happy with how my baby turned out. As for the flavor … well, let’s just say that it was exactly what I had expected for my first attempt — not better, not worse. I certainly would not call it the best bread I’ve ever tasted but it was still edible. It’s actually quite tasty when toasted with a little drizzle of honey!
I was most impressed with the way the crust caramelized perfectly at the bottom. Although very subtle, I can taste the sweetness of the butter, milk and sugar in the backdrop. The crusty sound it made when slicing the loaf was a real music to my ears. And don’t get me started on the heavenly aroma that filled the entire house!
The main concern I had was that the inside turned out a bit too dense. It was lacking that certain lovely airy-ness that comes from a perfectly baked loaf. I need to figure out if this was a kneading issue (do I need to do more or less?) or a fermentation of yeasts. Boy, bread making is an endless process, isnt’ it?
This was my first attempt but I know that I’ll be back for more. And I’m really excited to explore the world of bread baking!