Monday, August 27, 2012

Baking bread from scratch

One of my favorite things to do is bake bread from scratch.  I love the smell of fresh baked bread and the feeling of accomplishment that I get when it comes out of the oven.  I've been baking bread off and on for the last fifteen years.  Baking (bread or any other treat) is one of my most consistent hobbies.  

The bread that I make is usually a simple white bread with just a few ingredients.  The awesome thing about this bread is that it can be jazzed up in a pinch by kneading in some fresh apples or by sprinkling cinnamon on the dough during the loaf making stage.

When we lived in Arizona, I used a bread machine to make my bread.  The bread machine was great because I could set it up and come home to tasty goodness.  Also, it didn't cause me to heat up my whole apartment with the oven.  Since moving to Michigan, I haven't used the bread maker as much and have come to prefer making the bread by hand (or really Kitchen Aid mixer) for two reasons.  First, the humidity in Michigan is much more variable then in Arizona.  Humidity does weird things to baking in that the amounts of flour needed for most baked goods fluctuate on any given day.  For bread, this means that I have to be present when the dough is formed because the dough might end up too sticky or too dry if I'm not there to monitor it.  This wasn't the case before.  The other reason I haven't used the bread maker as much is due to the size of our kitchen.  It takes up my entire counter, making it pretty hard to do anything else in the kitchen during the four hour bake cycle.  I think the bread maker is on it's way to being "decluttered."

For me, the most important part of baking a successful loaf of bread is respect for the yeast.  If you treat the yeast well, it will treat you well.  However, if you are mean to the yeast, bad things will happen to your bread.  Yeast is not very forgiving.  I try to keep this in mind when I'm warming the mixing bowl since the yeast likes a nice warm room to do its business, when I'm preparing the butter-sugar mixture because the yeast likes warm, yummy food, and when I stick the yeast in the oven (not turned on) because the yeast likes to work in a cat-hair free, warm environment.  As you can see, yeast is a finicky substance.  I haven't gone as far as talking to the yeast, but if I thought it would help the process I would.  Like I said, respect the yeast.

I think my next bread project will be to explore different types of breads.  Hubby likes pumpernickel, so that will be my next bread adventure.  Stay tuned!

**Update 8/27/2012**  I wrote this post a few days before SuddenlySusan came to visit and after chatting with her, the bread maker was indeed decluttered.  I hope that someone enjoys every future loaf that comes out of it.  

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