Bread gets a bad rap these days, but I love it. My son shares my affinity for bread. For us, it is the centerpiece of the meal. Put the meat and veggies on the side.
I love to bake. I think I love it because it's wasn't confusing to learn. The measurements and instructions are so specific. It helps if you have nice tools, but even with cheap ones it's difficult to screw up chocolate chip cookies.
I love that when you're done you've created something worthy of sharing with others. It's often welcomed. A cookie can make someone's day. A birthday isn't the same without cake. There's something so comforting and rewarding about handing someone a loaf of banana bread.
But baking with yeast is hard. Yeast is tricky. It's what separates the amateur from the professional. Last week I decided I was going to try to tackle it again. I've tried it a couple of times before with varying degrees of success, but this time I was armed with a online tutorial and a Kitchen Aid mixer with a dough hook. I was actually excited the night before, thinking to myself, "Tomorrow I am going to set aside the afternoon to make bread." Yes, I am a nerd.
The water has to be a certain temperature. I added the sugar to the water and yeast. Then it's time to play the waiting game.
It's supposed to be frothy and bubbling after seven minutes. It wasn't. I waited another five minutes. It was better but still didn't look like the picture online. I decided to proceed anyway. This is often my response when things don't go exactly as they are supposed to.
I dug the dough hook attachment for my mixer out of the drawer. I did not have this tool with my previous attempts. I added the oil and flour in one cup at a time and mixed. And mixed. And mixed. I understand after watching that hook work the dough why my past attempts had been only mildly successful. I finally pulled it all out and plunked it down on my floured counter. I had to mash it a bit with my hands.
Then comes the difficult part for a person with limited patience (not naming any names). You have to wait for it to rise. This particular tutorial suggested heating the oven to 400 degrees for one minute, then turning the oven off, and putting the covered bowl in the oven to rise. This sounded ridiculous to me, but I was going to be a stickler for following directions. You have to be when you bake. It's not, "Throw a little of this in and a bit of that and then bake it at whatever temperature you like." Baking is for people who believe in rules and procedures, I think (again, not naming any names). I set the timer, to remind myself to check it.
About an hour went by. I cleaned up. My husband came home from work. We were standing around, discussing the news of the day, when the timer beeped. I pulled it out and squealed. "It rose!" He was more than a little surprised, since he didn't even know it was in the oven to begin with.
It was time to punch it down. This is actually the fun part. Then I had to separate it into two pans and let it rise again. Waiting game again.
I got more dough into one pan than the other. It's not easy to precisely halve a blob.
All that was left to do was bake it at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
It came out just in time to be eaten with the grilled chicken Caesar salad we were having for dinner.
It's funny what can make you feel accomplished. Making this bread did. I've learned not to question this feeling. I just go with it now. Several months ago I found a quote that said, "When your heart speaks, take good notes." That means more bread at my house.