Here are my notes from the bread I made last weekend. It had been a
long time since I’ve baked bread so I wanted to start with something
simple and small. Why not King Arthur Flour’s White Sandwich
Bread? The recipe looked simple and it only makes one loaf so
there would be less waste if it didn’t turn out.
As I don’t have a stand mixer or food processor I did a bit of
research on manual ways of mixing and kneading bread. some_other_word pointed me to the Fountain Method and
it sounds very promising. I didn’t use it this time as the quantity
of dough fit nicely in my work bowl with plenty of room to mix things
around. When I make more than one loaf I’ll use the Fountain Method
because I will have a very full work bowl.
I have, and highly recommend, Alton Brown’s book “I’m Just Here
for More Food: Food x Mixing + Heat = Baking”. One of the things
I love about Alton is he explains the reason behind his directions.
Knowing why I’m stirring the dough only 10 times and then walking away
was a big help when I made muffins. So I read his chapter on bread
the night before which gave tips like using filtered or bottled water
to keep chlorine out of the dough. Alton also recommends letting the
dough rest for 30 minutes between mixing and kneading. This phase,
known as autolyse, allows the flour to absorb the liquid and the
gluten time to develop. I used to think I would have problem with the
dough rising because of the cooler temperatures. I read in Alton’s
book, and other places, about a slow cool rise giving the dough more
chances to develop flavor.
After reading my books and some baking websites it was off to buy the
ingredients. I didn’t know it at the time but that was when I made my
major “mistake” for this whole adventure. I was supposed to buy
Unbleached All Purpose Flour and instead I picked up White
Whole Wheat Flour. Also, the store didn’t have the instant
yeast I wanted but “active dry” yeast just needs a bit of blooming
before use so it wasn’t a problem.
To start I weighed out the flour and measured the other dry
ingredients into my work bowl. Yes, I weighed the flour. Alton Brown
has convinced me that flour should always be weighed. Depending on
how packed it is the quantity of flour in one cup can vary greatly.
Weighing is the only way to be accurate. Next I bloomed the yeast and
when it was ready mixed it all together. Covering the bowl with a
towel I let it sit for 30 minutes.
The next step was the kneading and the one I had the least confidence
about. Using the guidelines in AB’s book I kneaded until the dough
was smooth and sprang back from a light poke. I’d still like to take
a bread baking class to get some more experience and skill with
knowing how much kneading is needed. I kneaded it enough based on the
The first rise was supposed to take one to two hours. Although both
AB and the King Arthur recipe say the important thing is to wait until
the dough doubles in size. So I actually gave the dough three hours
and it was nice and puffy. Instead of “punching” the dough I followed
Alton’s directions and gently flattened it and folded it on itself
three times. Then I molded the dough into a loaf shape and placed it
in the pan.
Time to wait again. This rise was supposed to take an hour but after
two the bread was cresting the top of the pan. I just couldn’t wait
any longer and so sent it off to the oven to bake. It was supposed to
bake for 35 minutes and that was my second mistake of the night. You
see when I placed the pan in the oven I burned my hand on the side of
it. (Note to self, move the racks in the oven.) In the hopping
around and looking for something cool to put on my hand I forgot to
start the timer. So the bread probably baked longer than it needed too.
After the bread cooled on the rack I sliced a few pieces for hollyqueen and I to try. At this point I discovered my first
mistake. The bread was darker than I expected. Half-way between
white and whole wheat. Very tasty though. Oh very tasty. In the
pictures the loaf looks heavy and dense, but it really isn’t. It has
more body than white but it’s light and tasty. Takes butter with ease
and has been a good bit of my breakfast the past few days.
Next time I’ll keep these things in mind. First, start earlier in the
day. “Room temperature” here is cooler than most places so it will
take longer for the dough to rise. Buy the right kind of flour for
your recipe. This is a happy accident I’ll make again, but this isn’t
white bread. Use a timer and watch the sides of the oven so I don’t
burn the bread or my hand. Bribe someone with fresh bread to take
pictures and document the process. I took a few pictures with
my mobile phone, but I wish I had more pictures with better quality.
I consider this baking adventure a great success. As I was once told
“Any landing you can walk away from is a good landing,” I think that
any baking that results in a fresh loaf of tasty bread is a good