Honest, I do.
Cooking has NEVER been one of my skills. I don’t think my mother or grandmothers enjoyed it, though they were/are better at it than I. I KNOW there were other things that they would rather have been doing. Cooking was just a necessary thing – food as fuel.
However, I am not a complete loss in the kitchen. There is one thing I can do well – above average, even. I don’t do it often, but I do enjoy it.
You see, I can make bread. Good, wholesome, yummy, homemade-without-a-breadmaker bread.
I don’t use a recipe. I’ve been making bread for over 35 years now, so I just do it by guess and by golly! This is not a recipe post. It is, however, a step-by-step.
1. Grab your favorite bread recipe. If you’re very new at this whole bread thing, look for an easy recipe with few ingredients – flour, water, yeast, sugar, shortening/butter/oil and salt.
2. Now it’s time to gather your tools. This is my bread making equipment. The bowl is about a decade old and was actually sold as a wash basin. The sheet is from a set the Ogre purchased in 1989 and the towel was part of a wedding gift from my aunts the nuns! The pans are in varying shapes and sizes… I may use all of them… I may not.
3. Ingredients come next. I’m making whole wheat cheese bread/rolls today – because they are yummy! I’ll be using white and whole wheat flour, yeast, sugar, water, milk, vegetable oil, margarine, eggs, and grated cheese.
4. I add a tablespoon or so of sugar to warm water and stir until dissolved. Then, I mix in the yeast. This gets set aside until it’s frothy.
5. While the yeast proofs, I mix white and whole wheat flour. I grate an insane amount of cheese and mix this in as well. Mixing the cheese in with the flour ensures that it doesn’t get clumpy! I make a “well” for the liquid. I also made up a second bowl of the flours. This one will be “plain” dough… either for rolls, cinnamon pull-aparts, or somesuch.
6. This is what the yeast looks like when it’s proofed!
At this point, I add in milk, an egg or two, vegetable oil and more water to the yeast mixture and whisk it well to blend.
7. I’m not elegant about this next stage. Literally, I dump the liquid into the flour mixture and start to mix it all together with my hands. Since I’m eyeballing this whole thing, I’m sometimes off with the amount of liquid. If there’s too little, I add more water. If there’s too much, I throw in more flour. It’s not rocket science!
When it’s all combined in a nice smooth ball, I turn it out onto my well-floured counter. Now, it’s time to knead it. (I forgot to take a picture of that step!)
8. Once kneaded, I pop the ball of dough back into it’s bowl to rise for the first time.
The bowl gets covered with a towel and the sheet to protect it from drafts. This probably isn’t required, but habit dies hard!
9. The dough rises until it’s double in bulk. This can take anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour and a half, depending on weather variables and room temperature. When it’s ready, it gets “punched down” and turned out onto the counter again for kneading.
10. Now the decision making starts… Am I making loaves of bread? Rolls? Pull-aparts? Breadsticks? Whichever the choice, it’s time to shape the dough and place it on or in well greased pans to let it rise again.
I was able to make 2 large loaves, 1 medium loaf, 5 dozen medium rolls and 6 almost-burger-size rolls out of the batches tonight.
11. This second “rising’ can take 20 minutes or an hour. Again, it’s climate driven. A warmer kitchen = faster rising. Cool kitchen = slower rising. Drafts = kiss of death to bread.
Regardless, when it’s risen sufficiently, it gets popped into a preheated oven. I bake my bread at 350 degrees F. ( I have no idea what that is in Celcius, I’m afraid).
12. When the kitchen smells right, I check to see if the bread or rolls are cooked. I’m looking for a golden top and bottom. Another trick is to pop a loaf out of the pan and tap it. If there’s a hollow-y (totally a word, folks) sound, the bread is done. If not, it can be popped right back into the oven for another few minutes.
13. Now that it’s out of the oven, I tumble it out onto a towel and brush it with margarine. (You could use butter or shortening.) The sheet covers it again to keep some of the steam and heat in. This gives you a softer crust. For a crunchy crust, just leave it in the open air.
14. The last step is the best! Cut, spread with the topping of your choice and enjoy! Mmmmm…. bread. My breakfast will be toasted cheese bread with cinnamon apple spread!
The Ogre, however, has less restraint! Here’s his midnight snack.
So, I do kiss better than I cook. But I probably make bread better than I kiss. I haven’t had the courage to ask the Ogre – mostly because I’m not sure I want the answer!
I’d really love to see your comments on the projects I do and the ideas I have. I learn more from critiques than praise, but, honestly, I adore praise (and who doesn’t?).
Thanks for stopping by.