It is no secret amongst my family that bread has never exactly been my strong suit in the kitchen. My uncle likes to recall a particular thanksgiving at which I made the rolls; the term hockey pucks was a teasing (albeit accurate) description of my results. This being said, I am never one to back down from a challenge, and I proclaimed earlier this summer that this would be the fall that I finally “conquer bread.” (Me competitive? Never.) So here I am, starting with the beginners recipe of Basic White Bread.
Luckily James Beard was aware that not all who attempt his collection of recipes have winning records and, with this in mind, his first recipe in Beard on Bread details every move I need to make in order to successfully create. Honestly, this recipe is about 5 pages long, not including the notes on variations and disastrous results at the end. Because I have some experience in the kitchen, I feel confident in my first attempt; because I’m pretty sure that yeast can smell over confidence like a dog can smell fear, this is possibly going to blow up in my face.
First Rising : I have currently gotten my bread through the first stage, and it sits in a warm stable place going through its first rise. I have a bread proofing button on my new oven, but I’m scared to use it. I got flour all over the place and I’m pretty sure there’s going to be dough under my finger nails for a week. I had planned to take pictures of my process, however I underestimated the amount of goo I would have on my hands at any given moment and failed at that endeavor (seriously, so. much. sticky. dough). I’ll need to call for back up in the future.
Second Rising : I now wait while my bread undergoes its second and final rising in the baking pans. So far so good, at least as much as I can tell. The final verdict will come after the baking and it’s determined whether or not anyone wants to actually consume the loaves I’ve created. I’m making two smaller loaves, rather than one big one, so that I may test out variations in slashing and coating the dough (exciting stuff, I know).
Turns out that waiting to see if your dough rises properly the second time is very nerve-wracking stuff (then again I seem to be able to make most activities nerve-wracking).
And thus my babies are safe and in the oven (they smell good, if that’s any indication). In about half an hour I will know the boundaries of my success, until then I plan to keep my fingers crossed (metaphorically, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to type this).
I am pretty proud of my first attempt at bread. The loaves were a little dense, but not to the point of problematic, and the taste was simply delightful. I’m going to need to work a little on just trusting the process and letting them rise in the future, to prevent further issues of density.
While not the prettiest of bread, it was really rather tasty. I’ll work on appearance in future recipes, but for now I must admit that I am particularly proud of myself.
I enjoyed my first slice with a hearty smear of Irish butter (because Kerrigold is my go to for special occasion butter scenarios), and I savored every bite of my hard work.