Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Lost Arts: Baking Bread

In the category of Lost Arts, the art of bread baking seems to be the one that pleases all the members of my household. After all, who can resist the smell of freshly baking bread as its aroma wafts throughout the house. My oldest son, Luke, has friends who always seem to visit the house on baking day. Go figure! No one can resist.

I love to make time for bread baking. There's something very satisfying about the whole endeavor. Bread baking is a very scientific process, but it is also a magical process. Like an alchemist, you are gathering and blending ingredients into a potion that grows (thanks to the yeast) and shrinks (thanks to punching down the dough) and grows again in the oven.

I decided to make bread yesterday afternoon because a) the temperatures are much cooler now, thank you, God! and b) I had a dinner already prepared in the fridge...a tasty Chicken Vegetable Rotini soup, and c) my family doesn't count soup as a meal unless there's some tasty bread related product to go with it.

I consulted with my son John as to which bread to make, and we decided that the Savory Summer Oat Bread sounded interesting. It had whole wheat flour, oats, carrots, onions and parsley. It was practically a meal all on its own!

The breads did not rise as much as I'd hoped, but that was mostly my fault. For starters, I didn't put the dough in a big enough bowl to let it properly rise and double in size. I also used pans that were slightly larger than the recipe called for. No matter. They still tasted yummy!

For some reason, folks are afraid of recipes with yeast. I know. I used to be afraid of it, too! It sounded so complicated. But the truth is, they make wonderful yeast products now for a variety of purposes. Traditional yeasts and Rapid Rise yeasts for bread machines or faster recipes.

If you'd like to try bread making, there are a couple of tools that will make the job easier.

*A good mixer with a bread hook. My Kitchenaid stand mixer is the smaller size, so it's really best for recipes that use no more than 4-5 c. of flour. Basically, it's good for one loaf, but needs a little extra help for two. I LOVE my Kitchenaid mixer, and don't know how I lived without it for the first twenty years of marriage. I do still make bread the old fashioned way as well, with hand kneading and a floured surface. If you're a tactile person like me, you'll enjoy it, too.

*A variety of loaf pans in different sizes.

*A cooling rack, great for breads and cookies, too.

*A large bowl for letting the dough rest and rise.

*A nice clean dish towel for keeping the dough covered and warm. It's nice to have one reserved just for this process.

*A variety of flours in the stocked pantry. Nothing spoils a good bread baking day like realizing you don't have the ingredients you need. All purpose flour, whole wheat flour, old fashioned oats, cornmeal. I like to keep mine in OXO brand pantry boxes with the sealing lids to keep them fresh.

That's it. It's best to set aside a few hours so that you don't try to rush the process. I have a few more bread-related items to try this summer. I'd like to attempt my own sandwich breads, pizza dough, and pretzels before the boys are back in school. It's always a good idea to have lots of taste testers on hand...otherwise, I end up eating too much of the good stuff!


Have you visited the Moxie Fab World blog today? (link at right) Cath is giving away the Summer Fresh line from Simple Stories! It is the cutest line of papers, stickers,and accents, and the patterns and colors are adorable! Enter to win! And if you don't win, come back and place an order with me at Memory Works! :)  I'm hoping to get the line soon. It will be so cute for summer projects. I may even have to get a new scrapbook to house all of the photos from our summer travels.


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