Yeast Breads

Created 30 Oct 2012 14:15, Updated 06 Nov 2012 15:52

I still remember one of my first loaves of yeast bread, baked solo in our first apartment in Iowa City. I remember putting it in our little apartment-sized oven and having it puff up like a balloon. It rose way past the supportive sides of the pan, and the edges folded over the lip so that when I cut it, it looked like a sliced mushroom.

I really didn't know anything about baking bread when I started, and I don't really remember why I decided to give it a try. Even though my mom baked bread when I was younger and I had observed and even made a tiny loaf or two, I hadn't ever applied this experience before or gained any in-depth knowledge about the techniques. I knew how to knead, but I didn't know why kneading was necessary or how long I was supposed to knead. I didn't know how the ingredients worked together, or why one of my first loaves of bread rose so high and crazy when I baked it (for the curious/clueless, I cut back too much on the salt; salt inhibits the growth of yeast).

As it happens, though, bread is very forgiving. At the outset, it can seem really monumental and scary, and certainly there are things to know that you'll only learn through experience and/or reading cookbooks or other information about bread baking. But for the most part, as long as you know some basic steps and give your bread time to become, things will generally turn out just fine.

The thing about giving bread time is my most common downfall. It's not that I don't want to give bread time to become bread, it's that I often misjudge how much time that will take. Bread is forgiving, but the flipside to that is bread also is affected by many factors, such as temperature and humidity. Sometimes yeast will jump right in and start happily growing away, and sometimes it takes a little bit to wake it up. But it's those little quirks that make it interesting, right? Right….

I love making bread; it's just about the perfect creative project for me. It requires just a small amount of knowledge, a little bit of time, some hands-on work (unless you knead using a mixer with a dough hook or a bread machine), and the results both good or bad are quick! Baking bread fills that creative itch I get sometimes, when I want to make something with my own two hands. Unlike a scrapbook or a cross-stitch or knitting a scarf, a couple loaves of bread can be made in an afternoon, and the results are edible!

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