Bread is one of the foods that has been with us throughout the centuries, embraced by almost every culture and civilization on the planet. Lets be honest. Growing up, if you didn’t have much food on the table there was always bread. Even prisons in most countries provide their partridge with a slice of bread and water to sustain them. But as with prison, most people are apprehensive, if not down right fearful, at the idea of backing bread. I was!
Growing up my mother would try her hand at bread making from time to time. There would be months where fresh baked bread would come out of her oven every few days and then years in between when store bough bread would take it’s place. With the invention of the bread machine our home was more often filled with the smells of fresh made bread, but it was never a staple, it was always more of a treat. And what a treat it was!
If there is one thing in the kitchen which I’m most hesitant about, it would be making bread. So why not start there? When on the battle field why not go after Goliath rather than picking off the runt of the litter? If you want to see what your made of you have to tackle something bigger than yourself. So here we go with bread.
On my shelve of cookbook I found a book called 100 Great Breads by Paul Hollywood and thought, “lets start there”! I figured the best place to start would be at the beginning with “Basic Breads” and work my way up. I was right.
The first bread is called “White Bread”. You can’t get more basic than that can you? It called for 4 cups of white bread flour, 1 tbsp salt, 1/4 cup olive oil, 1 package years, scant 1 1/4 cup water.
There were only two problems. I did not have “bread flour” and I had no idea what “scant” water was. So I did what most self-respecting cooks on a budget would do. I used “all purpose flour” and when it search for the “scant” water. Come to find out, “scant” merely means “just barely”. You may not need the whole 1 1/4 cup of water but have it there just in case. Not sure why they didn’t just say that but I guess “scant” sounds far more professional.
You start out by mixing all the ingredients in a large bowl. Looking for a shortcut, I put it all in Kitchen Aid with the dough hook. One controversial issue among baker (and yes it really is) is whether or not the salt and yeast should touch. While, yes, salt does act as a yeast inhibitor, it will not bear to much weight on how your bread rises. But, you may want to avoid putting the yeast right on top of the salt…just in case. Then knead the dough with you hands. I, again, went with the shortcut and just let it go in the mixer about five minutes longer. Let this rise for 1 hour.
Next, oil a loft pan with your olive oil. I would also recommend getting a good amount on your hands too. Dough can be kind of sticky. Mold the dough into a ball and place in the oiled pan, letting it rise another 30 minutes. While it is rising preheat the oven to 450, dust the top of dough with some flour (I have no idea why) and place in the oven to bake for 35 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack and then dig in. This is some darn good bread!Adapted From: Hollywood, Paul. 100 Great Breads. Edited by Victoria Alers-Hankey and Barbara Dixon. New York: Cassell Illustrated, 2004.