Bread Baking

I find baking bread very cathartic. Most people probably think that this is related to the kneading of the dough. It’s not. I use a mixer. I think it is mainly related to how easy it is to bake bread and how much I enjoy the results of something so simple.

Bread baking takes very little effort for me these days. The yeast blooms, everything goes in the mixer, gets kneaded with the dough hook for a few minutes, gets put into an oiled bowl, covered, and left to rest. This whole process is easily completed in 5-10 minutes as I make myself lunch (one of the many joys of working from home). Sometime a few hours later I’ll take a break and spend 5 minutes shaping the bread and preheating the oven, an hour or so after that the baking starts and soon I have crusty, warm, fresh bread.

This week I’ve baked bread twice already, I imagine I’ll bake at least once more before I leave for New Orleans on Halloween. Sunday afternoon I made white bread in a braid. Yesterday I baked a swirled loaf of white/wheat bread. I think I’ll do a traditional baguette later in the week.

One of my complaints about baking bread is that I become addicted to it and want fresh bread every day. I used to bake every day reserving a bit of the previous day’s dough as a leavener. This technique, while dependable, isn’t really practical. This time around I’m experimenting with freezing the dough for later use. I have two goals: first to have bread any time I want it from larger weekend baking projects, and second to make the bread easy for Thanksgiving.

So far I’ve just frozen rolls from this week’s baking, breadstick like from the white bread and white/wheat sandwich rolls. I haven’t done a test thaw/bake yet, but will probably thaw something later this week.

My standard bread recipe is as follows:

  • 1 cup of warm water (sometimes partially milk)
  • 2 tsp active dry yeast
  • 320 g flour (about 2.5 cups) — mostly bread flour, but mix and match — I use 25% wheat for wheat bread
  • 1 Tbs sugar
  • pinch of salt

Put yeast in water for a few minutes then put all ingredients into mixer bowl. Knead for 4-5 minutes until dough pulls cleanly away from sides of bowl. You may need slightly more water or flour depending on your ingredients. Place in an covered, oiled bowl to rise until doubled. Punch down, round, shape. Preheat oven (425 for freeform, baguettes, rolls or 375 for loaf pans). Let rise for another hour then bake. Depending on the size of your bread and temperature this will vary. I usually test something with an instant read thermometer (finished bread will be 200° internally).