Loafing around

I’m finally sort of recovering from the whole ordeal I’ve gone through in the past couple of weeks. Appointment after appointment after appointment… And that’s only the beginning of a difficult time ahead of me. I have an appointment tomorrow with an insurance doctor to determine if I can get a different type of disability, next week I have a mandatory workshop and more. I’m so, so tired.

But that’s not why I’m writing this post. For the past 4 weeks I’ve been baking homemade bread almost every day and I haven’t gotten any store bought bread since. Not only is baking bread pretty therapeutic and motivating me to get things done, I also found that my bread fills much more! I can’t say for sure how much cheaper it is. The flour is definitely cheaper than getting a loaf from the store, but I’m also eating more bread because it doesn’t stay fresh beyond the second day, so for dinner I often have bread, french toast, toast with soup or whatever – simple and quick meals to get rid of the leftover bread.

On the other hand, I’m not throwing out a third of a loaf because it spoiled like I often had to do with store bought. I suppose that’s a nice trade-off by itself. Also no more plastic packaging. My oven runs on electricity, which is also largely generated by wind turbines here. There are many advantages to it.

And then there’s flavor and quality. If there’s anything I’ve learned this past month, it’s that you cannot beat a freshly baked loaf. That first slice while it’s still warm is the absolute best.

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Bread rolls rising!

I’ve learned a lot since my first try in baking bread yesterday. I’m a fast learner with this type of stuff! Today I decided to make rolls from the dough. I began with adding warmer water than I did yesterday, somewhere between 30-35 degrees C instead of the 25 degrees from before. Added a tbs of sunflower oil and mixed it up with my electric mixer using dough hooks.

Once the dough was coming off the bottom of the bowl I took it out and kneaded it by hand for another half a minute or so. Sprinkled the bowl with some plain flour, put the dough back in, sprinkled that with flour too and then covered it with a kitchen towel. I’m not sure why people insist on using a different bowl for their dough, this works just as well for me and creates less mess!

Yesterday I let the dough rest on my kitchen counter but it really didn’t turn out so well. My kitchen is too drafty. So after scouring Google for tips and tricks, today I turned on my oven’s light and put the covered bowl in the oven. The light bulb gets just warm enough to bring the oven to just above room temperature and creates the perfect environment for the dough to rise in!

An hour later the dough had risen and settled in the bowl. I took it out and roughly divided it into four buns which I placed on my baking sheet covered with baking paper. Sprinkled them with some flour again, covered with the towel and shoved them into the oven.

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They look kind of rugged, don’t they? But I think that’s the charm of homemade baked goods. They have their own personality. As my boyfriend so eloquently put it when he saw my first bread…

“Dude that looks like the bread they ate in biblical times and shit.

So metal.”

I left them in there for an hour and when I took them out, they’d almost doubled in size. Hallelujah!

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I could tell that the oven light is in the back though. The back two buns closest to the light had become larger than the front buns, so I turned the sheet around and put everything back in for another 30 minutes. They didn’t rise that much more so I just turned on the oven to preheat it to the right temperature while they rest on the kitchen counter. I made some awkward attempts to score the buns, but I really lack a properly thin, sharp knife or razor to do the job, so the results are… uhm… charming?

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Well, I suppose that works! The oven should be fully prepped in about 20-25 minutes. The rolls are light and fluffy to the touch and I expect they’ll turn out much better than the previous bread. I’m estimating they’ll need to bake for 15 minutes at 200C, but I may bake them longer to make them crispier than the first loaf. I love a crispy crust.

My first bread

For the longest time I’ve wanted to bake my own bread. Stores in Germany have this really great bread flour mix with yeast for only 80 cents per package (1 kilogram / 2 pounds) that yields 3 small loaves or one big one. All you have to do is add lukewarm water and a spoon of vegetable oil and then mix it up! So after obtaining a package of ciabatta flour, I set out to bake my first bread today. I’m not a terrible baker but I have little experience with letting dough rise for things like this, so the results were both a hit and a miss.

Although I used lukewarm water (25C) and my kitchen was about 23C, the dough simply didn’t rise. I took a gamble and shoved it into the oven. Lo and behold, it began to rise really fast! I forgot to slit the top though. Oops.

It baked up really nice otherwise – the smell is delicious, and while it doesn’t look that nice I bet it tastes good. I’m letting it cool down and am saving it for dinner in about 3-4 hours.

Whatever the case, I learned some valuable lessons today. My next try I’m heating my oven to about 50C and let it cool down for a bit until its nice and cozy inside (thermometer should say anything between 25-30C) so I can let the dough rise in there. I may also use warmer water up to about 30C. Let’s see how that goes! For 80 cents a package yielding 3 of the loaves seen below, I certainly don’t mind experimenting.

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