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Better Bread: The Experiment Continues

June 26, 2007

Lovely Loaf

After my last disastrous loaf, I knew I just had to get back on the proverbial horse and try again. This time around, I decided to continue the project I began last winter and try to learn the fundamentals of bread making. Without a solid foundation, I figured, I would just end up with many, many exploded loaves. And no one wants that.

Barring running out and buying a new bread book (which I want to do, but the bank account says stop buying books), I searched around on the interwebs and found a great bread lesson series at The Fresh Loaf. I stumbled upon this site last winter, and then promptly forgot all about it, as I am wont to do. Despite the fact that this wasn’t actually my first loaf of bread, I decided to follow the lessons from step one, because I am just that kind of orderly, rule-abiding lady.

I did learn some very cool things about bread that I didn’t really know before. It seems silly to reiterate all the things I read on the Fresh Loaf site, so I’ll just give a quick round up:

  • The wetter the dough is, the more holey the bread will be.
  • Salt retards the fermentation of the yeast, and, duh, adds flavor.
  • Cutting slashes into the top of the bread is important because it releases gases that otherwise will cause the bread to implode from the inside out, which I’m assuming is what happened to my last loaf.
  • Re-kneading or punching down the dough basically frees up more food for the yeast and adds more flavor, but too many rises can make the final product taste a bit bitter.
  • The bread is supposed to get bigger while it bakes, as the heat makes the yeast start eating faster or something.

The recipe at the Fresh Loaf site is great because it actually makes only one loaf of bread, not the twelve that I keep seeing everywhere else. It’s very basic, but I am very happy with it. And baking the bread on the pizza stone was great! It was much easier to pick up and check for that hollow sound, and it got a nice finish on the bottom. I also added a pan of water for the steaming, which the Fresh Loaf article doesn’t mention. This was my first shaped bread loaf, too. Isn’t it lovely:

Sliced Bread

It’s a bit salty, because I think I accidently added more than two teaspoons of salt, but I like things that are salty, so I’m happy with it.

Next week: Lesson Two. Fancier bread.

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