October 16, 2009
Yes, you could call me possessed: this baking bug, dormant for well over a decade, is finally wide awake.
I suppose the thing I most resented about baking all these many long years was the seeming anal retentiveness of it: the need to get out all those cups and spoons and bowls! and wash them afterwards! …Definitely in violation of my one-pot philosophy.
(Dear serious bakers, please take no offense! This is no critique of you and your lovely craft; I’m just being honest about something that my impatient, impulsive self can’t quite bear.)
And then, for reasons I can’t recall, I got it into my head that I would make bread. And without a recipe, thank you very much. Turns out, it’s pretty hard to go wrong. Who knew! So, here’s my irreverent bread.
Dump into a bowl:
- 3 cups of flour (e.g., 1/2 whole wheat and 1/2 white)
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- 1 teaspoon of baking powder
- 1 teaspoon of yeast
- 1 teaspoon of brown sugar
(Please note that I’ve experimented with a little less and a little more of salt, baking powder, yeast, and sugar. Sometimes–gasp!–I don’t even measure them. Yes, reader, I just scoop or dump blindly. It’s all good.)
Then, mix it all together with some warmish water. …I did just say some water. Or should I quote my grandmother and say, “until the dough is neither too dry nor too wet”? Believe me, you’ll know. But if this makes you really uncomfortable, why don’t you start with 1 cup. Dump 1/2 of it in right away, and then add more as needed. The whole time, a stern baking angel will be pecking at you from your right shoulder: “Do you really need more? Because dough that’s drier bakes better!” Feel free, though, to tell the angel to shut up if you’re not quite sure the first time around. Because it will turn out just fine.
Once you have mixed the dough, wrap the bowl it’s in in a kitchen towel and let it rest. Thirty minutes in a cozy, warm spot–like your microwave–is perfect. Then, pull it out and beat it up while it’s still in the original bowl. Once nicely kneaded, the dough goes back into the womb-like place for another 30 minutes.
Toward the end of that period, you can start warming the oven. My oven is happy at 400F, but you probably already know if yours runs hot or cool. If you have no idea, starting someplace like 375F is a safe bet.
And now it’s time for the final beating! Once you’ve punched your dough into submission one more time (and here’s where you should hear that satisfying yeasty sigh that goes “woosh” under your hand), put it into an oiled bread pan. Or, shape it into a loaf on an oiled baking surface.
And into the oven it goes, for 45-50 minutes.
You will know when it’s done.