April 29, 2017

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Baking Bread

Baking cake ingredients - bowl, flour, eggs, egg whites foam on wooden background . Cooking course or kitchen mess poster concept

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By McKenzie Lee

Shortbread sugar cookies with a homemade vanilla frosting, apple turnovers with cinnamon sprinkled on top, oatmeal chocolate cookies, cheesecake, cupcakes, banana muffins, and molasses cookies, these are just a few of the many baked goods that can now come out of my kitchen.

I have always loved eating baked goods, but the baking part has not come as easily.  For this reason, as a young adult, I spent time and money visiting local bakeries and grabbing whatever delicious, homemade baked goods that they would recommend.  My visits to the local grocery store, however, often leave me empty-handed.  Their sweets do not taste quite like homemade sweets, and the bread often leave me wanting more.

Good bread is one food item that I feel can enhance each and every meal.  What are over easy eggs without some toast to dip into them?  And for lunch: soup and salad always tastes so much fuller with a small slice of bread.  A quick little appetizer is whipped up by slicing a baguette and topping it with cheddar cheese.  And the dinner…..the options are endless!

I remember, as a child, watching my mom make a simple beer bread and serving that with soup, but besides that one memory, my family never baked bread.   I use the word “simple” because I was told that it did not use yeast.  I remember hearing as a child that yeast was a living organism, and that scared me quite a bit.  From that point on, I never cooked with yeast.  And I liked the idea of simple bread. I tried out this beer bread recipe a few times, but was never amazed.

And then, a few years ago, I moved in with a roommate who is from the northeast part of the United States.  Early on in our relationship, she purchased yeast.  She used it to brew a lemon ginger sparkling beverage.  Apparently, the yeast helped the carbonation.  She moved out a few months ago and the remaining packets of yeast have stayed in my fridge.  Untouched.

Around the same time, I discovered the blog of a young woman, Grace (http://yourbiggestfangrace.com/category/recipes-and-delicious-things/).  She loves crafting and mail art and had devoted a small portion of her blog to recipes that she has found and highly recommends.   One of the recipes recommended was for a simple loaf of bread (she calls it a free-form artisan loaf).  I read the recipe and, while it included yeast, I thought that the recipe looked doable.  With some of the extra yeast sitting in my fridge, I decided to give it a shot.

I borrowed a cast iron pot and cast iron cover from one of my friends.  Mixed up all of the ingredients: water, yeast, a little salt, and flour.  And I let rise.  The following evening, after returning from work, I set the oven to 450 degrees.  I rolled the dough in a bunch of flour and then plopped it in the cast iron pot and placed the cover atop.  Thirty minutes later, I removed the lid and let the bread cook another 15 minutes.

And then, viola!  A delicious, homemade loaf of bread is ready to be served.

The first time that I made this bread, I was absolutely amazed.  It tastes like it actually came out of the bakery!  Since that time, I have tried to make a loaf of bread a week.  I’ve brought the loaves to dinner parties, potlucks, and just sat down with a slice for myself.  I continue to appreciate the simplicity of the recipe and the richness of the taste.  Hope you enjoy!

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