Bread making is something I’ve seen my grandmother do when I was little, and always thought she was operating some kind of magic. I loved how she rolled the dough between her hands, and how afterwards she put a warm cover on her little round balls and let them rise. I thought that was a gift she was handed along with being a grandma, knowing how to make good things happen just like that. So I’ve never really thought about making my own bread, first of all I’m not a huge huge fan, in our culture everyone accompany their food with bread, like some would do with rice or tortillas, you won’t see a lunch, breakfast, dinner table without bread in a corner. And I’ve always felt like I was forced to eat it, my dad thought it was something outrageous to eat without bread (nowadays he’s cut off on carbs and I very much like to tease him about his past endeavors), so I decided that I would do what I want and that I simply wasn’t a bread person.
Although to be fair, I’ve always enjoyed those little cheese and olive baguettes they had at Paul. I liked the saltiness and the fact that they were tiny, it’s that filling sensation you get when you eat bread that I guess I don’t like. I’m not someone who can eat a lot in one setting, I can do small portions throughout the day but just not three big ones, so if I add bread to the equation I’m already half full, and I won’t get to enjoy my meal like I want to.
But a couple of months ago, I started following sourdough accounts on Instagram (like one does), and I’ve been completely mesmerized with the airy crumbs they were displaying. I’m not yet an expert on sourdough, haven’t even taken it upon myself to make a sourdough starter, but I’ve felt compelled to make my own bread. So I searched easy bread (like one also does) on Youtube, and started trying out recipes. I’ve always been obsessed with cakes rising up in the oven, so of course I felt the same giddiness thinking of a bread rising high and being the lightest thing I’ve ever made. I can proudly say that that was absolutely not the case with my first try. Very dense bread with a stubbornly hard crust that made it practically impossible to cut. The taste was fine though and when I grilled it to make avocado toast you couldn’t say that it was bad; it was just not very good.
But in the kitchen, that is if you like being there, you gotta understand that you’ll need more than one try to get something right. I figured that out about cooking and baking a long long time ago. Since I started baking when I was around seven, I realized very early on that it was completely natural to fail multiple times before I made something good. And while writing that I also realize that seven year old me towards cooking was wiser than 27 year old me in every other aspect in my life. I don’t know what I should make out of that. I guess you can’t be mature about everything.
Anyway back to bread making. So I failed, majorly, and I stopped for a while because no matter how many times I tried, it seemed like I was getting the exact same result, even though I looked at my husband every day with hopeful eyes saying stuff like « the crumb is lighter than the one I baked yesterday right? » and him not even beginning to understand the subtleties of what I was doing and saying « yes babe definitely ! ». God bless his gentle soul.
Until two weeks ago we were playing Monopoly one night with our friends, and I suddenly rose from my chair and announced I was gonna make some bread. At 10 pm. I don’t know what it says about me that everyone looked at me and just said okay. I was going with this recipe since I was looking for something with minimal effort, and I followed it to the letter. But I used my dutch oven instead of a cast iron and I skipped that part about warming up dutch ovens before using them, so my crust got stuck to it. Obviously. BUT, but but but, I had an A-MA-ZING bread ! Finally ! I guess with the original recipe I was using the hydratation was not enough, or I kneaded the dough more than I should. Stuff I picked up on when I spent last week learning about bread making. Because yes, I spent hours on forums and websites learning terms like hydratation (flour to water ratio), no knead technique, rising, proofing and oven spring. I’ve made roughly around 25 loaves of bread in the past two weeks (still no sourdough though), and I can say that I got around to it. I know now how to make bread. What a satisfying feeling.
I played around with flour, using all purpose flour at the beginning, and trying out my hand at mixing white flour and semolina, sometimes with a little bit of whole wheat flour – a 100% whole wheat flour is not gonna work out with this particular recipe, it needs way more water and maybe more time to rise – I’m still not an expert. But still, I now make decent bread that gets tore down by the people who’re always in my house (I’ve finally come to terms that my place is actually a restaurant). I’ve also added cheese, dried herbs, olives, oven dried tomatoes to my bread, with amazing results, so don’t be afraid to add toppings you want. I’ve tried adding them in the mixing stage and after the first rise and I prefer the second option.
- 250 g white flour
- 1 tbsp dried yeast
- 1 tsp salt
- 17,5 cl water
- Mix your flour with the yeast, then add the salt and stir a bit before slowly adding water. I use a spoon to combine my ingredients and it takes literally two minutes for you to be done. Your dough is sticky and it’s supposed to be.
- That’s it.
- No I’m kidding but not really. Your work is done, all you have to do is cover up your bowl and go to work or do something with your life until you come back two hours later. One if you’re not the patient type.
- Then you’ll need to coat your hands with flour, dust it on the surface you’re gonna work your dough on, and gently scrape the corners of your bowl until your scoop everything out.
- I don’t work it like they did in the video but rather fold it over itself. Pull every corner of the dough towards me and then fold it on the center. Use a little bit more flour until your dough is not sticky and form a little round shaped ball that you’re gonna let rest for another hour.
- The easiest way to bake it I figured out was on some parchment paper, or just a cast iron dusted with flour. I preheat the oven at 220°C for 20 minutes and I put some recipient with water on the lowest part of the oven to create steam.
- Make deep cuts on your dough however you like them, you can use a knife or scissors; the most efficient way is a razor but I don’t have a blade laying around in my place so I just make do with what I have.
- Plop your bread in the oven, 20 to 25 minutes and you’re done ! Even less if you shaped baguettes, they tend to bake quicker.
I learned how to have fun with bread making and now I enjoy the process, it’s quick and easy and it makes it entirely different to eat with bread now. It’s a part of my meal, not just something I have to eat. And like I said, don’t be afraid to play around and add different fillings or mix different types of flour. Just know that you’ll always get more rise with white flour.