Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Bread - Negative One

Bread – Negative One
And a Memorial to My Friend Rebecca

1 cup water, maybe a tiny bit more
¼ cup oil (I use olive or canola)
1 tsp salt
¼ cup honey or sugar (if honey, add with liquids)
3 ½ cups whole wheat or white whole wheat flour (I use King Arthurs)
1 tbspn yeast (make a little well in the flour for the yeast; make two if adding sugar instead of honey)

In a bread machine, the dough will take two hours to be ready, so you can be lazy and avoid kneading and rising; or, like me, bread making seems too intimidating and you have no idea what yeast bubbles or proofed dough or dough consistency should all look like. When the bread machine has been mixing for five minutes, open the top to check the dough. Sometimes I put in the wrong amount of liquid or flour and the mistake can be corrected without any consequences at that point. But the flour varies with each batch and with the seasons. Sometimes the 3 ½ cups requires a little more water, maybe a tablespoon or two, or sometimes it has a slightly wet appearance, or worse, sticks to the sides. Then the dough needs some more flour, a heaping tablespoon or two, or very rarely a quarter cup.

Preheat the oven to 325 at an hour out so the oven is nice and hot. Use a baking stone or a cookie sheet with parchment paper. When the dough is ready, take it out, adding some flour or putting flour on a wood cutting board if it is sticky (not a technical term, but has a tangible meaning). Good to fold the ends under for a nice boule, or to cut slits in the top, though unnecessary. Fine if the bread is oblong as shape is an aesthetic preference.

Total baking time is 40 minutes. Do that the first time at one temperature and see what your oven tells you in terms of more or less time, and what you want your crust to look like. I bake for 32 minutes, then turn around the bread and up the temperature to 400 for eight minutes. The oven will only be up that high for a couple of minutes, but the crust looks better.

Starting lower than zero
That’s the recipe I’ve been making for seven years. I stayed happy with my one recipe. I’m not ambitious. I have one good cake, some good cookies; don’t care if there’s more. I made 800 cookies for an event, including some funny black and whites that were tasty, but did not look like the neat half and half design one sees in bakeries.

Start of a bread 
Then my friend Rebecca was sick and her rounds of early testing required a no-iodine diet – for weeks, which not only meant certain foods were allowed and certain ones were prohibited, but that certain ingredients, salt in particular, required special attention. You can’t go out to eat when you have to ask what type of salt is being put into foods and Rebecca loved to eat and to eat out. So I made her a whole wheat bread she could eat.
The bread was good and started to make it for my kids, who ate it and gave up the disgusting potato bread we’d been making sandwiches with. I’ve been making it once or twice a week ever since, well once now that the last daughter is away at college now. Lately, reading about what bread should be like and what ingredients it should only have, and wondering if I am up to the task, and curious to expand (can I even call it) my repertoire, I want to embark on 108 breads. Not sure I will get there and knowing this will take – indeed designing this journey to take – more than a year, probably two and maybe four, if I don’t quit.

And I dedicate this to the memory of Rebecca, who passed away a few months ago, after she could not eat or drink and lived through years of drugs and testing. She got me on my way to make a good bread. I hope, Rebecca, that wherever you are, you are enjoying fun, delicious meals and choosing wine for the table, with good conversation and lots of laughter. 

Finally doing this! 
Oh, and I forgot to say that I’m going to blog it, and maybe tweet, and that I haven’t started any of that yet either, and that’s why this is bread negative one. Climbing up to zero.

Editor's Note: Posting the first few breads in rapid succession because actually wrote this weeks ago. 

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