Ever since my mom gave me a KitchenAid mixer, we have bought VERY few loaves of sandwich bread. The recipe for cool rise white bread that came with the mixer was a huge success the first time I made it and has kept the boys happy ever since. It makes 2 loaves at a time, one of which can go into the freezer for a week or two and come out none the worse for wear. And I can swap in a cup of wheat flour for one of the cups of white flour and figure I’m at least slightly improving the nutritional value of their bread.
I also make our pizza dough – it’s so easy and so much better than a lot of the store bought dough we’ve tried that once I started making it, I couldn’t stop. The recipe we prefer makes three to four balls of dough and also freezes okay (the raw pizza dough doesn’t hold up quite as well as the cooked bread, but it’s workable) so I can make pizza dough at most once a month and we’re set.
I have not, however, experimented with much else in the bread family. I don’t know why bread has always seemed too intimidating to me, but it has. When I first started making our sandwich bread, my boss gave me a couple of recipes for other breads she really likes making, but after two failed attempts at Irish potato bread, I gave up.
Tonight, though, we were having garlic roast chicken with potatoes and salad – and we were lacking any good crusty bread to spread the roasted garlic on. George went to the store to see if he could find some, but the Safeway nearest us never has much in the way of decent fresh baked bread. So I googled a few recipes and found a quick one that sounded good: crusty french bread.
And surprise, surprise, it turned out much better than I expected. The loaves were wider than I anticipated (looked more like ciabatta loaves than baguettes) but they were crusty and crisp on the outside and soft inside, and tasted different enough from my normal, every day sandwich bread to make me wonder, since the ingredients aren’t all that different.
To me, baking bread is like a fun science experiment. I get to keep trying and tinkering with the yeast, the temperature of the water, the shape of the loaves, the baking time, etc – or sometimes, trying not to tinker with anything and instead just replicate exactly what I did last time. Each time, though, they’re a little bit different. And, I’ll admit, most times, I’m not exactly sure that what comes out of the oven is even going to be good. But the successes are more frequent than the failures and I’m learning as I go!