Monday, April 13, 2009

Yes you can – bake your own bread

The one thing that I always wanted to master, but never dared to try, was baking bread. Being able to bake one’s own bread seems to be the most archaic instinct – and what for a failure I would have felt if it had not turned out well. So for the fear of feeling doomed to starve (kind of), I never really tackled my bread baking aspirations. Then came the day at La Locanda last Thursday when Valeria asked me if I wanted to help her with the bread (being a quality restaurant, they make a point of preparing bread and pasta in house). And you know what? It looked really easy!

Easy enough anyhow for me to replicate the exercise at home the next day. And what can I say: it went really well! It might sound pathetic, but when I saw my two loaves rising and baking to develop a golden brown crust, tears dwelled to my eyes and I called my mum and my best friends to tell them “I did it, I did bake my own bread” (and I decided not to be insulted by the giggles with which they responded. We will see who will laugh in the long term, when I am indulging in all different kinds of yummy breads, while they are munching away on pre-packed bunny toast….)

And you can bake your own bread, too:
2 ¼ cups of lukewarm water
½ cake of active fresh yeast
2.2 lb. of flour (I used durum whole wheat, experiment with the grain varieties you like!)
3 tbsp. olive oil
you can add salt, if you like

Dissolve yeast in water and mix the flour under. Knead (preferably by hand) until the though has a good consistency and does not stick to sides of your mixing bowl – about five minutes in my case. Let sit covered in a warm place for two hours, knead again and let stand to rise overnight. The next morning knead one last time, mix in herbs, seeds and/or nuts if you wish (I added oregano and ¼ lb. of hazelnuts to mine), shape into two loaves and put on a cookie sheet for final rise. After another hour you can finally put your loaves in to the (preheated) oven: bake for 20 min. at 430°F and 40 min. at 375°F. Once your loaves sound hollow when you knock on them they are done!

Tipp: To keep your bread from drying out, put a container with water into the oven to slowly evaporate!

Enjoy the spirit of bread baking! As one delicious San Francisco Bakery puts it: make loaves, not war!

No comments: