Monday, July 5, 2010

Baking Bread

I've recently tried my hand at baking bread and I've been pretty satisfied with the results. Through the years, I've always been more of a "cook" and less of a "baker" as I generally prefer to add a pinch of this or a splash of that rather than precisely measuring out 1/8 tsp. of this or 1 5/8 cup of something else. I recently saw someon on one of those TV cooking shows explain the biggest difference between cooking and baking is that when cooking, you can constantly make adjustments. You're free to add more spices, more liquid, another pinch of salt, etc., etc. during or after the cooking process. But with baking, you have to get it perfect before you put it in the oven. Once it goes in, you're pretty much stuck with what's in the oven. And I find that kind of scary.

But I made two different bread recipes last week. My first one was a round loaf with olive oil, rosemary and Italian herbs. The recipe was very easy to follow and I thought it turned out pretty well. I just wish the loaves had been a little bit larger. I decided to put a couple of decorative slashes across the top right before putting it in the oven and when I did, the risen loaf sort of deflated itself. And it never did rise back to its original size. Next time, I'll try slashing it before the final rise.

The other bread I made was a pretty standard honey wheat loaf that was used for breakfast toast and lunch sandwiches. This was fantastic! Better than the best whole grain bread you can buy off a grocery store shelf.

Today I made three loaves of cinnamon raisin bread. This recipe had a few more steps than the other breads, but it was still pretty easy to make. And it's so delicious! The triple loaf recipe was a bit much for the KitchenAid (as the author warns us) but it pulled through. And I highly recommend Penzey's Vietnamese Cassia Cinnamon for any recipe that calls for cinnamon. So strong, so sweet.

So don't be afraid to break out the measuring spoons and loaf pans and bake some homemade bread. It's cheap, it's easy and it's pretty rewarding. And while I'm no food crusader, I like the fact that my bread isn't loaded with preservatives and a whole laundry list of ingredients I can't pronounce.

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