[Smashy the Hammer] [An Aspiring Luddite]
I carry no phone
An aspiring Luddite
In a wired world.
[Jeff Berry]
Jeff Berry is an early adopter of the Internet and the Web, a late adopter of Twitter, and declines to adopt Facebook or Livejournal. (Although he did succumb to the lure of Google+.) He hates cell-phones.

Two Kinds of Bread
24 March 2011

[Bread Cooling] Bread, as they say, is the staff of life. It's certainly a lovely thing to have on hand, and it's also a pleasant thing to make. There are two basic recipes that I find myself using over and over, with a whole suite of variations.

There are a number of common caveats in most bread recipes. These include things like: you may need to adjust the amount of flour or liquid a bit, since the local humidity and moisture variation in different flours will have an effect; rise time will vary depending on your yeast, local temperature and humidity; and, in general, bear in mind this is not an exact science ...

If you are just starting bread-making, I highly encourage you to keep track of exactly what variations you do make and what your process is, so that when you do zero in on what you like, it's easier to repeat it. I've got pages of scribbled notes which have been redacted to the simple recipes below.

[Dough] Basic Yeast Bread

Start by mixing the yeast with the water. Add the salt, then begin adding flour. I use the dough hook on my stand mixer, but mixing and kneading by hand can be very relaxing. Knead until the dough is smooth and a little shiny. It should not spring back too much if you poke it. This is the hardest part, and you'll need to do it a few times until you get a sense for what it feels like when it's done.

Cover the dough and leave it to rise. Canonically, one lets it rise until doubled in size. I usually find one and half times is more like it. Preheat the oven to 375F. Lightly grease a loaf pan. Punch the dough down and knead it for a minute or two, then roughly shape it into a rectangle the size of your loaf pan and put it in the pan. Bake for 30 minutes, then turn it out to cool.

Notes:

Flour
I usually use a cup of all purpose flour, a half-cup of rye flour and a cup of what my supplier calls "brown flour," which isn't quite white and isn't quite whole wheat. You can mix in other flours, if you want, but keep at least one cup of all purpose or the loaf won't rise much at all. Be warned, using rye flour changes the texture and stickiness of the dough quite a bit.
Shape
If you don't want a loaf, you can just shape the dough into a slightly flattened ball and put in on a baking sheet instead of using a loaf pan.
Liquid
If it isn't Lent, I use whey instead of water, since I've usually got the whey around from cheesemaking.
[Dough in  a pan] Sourdough Bread

Sourdough is a very individual bread. If you've made your starter from scratch (see below), then it's got your own local yeasts and represents your own environment. My starter is very sour, but doesn't rise all that much. Which is actually fine, since I love the taste and the thicker chewier texture doesn't bother me. In any case ...

Mix the starter, water, sugar and salt. Add the flour and knead. I usually don't punch down the sourdough, so I either put it straight onto a baking sheet or baking mat top rise, or in a lightly greased loaf pan if I'm making a shaped loaf. Naturally, I shape in appropriately first. Cover the dough and let it rise for a long time. Eight hours at least, sixteen isn't too many, and I often let mine go for twenty-four. As mentioned in the caveats, experiment and bit and fine what works for you.

Bake at 375 for thirty minutes.

Notes:

Sourdough starter
To make your own, mix equal parts of flour and water (I use 1/2 cup of each) and leave it out on the counter. Check on it every now and then for a couple of days, with luck it'll start to bubble some and smell kind of sour. Pour out half of it and top it off with equal parts of flour and water again. Repeat for a week or two, then start to use it for bread-making. After you use some in a recipe, top if off again with flour and water, pouring out some as needed. If you don't use it for a few days, dump out a bit and add some more flour and water. You could try keeping it in the fridge if you aren't going to use it for a while, but I don't.
Moist baking
You can also stick a pan of hot or boiling water in the oven with the bread, which will do interesting things to the crust ...
[Loaf cooling]
© 2011 Jeff Berry
The Aspiring Luddite