Kitchen Excursions: My First Bread Baking Experience
A few months ago, my husband informed me that he wanted to make homemade bread to compliment the meal he was planning on cooking for dinner. I was all for it; I’m not someone to turn down homemade bread when it’s offered. Plus, he was very excited about it since he had not made it in a while. I watched him get started as he pulled out the flour, the yeast, and a few other ingredients and went to work.
As it baked, the scent of fresh bread filled the air and visions of cutting off a warm slice with some butter slathered on it filled mine and my husband’s thoughts. Until he pulled it out, that is.
To our dismay, it was a flop.
The bread did not rise and came out incredibly dense. We both slathered on the butter anyway. My husband decided it was inedible and although it was not the desired texture, I ate some and found it to be okay despite its density. Most likely the culprit was the yeast since we had had it for a long time and was probably beyond its best-use-by date. I had mentioned to my husband that I had never made bread before and he challenged me to do better than what he had just produced.
Well, I could not turn down a challenge. So I accepted.
It took me a few months to follow up on this challenge, but finally I relented. When my husband and I first got married, we were gifted with the Betty Crocker Cookbook: Newlywed Edition. Simply said, I would highly recommend this book for anyone who wants a comprehensive cookbook that also has fast recipe options, entertaining tips, and more for someone who is new to cooking and the kitchen in general. I have used this book many times before, and I once again turned to it to find a bread recipe to try for the first time.
My husband and I decided that I would make the “Classic White Bread” which I found on page 114. The recipe makes two loaves and I decided that if I deemed the final results palatable, I would give the other loaf to my parents to enjoy. I gathered the ingredients and made sure to purchase some new yeast from the grocery store to help set myself up for success.
For starters, it always takes me longer than the advised amount of time for prep. Also, I always seem to manage to misread steps and reread instructions over and over again. Due to this, it took me approximately double the time to make this recipe than the estimate in the cookbook. Despite this, I went ahead and measured out all of the ingredients and used my standing mixer to combine them, slowly adding the flour until it reached what I presumed was the desired texture as described in the steps. When that seemed acceptable, I went ahead and started the kneading process. I did set a timer for this so that I had an idea of when the dough should reach its desired feel. If I had not, I honestly would have had no idea what I was doing at this point. When the kneading was complete I put the dough in a bowl, covered it, and allowed for it to rise.
What I did not know (because I misread the directions) was that the dough is supposed to rise twice. Once after the dough is made and then once again in the pan before it is put into the oven to bake. Because of this, I ended up putting butter on top of the loaves before they were supposed to rise the second time. Upon further reading, I discovered that I was not even supposed to add the butter to the top of the loaves until the bread had baked.
When the allotted time passed for the second rise, I eyeballed the loaves to see if they had doubled in size. I was not too sure if it was necessarily double, but it was close enough for me. So I went ahead and put them in my preheated oven.
When I pulled them out of the oven, I was pleased with the results and brushed butter on top of them once again. The loaves were not as fluffy as I thought they would be, but they resembled more of a bread loaf than the attempt my husband had made a few months prior. When he came home and tried it, he was very pleased with the results. Admittedly, I was quite proud of myself and decided that I would follow through with giving the second loaf to my parents.
On a constructive note, I discovered that my loaves should have risen a little more. I was browsing the bread chapter the following day and found on page 127 a section with pictures of what an ideal, underrisen, and overrisen yeast loaf look like. My husband and I determined that my loaf was somewhere in between the ideal and underrisen. Due to this, I should have allowed for the bread to rise longer than the estimate. Another potential contributing factor to why the bread did not rise correctly is the fact that I put melted butter on the loaves at different times during the rising process. If I had read the directions all the way through and thoroughly in advance, this additional cause would not even be up for debate.
Because of the positive reaction from my parents and family that tried it, I will more than likely attempt to make bread again whether it is this recipe or trying another type. As a personal goal, I would really like to practice making a yeast loaf until I can make it perfectly. Not only do I think that this will come in handy in the event that I need bread and don’t have the time to go to the store, but I think it will add an extra touch to that French toast I plan on treating my family to. Until then, I look forward to enjoying this loaf and figuring out what to try out next.
By Elyse Collins