I’m a self-taught baker. Everything I have learned has been through the experience, watching others, and soaking up as much information as possible.
I hate to say it, but TV has played a huge role in my cooking and baking successes.
I’m addicted to Food Network and lately, I’ve been addicted to The Great British Baking Show. Paul Hollywood – need I say more?
I’ve only ever made bread in a bread machine. It turns out lovely enough, but it’s very easy to use. You dump it in and press go. The only thing you really have to watch for in a bread machine is that you put the salt in separate from the yeast so the salt doesn’t inactivate the yeast. The machine even kneads the bread for you.
I’ve been wanting to make bread from scratch. So, after I bought Paul Hollywood’s BREAD book, it seemed a perfect time.
First of all, before I tell you about my first adventure into bread making, I want to talk about how much I love this book just for the reading experience! He talks about bread in a beautiful way. I adore the way he describes the bread as the centerpiece of the meals. If nothing else, read the introductions to each chapter! You won’t regret it.
So, it is suggested in Paul’s book that beginners start with his Bloomer recipe, which is a basic picnic bread, and so I set off to do just that. If you want to use his Bloomer recipe without the book, you can find it here, but fair warning it’ll likely just make you want to go ahead and splurge on the book!
It required bread flour, which was easy enough to find at the local grocery store. I use King Arthur flour because I think they are a wonderful company with a quality product.
Here was my first bread baking lesson:
Conversions are hard.
I wish I had paid more attention to metrics in math class. I did a lot of googling conversions.
I am pretty sure I used more water than needed. However, I’m still unsure because I don’t know if I measured everything correctly. I also didn’t use the best measuring cup ever. I thought the dough felt dry, so I added more water. (How’s that for confidence!? And likely, confidence a beginner shouldn’t have!)
The dough was pretty wet at first, but the more I worked with it, the less sticky it became – just like the book promised.
Lesson two of bread making was that kneading dough is quite a workout.
I should develop some serious arm muscles in no time!
I kneaded it somewhere between 10-15 minutes, just as Paul suggests in the book for beginners. It felt like a very strong dough at the end.
I placed it in my lightly oiled bowl and waited for 1.5 hours. It appeared to have risen as expected, so I worked at knocking the air out and shaping it as he discusses in the book. Never as easy as it sounds…
Then, you are supposed to prove it for another hour. This part says to put the whole baking tray in a plastic bag. I struggled to find anything to cover it and ended up with a garbage bag and thanking the lord above that I hadn’t bought those nasty lilac smelling garbage bags this time around.
Lesson three: I need good proofing bags. I plan to order these.
And then I waited for another hour.
More conversions in order to convert celsius oven temperature to Fahrenheit. Again, I wished I paid more attention in school. More googling required.
Before you put it in, you are to use a sharp knife and cut some slits in the top. If you don’t, the bottom will crack. My knife skills on the bread lack a bit of luster, but I was indecisive on how deep to make them.
Then, I put it in and I was patient. You are supposed to put some water in a roasting pan below your bread for steam – I just put mine in a ceramic pie plate and it worked fine. It isn’t what you put the water in, just that it is large enough to hold the water to create the steam for the nice crisp crust.
It came out looking pretty decent for my first bloomer loaf!
While I don’t think I’d get the Hollywood handshake, I don’t think I’d be last in the technical challenge!
At the very least, it was delicious.
Will I make more bread from my Paul Hollywood book? You bet. I can’t wait! Even with the conversions facing me.
Have you made any bread by hand? From Paul’s book? I’d love to see your bread bakes!
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