Wednesday, July 9, 2008

My daily bread - an update

When I started the local diet experiment last October, I started routinely buying fresh bread from our local bakery, Blue Baker. All their breads are fabulous (their croissants are one of the best I've had inside the US - sorry it's hard to compete with the French). There are two things that I really like about Blue Baker:
  1. They bake their bread fresh every morning, so you never buy bread more that a few hours old.
  2. They use whole, real ingredients. You'll only find ingredients in their bread that you would use in your own kitchen: flour, sugar, yeast, salt, etc - No "calcium peroxide" in those loaves! What is that anyway?
So every few days, I'd stop by on my way home and pick up a loaf - one day perhaps a loaf of multi-grain; another day, cinnamon swirl; and yet another a dozen of my favorite bagels.

From time to time, I'd try to bake a little quick bread on my own. I looked all over for recipes WITHOUT yeast. Yeast was just too scary. Like I could actually bake real bread, right? So I tried irish soda bread a few times. It was ok, but I continued to get all our bread from the bakery. 

Looking back now, I'm not sure why I chose to make that first loaf. I stumbled upon The Fresh Loaf, a website where they host bread-baking lessons for beginners, in March and something inside me was aching to try it. Besides, I never thought I could make yogurt either and I'd been doing that for 8 months. 

Though dense, that first loaf of white bread was delicious, not to mention the enticing aroma that filled our home. I loved the kneading; I loved the rising; I loved the baking - I was addicted. I started baking 3-4 loaves a week just to experiment with different flours, techniques, and forms. By early May, I had bought the super-cool, ultra-mega mixer to help me with all the from-scratch cooking and baking I was doing. In addition to a whip and the beater, the mixer came with a special kneading hook. And as it turns out, that little help with the kneading was all I needed to turn good bread into amazing loaves.

The photos I've included are my latest. That's my second attempt at bagels (first photo) and they turned out just gorgeous. I can't quite make enough of those yogurt rolls (second photo). We eat them as fast as I can make them, it seems. And the loaf of white bread (third photo) is picture perfect. I actually made that! 

Don't get me wrong - there's still so much I have to learn and many thing I want to try (i.e. I'm still working on perfecting a wheat loaf for sandwiches), but I've come a long way since the days I was intimidated by the yeast-factor. It just goes to show you - somewhere outside that comfort zone could be an undiscovered talent, an unknown passion, or simply a way to save a little dough (sorry, pun intended). The moral of this story? Please, don't ever be afraid to try...


Tammi said...

I always enjoy kneading. :) Pounding the crap out of a lump of dough is very angry management. Haha!

But sadly, with the amount of bread we eat here it wasn't realistic to think I could keep up with bread AND watch three small children so we invested in a bread marker. I love it so much.

I may try my hand at bagels this weekend. That sounds good.

Beany said...

I keep meaning to make bagels but still haven't gotten around to it.

Your bread is gorgeous! I haven't been able to make pretty bread, but I think that happens with practice. We don't eat much bread in our house so I need more practice.

eco 'burban mom said...

Oh, the pictures look good enough to eat! I love, love bread and have been buying it all from a local baker and have not attempted my own. Kudos to you!

Jennifer (of Veg*n Cooking) said...

I've got to get over my fear of bread making. It seems like it would be such a peaceful activity, even a workout! Your bread looks absolutely gorgeous, though I am partial to the bagels above.

timeus said...

timeus is glad you got your yeast under control.

Heather @ SGF said...

Tammi - I loved the kneading too, but the mixer really helps out with the mess and I find the bread rises and the crumb is so much better than when I do the kneading. So I've delegated that responsibility out. I still get a kick out of the bread rising each time and the wonderful aroma.

You should totally try the bagels. They're really easy. The bagel recipe I used this last time was:

Beany - I listed the bagel recipe I used above. It's a little different from the first time and the bagels turned out just perfect. You won't be sorry. These babies are TASTY!

Eco 'burban mom - Buying local is great too. When I first started with the bread, the idea was that I just wanted to know how in case options became limited in a faltering economy. It turns out I just fell in love with it. Even if you don't start baking all your bread, it sure is fun to try. Oh, and I'm with you - I'm a total bread addict!

Jennifer - It really is fun and can be enormously theraputic! Not to mention it feels really good to be able to make my own bread. There's something fundamentaly fullfilling in it to me. I listed that bagel recipe in my comment to Tammi above. Give it a shot. It's a tougher dough than normal bread so it's a bit harder to knead, but in the end, if you can make bread, you can make bagels.

Timeus - Yep! All's clear :)

arduous said...

Oh my gosh, I'm drooling over your pretty, pretty bread!

Glenda said...

Baking our own bread is my one and only goal for this summer -- I will defeat the fear of the yeast LOL.

I have this book -- -- and have read good things on blogs of people who have used various recipes from the book. Just today I sat down and made the corrections noted in the "Errors" section of the website, and I'm hoping to snag a pizza peel within the next several days so I can give a recipe or two a try.

We used to not eat bread quick enough for a loaf of homemade bread to not go bad before we were halfway thru it, but in recent months we've been eating lots of sandwiches and zooming thru the bread. Thus my desire to make it my own self!

Rapunzel said...

WTG! I have made bread a few times and really enjoyed it but it's dangerous in my house, will eat the entire loaf on my own. *blush*

Heather @ SGF said...

Arduous - it's worth the drool. This stuff is soooo good!

Glenda - I've seen the Artisian Bread's website. I've heard good things about them too. Our bread normally goes bad in a few days if we don't eat it. Breads get sliced and frozen, then we take a few pieces out at a time to eat and it tastes like it was just baked. The bagels I also slice ahead of time and freeze. The buns also go in the freezer, but they don't get sliced. Forty seconds in the microwave and they're perfect - soft and warm. Yum!

Rapunzel - It is good, isn't it? It's hard not to nibble when I'm slicing.

Green Bean said...

I've just made bread with the bread maker because I've been too afraid to try. Thanks for the inspiration.

Heather @ SGF said...

Green Bean - Yeah! So how did it turn out? It's easy isn't it?

Green Plan(t) said...

I was pretty daunted by the task last weekend when I made yeast bread by hand for the first time. But I used a quick yeast (no proofing or mixing, just toss it in with your dry ingredients!) and it turned out perfectly.

Another tidbit for baking bread, that I also tried out for the first time last weekend, was using dairy whey. You can either use it in place of sugar or milk (just increase your water if that's the case) and it was great yeast food.

You might check out down---to---earth if you haven't already as she has a few breadmaking hints and tricks. Her's was the recipe I used last weekend and it makes a great loaf. It's also a recipe that can be modified easily to make it sweeter or whatnot.

I just wish I'd thought to blog my progress as I did it! Oh well, maybe this weekend. :)

Heather @ SGF said...

Green Plan(t) - thanks for the blog link. I'll look around and check out her tips! I've never tried dairy whey. Where did you find it?

Green Plan(t) said...

It's a great site and I think you'll really find a lot of useful things on it. She has some wonderful posts about simple living and such.

If I remember right (because we since transfered the whey into a separate container) it was a Bob's Red Mill product. I'm not sure where you might find that in your local area, but at least you can order it online here.

I'm feeling spectacularly lazy right now but I hope to make some more bread this weekend. :D

Lisa Sharp said...

Looks wonderful Heather! Nothing better than homemade bread.

Heather @ SGF said...

Thanks, Lisa. I agree. There's just something about biting into a fresh slice of bread and butter. Mmmm. I can't believe I was ever afraid to try. Silly me!