Two weeks ago I got it into my head that I wanted to make my own bread. I don’t know where this desire came from- absolutely no one that I knew of made their own bread (I’ve since found out that many of my friends make their own bread, which made me feel a little less home-on-the-prairie about the whole affair).
So I set out onto the internet in an attempt to find a recipe for bread that A. wouldn’t require a bread maker and B. would be fairly idiot proof. After a bit of searching I came across this post on Jezebel that promised to be impossible to mess up*. And off I went! The only ingredient that I didn’t have was active yeast, which was easy enough to find.
To begin, I collected the following ingredients:
3 cups of warm water
1.5 tablespoon of salt
1.5 tablespoon of active yeast
6.5 cups flour
1 large, sealable container.
So as directed, I took the warm water and added the salt and yeast, stirring until it appeared to dissolve and then waited for it to bubble.
Now, I did not understand what “bubbling” meant- at some point, a few rogue bubbles rose to the surface of the mixture and I decided that that was good enough. I then proceeded to dump the mixture into the large sealable container, into which I had already poured the flour.
Admittedly, I thought that by putting the flour in first I was saving myself a step- by having it ready to go I was being forward thinking! I was being a total pro! (I had forgotten that the bottom of the container was ridged!) The flour got trapped in the ridges on the bottom of the container, the liquid gooped up 2/3rds of the container’s contents, and then I had to scrape flour back into the mixture for the next ten minutes.
So eventually, the dough was properly mixed and it was time to let the dough sit out on the counter with the lid only partially over the container for 1-2 hours. I don’t have any photos of this step, but if I did, it would be a photo series of me checking the container every three minutes from 9:15 to 10:22, and becoming increasingly confused as to why my dough wouldn’t rise.
BACK TO THE INTERNET! I went onto forums, ehows, and yahoo!answer sites until I found a series of tips that explained that dough needed to be a certain temperature for the yeast to activate- namely a warm, moist temperature. At that given moment, the Arctic Whoosie-whatsit (Vortex!) was bearing down on the Philadelphia area, and it was literally 9 degrees outside, which made inside around 60 degrees. This was not what the yeast wanted. It was displeased.
What I ended up doing was filling a medium stockpot filled with water on the stove and setting it to boil. I removed the bottom rack of the over and set the pot inside, followed by the un-rising dough (Which went on the top rack). I then closed the oven and allowed the boiling water to create a sauna-like environment.
Then, I took a bowl, added a cup of very warm water, a teaspoon of yeast and a tablespoon of sugar to check that the yeast was active. I waited ten minutes, quickly learned what activating “bubbling” yeast actually looked like (it doubled in size. Had I not been so excited, I would have been terrified). I then took out the dough, mixed in this yeast with an extra cup of flour, and set it back in the oven-sauna and waited.
Immediately, the dough began to rise. I celebrated, and then started to try and clean wet flour off of every kitchen surface that I had touched in the last hour. By the time I was done, the hour was up and the dough had made considerable progress in its rising.
I then “punched” the dough, which I thought was just going to slightly decrease the height of the container’s contents. THIS WAS NOT WHAT IT DID. As soon as my hand made contact with the dough, it deflated back down to half its size. In my head, I imagined the sound of a ACME-brand whoopie cushion flying around a room as the dough re-settled.
Now that I was finally back on track, I sealed the container and tucked it into the fridge for a good night’s sleep, newly dubious in my bread making abilities.
Of course, the next day when it came to baking the bread I didn’t have my fantastic fiance around to take photos for me, so I don’t have much in the way of documentation. Essentially, I pre-heated the oven to 450 degrees, greased a bread pan with olive oil, threw in a hunk of dough that seemed big enough, and cut a slice down the center (otherwise your bread will crack!). Then I put a fine coating of olive oil on top of the loaf (which was a personal touch added by me) and threw it in the oven and hoped that I wouldn’t return to find dough exploding through the kitchen.
After 30 minutes, I turned the oven temperature up to 500 degrees because the Jezebel article said that it would give my bread a nice golden crust after 5-10 minutes. They could have been right, but after raising the temperature I got distracted by the sound of one of my cats tearing the flat to pieces, so I walked away and never timed it. Regardless, the end result was golden brown and looked delicious.
The end result was pretty freaking fantastic. I would love to say that I ate the bread in moderation over a few days, and that it saved beautifully, but truth be told it was gone by that evening and at least 1/2 of the consumption happened by yours truly.
In the end, I can say with certainty that I made bread. I can also say that the Jezebel recipe was truly idiot-proof, because even after my endless mistakes and attempts to save the bread, it still turned out delicious. So many thanks to Jezebel writer Jenna Sauers, who made a kickass recipe that is absolutely delicious!
*I would like to note that all fuck-uppery that occurred through my own mistakes and lack of research. The Jezebel recipe is absolutely fantastic and I encourage everyone to use it (particularly over my own lackadaisical version of the recipe)!