Thursday, December 15, 2005

My Daily Bread

They say that there is nothing like baking your own bread. Nothing like the smell of it freshly baked, permeating your kitchen like a soft, stealthy blanket. Nothing like the ability it has to ease stress and calm your insides. Well, they say right. I have been putting off bread baking for a while...what with the yeasts, and risings, and proofings, and such. I was apprehensive...but also drawn to the very basic, almost primordial picture that bread baking was painting in my little noggin': Me, flour dusting my arms, massaging a lump of dough into a piece of heavenly comfort. So I embarked on a project called, um, "No buying bread!" Ok, more like an experiment. I would see how long I could go eating nothing but my own bread.

The breads you see here are my first attempts. The topmost picture being the very first product of this little experiment. It's The Essential White Loaf from Nigella Lawson's How To be A Domestic Goddess. I thought it may well do to start with something that had the word essential in it. Nigella said that I didn't have to put it in a loaf tin but could instead form it into any shape I wished. So I tried to go for a rustic looking round, but instead ended up with a lumpy alien spacecraft. No first whiff, my first bite, and it was all worth it. Worth the time spent waiting for the dough to rise, the steps taken to get to this essential loaf, even the efforts of keading (something that I have discovered I actually does calm your insides!). I know this is a comment from a total newbie breadmaker still in the honeymoon of it all, but I kept thinking as I bit into my first slice, "My bread, MY bread."

Here's the recipe:

The Essential White Loaf
(from Nigella Lawson’s How to Be a Domestic Goddess)

- 500 grams strong white bread flour (plus some for kneading)
- 1 sachet (7 grams) easy blend yeast or 15 grams fresh yeast (despite Nigella’s explicit warning against it I used active dried yeast, it’s all I had, and it still turned out ok)
- 1 tablespoon salt
- around 300 ml tap water or potato water (I used potato water)
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened

Here’s what you do:
- Put the flour, yeast, and salt in a bowl then add 200 ml of the water. As you add the water mix with a wooden spoon (or your hand). Add more water until it becomes a “shaggy mess” (I love that phrase! There are times, after a completely satisfactory wild night out, that you return home feeling exactly that way? Like an absolutely brilliant shaggy mess?). Now add the butter and mix in.
- Now start kneading (yey!) for at least 10 minutes. There may be a day, long into my bread future, when I may tire of pushing the heel of my hand into a mound of pliant dough over and over (thinking very deep thoughts), but until that day comes I won’t be using the dough hook.
- Add flour as needed (if the dough seems too sticky).
- When the dough is smooth and less sticky, form it into a ball and place it in a large oiled or buttered bowl, turning it once so the top is greased too. Cover loosely with cling film (or a tea towel) and leave to rise for an hour or so until doubled in bulk. You can also opt to give it a long cold rise in the fridge overnight.
- Once doubled in size, punch it down (another fun part!) and knead for just a tiny moment.
- Form the dough into what ever shape you want and place it on a baking sheet (or loaf tin) and once again cover loosely with cling film or a tea towel. Leave for 30 minutes or so until puffy again.
- Remove towel and dust lightly with flour. Place in a 220C oven and bake for 35 minutes.
- You know it’s ready when you rap on the underside and it sounds hollow.- When done, place on a rack and let it cool.

I suppose there are more expert recipes out there...stuff that come from bread bibles and such, but oh the ecstasy of eating fresh bread that was kneaded by these two hands. It tasted much heartier than store-bought, and less sweet as well. Now, you are probably wondering why the picture above (and the one above that) look suspiciously not white. That's because for my second attempt I used half white flour and half whole wheat (using the same recipe). Also delicious! The bread pictured in my last breakfast post (in which I alluded to my bread project) is Potato Bread, also from Nigella, and actually my favorite so soft and chewy!

So have I bought bread since I started? Nope. So far things are looking good and I am enjoying myself immensely. And I have only just used recipes from one book! There are tons out all the bread recipes I have been bookmarking from the food blog I haven't even ventured into starters (although I have gotten a lot of good tips from much-admired food bloggers)! This may be the start of something great...


angelika said...

Congratulations, Joey ! I admire you a lot. I'd wish to have time to start my own experiments in this respect and I certainly will do one day. Good bread is something I would never like to live without, it's true comfort food - and how exciting it must be to have your very own ! Big hug from angelika

Mila Tan said...

The pics and the overall post was a wonderful read (and a sight to behold). You'll convert more than a few of us to do just what you did on our spare days at home, especially over the holidays. Take a day, bake some bread. Sounds great!

wysgal said...

Wow! I've never baked my own bread ... an admirable achievement for a first attempt!

And I love Nigella Lawson for her semi-haphazard approach to things. She was first a food critic and then celebrity chef ... and I totally agree with her when she says that in order to be a good cook one has to love eating (which is the premise of her book "How To Eat").

Lera said...

Fresh Bread is something I relish, never knew about using potato water ! will try this method.Thanks for sharing.

tattum said...

Joey! That's GREAT!!! I had the same idea last week, but something went wrong, the dough didn't rise. so the bread was good tasting, but too concentrated, and thick...Did you use dry yeast? because I think that that might have been the problem...
But my congratulations!! Yours looks soooo good!! I must try again. Besos

Lori said...

Welcome to the world of your own bread, Joey! Store bought will never taste as good again. :) An awesome first attempt. Much better than mine was, which looked so awkward I was tempted to take a photo of it. :p

ChichaJo said...

Hi Angelika! is exciting :) You should definitely start your own "experiments". It's so wonderful to smell and touch and taste...

Hi Mila! Thank you! It really is relaxing, for me at least. "Take a day, bake some bread"...I like that :) A good book to read during rising time and you are set!

Thanks Wysgal! I like Nigella too...definitely agree with what she said about cooking and eating...which is why she is so believable I guess...coz she looks like she really enjoys every morsel :) So how was the book? Have been tempted to buy it...

Hi Lera! Nigella says that the potato water is the best tip she can give for making good white bread "with a light crumb that lasts longer before going stale"...

Hi Tattum! Thanks! I did use active dried yeast (despite Nigella saying not to) because it was all I had, but things turned out a-ok...I hope to read a post about your bread soon! :)

Hi Lori! Thanks so much :) I am so happy to be free of the store-bought-bread chains! Woohoo!

sailu said...

Joey,first time commenting in here..found you thru Paz's blog..must say that experimental method for baking bread has floored me.Thanks for sharing..:)

Mona said...

Good for you girlfriend! Awesome pictures and great-looking bread. Very impressed. I've only made my own bread once and it was too dense for dad's a huge breadmaker I keep meaning to take some lessons from him:) Maybe I'll have to turn to you!

Nic said...

Nice job! Lumps or no, I think that the bread looks extremely tasty.

T said...

Yay for Nigella! Your beautiful loaf is inspiring me to bake tomorrow! Im putting bread flour on my grocery list so I can try my hand at this.

Fran said...

Your bread looks absolutely perfect! There is nothing beter than the smell of bread baking. I don't bake bread as much as I would like but think I would do it more often if the results were like yours! I love your posts.

ChichaJo said...

Hi Sailu! Thanks for dropping by! :)

Hi Mona! Thanks! Maybe I should be asking your dad for some pointers :)

Thanks Nic! Your encouragement means a lot...I have been checking out your blog for pointers, you've got such yummy yeast bread recipes! :)

Hi Tanvi! Yes, yey for her for putting bread within my reach...hehe :) Good luck with your batch!

Hi Fran! Thanks for such sweet comments! Much appreciated here :) The smell is wonderful no?

Zoubida said...

Congratulations and bravo! Your first bread looks really good. You should have seen my first... The dough went to the trash bin presto!

I make my own bread every other day and I buy bread only in case of emmergency, i.e. unexpected guests or if I'm near an artisanal french bakery and I want to treat myself and my walking food vaccums (read: my 3 sons) with a crème de la crème, state of the art french traditional bread.

I wish you great success in your experiment and hope you'll be able to set up a good, solid routine of regular bread-making. It's so rewarding and terribly comforting to eat home made bread.

ChichaJo said...

Hi Zoubida! Thanks for stopping by and for the nice comments :) I'd love to get tips from a regular bread maker like yourself! I agree with's 100% rewarding AND comforting :)

pasion said...

wow, a kindred soul! i'm a convert myself. these lips have not taste store bought bread for a few months now. and i don't regret it!

dexiejane said...

You're definitely courageous. I hsven't found my own courage yet to make my own bread. I always drool over my MIL's breadmaker when I visit her. Someday I will follow your footsteps :)

boo_licious said...

Joey, that bread looks good. I'm still too scared to try making my own.

ChichaJo said...

Hi Pasion! Thanks for dropping by...saw your Cottage Bread and it looks good! Glad to find a kindred soul out there :)

Hi Dexie! It's fun really...and like everything, if it doesn't turn out, there's always tomorrow (think Scarlett O'Hara) :)

Thanks Boo_licious! It's really not scary at all :) Quite fun and earthy actually ;)

Paz said...

Your bread looks really good! Congratulations. You're so inspiring. Who knows perhaps I'll try it some time. ;-)


Zoubida said...

Hi Chichajo,
It'll be my pleasure to share what I learned and experienced making bread over the years.
One tip that saved me aggravation with bread texture: I put water (or other liquid) in the bowl with salt, sugar if used, egg if used and I whisk to blend.
Then I add half of the flour the recipe calls for (I use a kitchenaid but if you do by hand, you can mix in this first addition of flour with a wire whisk). Then I add instant yeast (make sure it's fresh by checking the expiratin date on the packaging, I keep mine in the freezer at all times) then mix again, then add flour by half a cup at a time until you are satisfayed with the texture of the dough (at some point of course you drop the whisk and go ahead with hands for kneading).

An other tip I use when I make "american" bread, I add the room temperature butter by tablespoon at a time after the dough is kneaded and has reached a satisfactory texture. The dough will separate when you add the butter, keep kneading until it comes together again then add the following tablespoon of butter. Of course this technique makes more "muscle" work if you make your bread by hand. It's easier for kitchenaids owners. Incorporating the butter this way makes for a delicious bread with a perfect texture.
My children don't like the harder crust of homemade bread, so I cover the bread with a thick kitchen towel immediately upon it is removed from the oven. I remove the towel when the bread is warm and the crust it tender and soft.
Never cut a bread which is out of the oven less than 10 minutes ago. Even if it's hard to do so, wait for it to rest at least 10 to 15 minutes.

My recipe I use the most:
For 2 loaves of bread
2.5 cups warm water
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 egg
2 teaspoons instant quick rising yeast
6 to 7 cups flour (white or whole wheat or a mix of different flours)
1/4 to 1/2 cup (to taste) butter

I hope this will be of some help.

Jennifer Tan said...

hello i am here again! i was so excited when i saw this blog of your about baking bread... i make my own bread as well..the bread encyclopedia inspired me the most in doin so..have you read this book? very nice..

i make pan de sal...chocolate cinnamon rolls ( i sell 'em too! hehehe) indian rotis and beer bread...i like making the wholewheat!

like you i swore off buying bread ince i started making my own...but then again..bread is really good whoever loving hands made them =) hahaha

your bread looks great =) please keep on posting...i love reading you thank you for sharing your love for for and adventures with it ...

ChichaJo said...

Hi Paz! Thanks for your warm words! If you do try it I would love to read the post :)

Hello Zoubida! Wow, Thanks you for all the tips! These will definitely help :) Thanks so much for sharing the recipe as well!

Hi Jennifer! Thanks for your lovely comments :) I haven't read the bread encyclopedia but it sounds like a very good source, thanks for passing on the info! Chocolate cinnamon rolls...yum! Where do you sell them? :)

sha said...

haha I can relate to your pleasure MY BREAD MY BREAD I felt the same as well... I was checking the dough all the time when it was proofing but I the aroma of wafted the house.. I know better nothing else can compare your own bread.

Jennifer Tan said...

I sell them to friends or orders by request =) ...happy holidays to you! more reason to make good food and bake great breads! hahaha...speaking of which..have you tried using this bread to make kaya toast?? i love kaya toast---eating it brings me back to singapore =)

Lou said...

Totally agree. Homemade bread is pure magic. :-)

ChichaJo said...

Hi Sha! I truly agree! :) A very primal satisfaction...

Hi Jennifer! How would I go about ordering your rolls? They sound delish! I haven't tried Kaya toast...would you be kind enough to pass on some instructions? :) Happy holidays to you too!

Hi Lou! Yes, magic indeed...especially to see it rise...and the smell! :)

Jennifer Tan said...

you may order through ---here! hahaha usually by =)

well kaya toast is just thinly sliced brown bread w/ the "kaya" spread and some butter. the kaya spreadlooks a bit yellowish and its taste is similar to that of our "matamis na bao" (a.k.a. coco jam) but less sweet. there is this place I frequent at tomas morato--kopi roti! they serve kaya toast ther w/ excellent kopi--coffee w/ condensed milk! ---yummmmm---this reminds me of vietnamese style coffee.. pls try. do you like coffee?? ...oh my that is my greatest love you see =) merry christmas to you!

ChichaJo said...

Hi Jennifer! Thanks! Will order once we finish our Christmas bounty :) Kaya toast sounds great! I must try this one day...and I have heard of that type of coffee and I am itching to try it as I love both coffee AND condensed milk :) Thanks for the info on the restaurant! Merry Christmas to you too!