BAKING HOMEMADE BREAD
As baking goes – I am a N-O-V-I-C-E (triple exclamation marks) for sure.
I don’t pretend to know enough to even carry on a decent conversation with someone whom I would classify as a “professional-home-baker”. You know, the person that won all kinds of 4H ribbons for making the perfect Devil’s food cake back in grade school while others had to turn in their pathetic rendition of a chocolate chip cookie. Who fails 4H anyway? “Not speaking from experience mind you”, she said with a half-baked grin. That same ribbon winner moved on to baking homemade desserts for her family every day. She made homemade sugar cookies in perfect cutout letters representing the first initial of each of her kids classmates when it came her turn to provide snacks. Yes! You know who I’m talking about. She entered baking contests… AND WON for heaven’s sake. Well, that’s not me and I make no apologies. That same “professional-home-baker” can’t make a smooth as silk Bolognese sauce so I feel vindicated! Not that I was speaking of myself mind you.
So now that I went through a little personal therapy, let’s talk homemade bread baking! I have been tinkering around with bread baking for – well, let’s just say a long, long time. It’s frightening for some reason. How can so few cheap ingredients send grown people into a panic. I’ve actually read blogs where people claim to be “afraid” of yeast! I know they don’t mean that literally, but they do seem hesitant of diving into making a loaf of bread for fear that it won’t come out edible. And if turns out like my first dozen or so breads, it probably won’t! How’s that for encouragement? But homemade bread baking is one of those things that you will only get better at it if you keep making bad loaves! Let’s face it, wouldn’t you rather screw up a batch of bread dough (cheap) than screw up a batch of say…Chateaubriand (not so cheap).
One of my culinary resolutions for 2014 was to bake more bread! So I have been digging up old dog-eared recipes of baking past, scouring the internet for helpful hints and baking inspiration and dusting off my somewhat vast (for someone that is NOT A BAKER) collection of baking cookbooks and have come up with a short list of breads that I want to “master” this year.
A YEAR OF BREAD MAKING
# 1 – A true New Orleans style French bread. Not a chewy Italian loaf. That’s usually how my French bread turns out. Good, edible, just not the classic, light as air French bread that I want to represent New Orleans. # 2 – A muffaletta bread. Another classic New Orleans bread that is a must if you want to make a real New Orleans muffaletta. Nothing else will do! It’s a large round soft loaf. It looks like a giant sesame seed hamburger bun. Not too thick but sturdy enough to hold up to tons of imported meats and cheeses then topped off with the classic New Orleans olive salad. # 3 – A really good hamburger bun. Classic, light and soft. That shouldn’t be too difficult. Right? # 4 – A sour dough bread. Now this one scares me. You have to make a starter. Then your starter has to be keep alive and tended to. I have 5 cats and a husband, do I really need something else to have to take care of? H-u-m-m-m-m-m , that one will be towards the bottom of the list. But it IS on the list. # 5 – Challah…. Now this is scary stuff! Not the dough so much but all of the braiding. Seven strips of long dough braided to look like a work of art (by someone that knows what they are doing). I couldn’t braid my own hair in 4th grade and that was only three strands! I haven’t had longish hair since. # 6 – Brioche. Alright, I make brioche more than I make any other bread, because I make King Cake a lot during King Cake season. BUT… I want to expand my brioche horizon so to speak. There are so many great things you can make with a brioche dough. And if I end up improving my brioche making skills (not hard to do when you don’t know what you are doing in the first place), well, that’s just a bonus. Notice I never mentioned – croissant dough. You see, I may be crazy, but I’m not stupid! I know my limitations. I’ll leave that one to the 4H over-achiver! I may end up throwing something else in there as the year progresses, but this is my beginning plan and I’m stickin’ to it. For now! PS… I already thought of #7 – Rugalach! Love it! Never made it! Must make it before 2014 rolls into 2015!
Have a fab-u-licious day
Laisser les bons temps rouler!