04 August 2010

Housewifery Wednesday: Baking Bread

Since early July, I've been on summer vacation.  By this I mean that I have been doing absolutely nothing and that it has been amazing.  But believe it or not, reading and playing the Sims all day gets to be a little monotonus so I took it upon myself to learn how to bake bread with the help of this book:

I debated whether to buy the book at all since the ~Master Recipe~ is available on the authors' website (along with lots of other information about their method) and Googling the title of the book will get you plenty of other bread-baking resources as well.  But I went for it.  In the end I'm glad I did because I tend to be a nervous baker / cook.

Before you even get started with the Hertzberg / François recipe, there's a significant investment.  I bought two large plastic food storage containers on Amazon (I bought those specific containers because they were the ones most frequently purchased with the book and the reviews were mostly positive) to store my bread dough and a baking stone to bake the bread on.  I'd read that you could just use a cookie sheet to bake on, but the baking stone absorbs moisture from the dough so the bottom of the bread doesn't get soggy.  I really like bread, especially bread that's nice and crunchy on the outside, so I found a decently priced baking stone from Crate & Barrel (PLEASE be careful buying a stone - C&B has another baking stone on sale with awful reviews; I'm not sure why they're even selling it!).
The authors also recommend an oven thermometer but I decided to wing it.  If you don't already have one, you'll also need a cooling rack - I've got a cheap one from Marshall's, but in the past I've pulled the metal rack out of my toaster and used that.  It's a little hoodrat, but it works!

The recipe is extremely simple (No kneading!  No worrying about how much the dough rises!) but that doesn't mean you can't mess it up.  My first batch of dough was a complete disaster.  Boyfriend does the whole "organic / whole wheat / one million grains" thing so I used a whole wheat flour which is what I blame my failure on.  My dough was incredibly dry and didn't rise.  The bread it produced was tough and bland.  Ugh!  I had other problems with this flour - I made cookies with it that turned out equally tasteless.  Who would've thought!?

For my second batch I told Boyfriend I needed unbleached all purpose WHITE flour.  He's a sucker for my winning smile :mrgreen: and he let me get some.  Because my bread was not only dry but also bland, I was worried that just changing out my flour wouldn't be enough.  Luckily, the switch from whole wheat to white did the trick and I am now turning out batches of beautiful dough and bread!  I've got this lovely dough sitting in my refrigerator right now:

This dough is about 24 hours old.
And made this beautiful loaf yesterday (don't worry - Boyfriend and I ate it ALL!!):

As you can see, my bread does NOT look like the perfect loaves on the cover of the book (or the ones that come up in the Google image searches) and I pretty much never expect them to.  The bread tastes wonderful and is so easy to make!  The book has tons of ideas for ways to tweak the recipe to make basically any kind of bread you want (ciabatta, herb bread, whole wheat sandwich bread, etc.) but I'm pretty content with the basic recipe.  If you have ANY questions about making bread, please feel free to ask ;)  It is so easy and you will love it!


  1. Hey there, I have that book and their second Healthy Bread in Five Minutes A Day. It has a great whole wheat recipe. The key for whole wheat is adding vital wheat gluten. I'm sure you can find a whole wheat recipe on their website. Also, the brioche from the book you have a is AMAZING! There is nothing low calorie or low fat about it but it is so tasty. Happy baking!


    Oh and with a little practice your loaves will look like the ones on the front of book. I promise!

  2. Oh my gosh KRISTEN..!! The second book has a WW recipe? I have to admit - I've been so pleased with my bread since the switch to white flour that I haven't much but skimmed through the rest of the book. Thanks for the tips! This is wonderful news!! :mrgreen:


  3. Yep, it does. The Healthy Breads book actually convert many of the recipes into whole wheat and there is also a whole gluten free section.

    OH! Once you use up the batch of dough in your fridge you must try the Olive Oil Bread. It's actually my favorite next to the brioche.

  4. One of the reasons I've kind of avoided the other recipes in the book is because I LOVE the basic recipe and I can handle it, but I'm worried that anything more complicated will be out of my league. The Olive Oil Dough looks easy peasy though! You are totally the kick in my butt to try new things - I love it!! Thank you AGAIN!

  5. No, no, no. Trust me they're all (well the ones I've tried) REALLY easy. The Olive Oil Bread (as is the standard boule) is amazing with fresh rosemary. We have it growing wild (i.e. taking over). I just threw it in with the flours and went on as usual.

    Also, when you're starting to feel more comfortable and want something really decadent. Try out the Cinnamon Swirl. I haven't yet tried the french toast part but a friend of mine did and said it was heavenly.


    Cheers & happy baking!

  6. I cannot believe you can make bread. It is obviously very hard and I need a lesson. Thank you.

  7. PS. You read this? http://eversolovely.com/ Just found.

  8. OMG!!! YEsssssss!! Lessons? PLEASE!?!?!?! *!*!*!*!*!*!*