Adventures in bread making

A nursery rhyme from childhood played in my head yesterday. An obscure little ditty, but well suited to humming while baking bread!

“Blow wind, blow
And go, mill, go
That the miller may grind his corn
That the baker may take it
And into bread make it
And bring us a loaf in the morn.”

The history of bread, by John Ashton, ca 1900

I’ve always wanted to make bread from scratch.

I know, I know… big deal, she made some bread! Yawn… Give her a medal already.

Get a grip Karen, it’s just baking bread, it’s not Breaking Bad. 😉

It’s not like I discovered the Northwest Passage or the Philosophers Stone, and here I am penning a piece on an activity people do all the time, and have done for thousands of years.

Yet, I avoided this my whole life because the act of baking bread held some weird inexplicable romantic quality for me.

It seemed like a mystical process of alchemy only some ancient sage could have practiced, (which it may very well have been to an ancient person), especially that chemical reaction between yeast & water. If you think about it, how did they even come up with that idea so long ago? Amazing, really.

In any case, now that I’ve partaken in this magical process, I realize my fear of the ‘unknown’ was totally unfounded. Isn’t that the way with most things in life?! But I digress…

After what I feel was a successful bread making endeavour, I’m keen to bake just about anything now! Especially after (re)discovering family cook books/recipes from my Mom, and my Great great Grandma’s from the mid eighteenth century. (Thank goodness for Google. It didn’t take long to locate how old weights and measures from old cook books translate into measurements we use today.)

But seriously, aren’t these small, yet lovely personal triumphs in life worth celebrating?

The point is, if I can make bread from scratch, anyone can! If you’re interested in having a go, read on!

The recipe comes down from my Grandma. (She also made the best lemon meringue pie ever, but that’s another post). This bucolic loaf contains just a handful of ingredients, including rosemary and garlic. (Of note, I didn’t weigh the flour like one probably should. Instead, I used a little less than this recipe calls for.)

Nell’s Rosemary & Garlic Bread

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups of water (temperature of that water should be between 105F – 110F to interact with yeast. (I ran water from the tap over the thermometer to get the correct temp.)
  • 1 packet (1/4 ounce) of dry instant yeast
  • 4.5 cups of unbleached flour (I used 4.25 cups)
  • 1 tbsp pickling salt (I like it because it’s coarse)
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • 1 tbsp dried & crushed rosemary
  • Olive oil for bowl

Directions

*** Before you begin, take off those rings! They’ll get all sticky with dough. This saves cleaning them. 🙂

1 – Open packet of yeast and empty it into a good size bowl.

2 – Stir in the warm water, which activates the yeast. Stir for a couple minutes. It will start to thicken.

3 – Add the flour and mix it up with your hands. (This is one of the best parts, being at one with the dough! I’d have more photos if my hands weren’t covered in it)

4 – Next, add the salt, rosemary, and garlic. Mix it in well.

5 – There should be a good sticky ball of dough now, so transfer it on to a flour dusted surface to knead, which should be done for about 5 minutes.

6 – Work it into a ball shape by molding it with your hands, and it’s ready for its first rise.

7 – I put a little olive oil in the bowl. Not much, but enough to keep the dough from sticking while it’s rising, so you can get it out easily. Put the dough in the bowl and roll it around, gently, so the olive oil is evenly distributed.

8 – Place a towel over the bowl and leave it for one hour to rise. The dough should expand to twice its original size.

9 – Once that’s done, push your fist gently into the dough while it’s still in the bowl to let out the gas that forms inside.

10 – Dust your surface again and knead the dough for 2 minutes. Add flour as needed.

11 – Put the dough back in the bowl with the tea towel over it and let it sit for another hour.

12 – About 45 minutes into that hour, preheat an electric oven to 425F, or like me with a gas stove, to  450F. It should be good and hot when you put the dough inside.

13 – I used my big 4 quart cast iron cooking pan to bake the bread, and it’s pretty wide, so you could use a smaller one. Lightly oil the pan, (like with the bowl above) and dust it with flour, and some more garlic & rosemary, if you have any left over.

14 – Once that second rising is done, score it across the top with a knife. Not too deep, but enough that there’s some nice texture to it once it’s fully cooked.

15 – Gently place that now larger ball of dough in your pot. Dust the top with a bit more flour, (and rosemary/garlic) and place in oven.

16 – Bake it for about 35 minutes. Take it out, and check it to see if it’s done by piercing it with a kebab stick. If it comes out clean and not smeary, you’ve just successfully baked a loaf of bread. Well done!

17 – I put my loaf on our big cutting board to cool, but a wire rack works too. Don’t cover the bread while it cools or moisture will form on the bread, which is kind of yucky!

Cut the bread and eat it while it’s warm. Yum… Enjoy!

About Wall Flower Studiohttps://wallflowerstudiogarden.comGardener, artist, blogger, apothecary, earthling.

4 thoughts on “Adventures in bread making

  1. Every week I volunteer at a local historic house where I make bread for the farmers’ market. One of our best sellers is the Rosemary and garlic bread. The recipe is very similar to yours but we mince the garlic and sautee it in olive oil till it softens. We also started adding the sour dough starter to it as well. Looks great.

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    • Thanks MC! It must be a lot of fun to volunteer and make bread. Not surprised it’s a best seller at the market. I could eat it every day! Well done, you. Thanks for the tips, too. I’m going try that step with the garlic next time. Also keen to try sour dough bread My husband would like that very much!

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