Thursday, January 13, 2011

Daily Bread for the Home Office

I love the smell of homemade bread, especially when I'm working at my desk in my home office. Unfortunately, I'm flying solo right now because my wife is in Seattle taking care of her sister. I've gotten used to having homemade bread on a regular basis over the past couple of years. It was one of those things, no one particularly wanted to do and I discovered early on that if I wanted homemade bread I'd better figure out how to make it. I did and even wrote a blog about making homemade bread with a bread machine.  Check out the link. There's everything an amateur bread-maker needs to know in that post.  I'm not here to talk about bread-making itself, but about the "sequence" needed to do it and work at the same time.

One thing I discovered about using a bread machine was that I got a lot of waste bread if I leave the baking part to the machine.  The bread machine bakes the loaf in the hopper with the stirring paddle in the middle of the dough.  It leaves a messy hole in the middle of the loaf when you lift it out. 

Then I discovered the "dough" cycle.  I found I could make better homemade bread by letting the bread machine make the dough and then reshaping it and dumping it into a bread loaf pan.  Baked in the oven, the loaf was pristine and solid through and through.

Now my only remaining problem was working breadmaking into my busy day. Every do-it-yourselfer is (or should be) familiar with the law of sequences.  For any DIY project, you have to respect the sequence or it all gets messed up. So here's the sequence:

1. Take a break from the desk for 15 minutes.  Set the recipe before you on the counter so you don't leave anything like yeast or salt out.  Take out the bread pan and spray the inside with Pam cooking spray.

2.  Set all the ingredients on the counter.  Put them away after you add them to the mix. That way you don't forget anything. If you did forget anything, it will be whatever is still sitting on the counter. It took me several disasters before I quit trusting my memory in the middle of a writing project. 

3.  Put all the ingredients into the bread machine.  Pile all the dry ingredients into the machine hopper first, then the butter or oil and finally the wet ingredients like milk and eggs.

4.  Press the select button and choose the "dough" cycle.  Then press the "start" button.  Follow the instructions for meddling with the dought for the first couple of minutes (see my earlier article for the secret bread-making techniques my grandmother taught me). 

5.  Go away and work some more till the bread-maker beeps at you that the dough is finished.

6.  Lift the dough onto a cutting board and pat it into loaf shape. Make sure you work out the hole in the middle from the mixer paddle. 

7. Gently set the dough into the loaf pan and set pan and dough, covered with a dish towel in a warm place (not the oven). I set my bread on the dryer with a load going inside.  Set the oven to 350 degrees and let it preheat.

8.  Go away and work for a half hour or so, then check the dough. If it's risen, set the pan in the oven. It will rise some more as it cooks.  Set a timer to buzz in 20 minutes.  Check the loaf till the top crust is a nice crusty brown.  It should be done. 

9.  Remove the pan from the oven and turn the loaf out on the cutting board.  It should fall right out if you remember these three rules:  (1) Never wash your bread loaf pan in the dishwasher. (2) Never leave your bread loaf pan to soak - it's better to leave it dry and clean it later if you can't wash it now.  (3) Wash it out with mild warm soapy water and then rub the inside with oil.  Let is sit out on the counter to fully dry before you put it away. See my article on curing a skillet. It's the same principle. If you treat your loaf pan right it will never stick.  The bread will just fall out of the pan after it's baked. 

10. Slice off the end of the loaf and put butter on it.  Eat it and let the loaf cool while you go back to work. You've wasted enough time baking bread!  Clean up later. If you cleaned up as you went along, you don't have any cleanup to do other than cleaning out the bread machine.

Looks like that if you bake it in a loaf pan instead
of the bread machine.
The whole thing takes half a day. You continue working and take several short breaks, the longest, of which, once you get organized is about 15 minutes. Most of the steps can be done in under 3 minutes and it really doesn't interfere with your day.  I'm baking a loaf as I write this.  The picture above is the actual bread dough I made. I'll try to remember to come back and add a picture of the finished product.

Hope your "daily bread" comes out good!

Bon' appetite


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