Success in the Kitchen

If you read last Friday's post, you know that this weekend I was to attempt to bake bread from scratch (no bread machine here) for the first time. And I am pleased to report that I am 95% happy with the way it turned out. Yay!

I started about 11am. I assembled my ingredients for French bread (obtained from Baking Sheet) on the dining room table (I have limited counter space in my kitchen, and the counters I do have are a bit tall for me to work comfortably), and began to work. Following Amy's and FarmGirl's excellent tips, I proofed my yeast and watched for it to foam before beginning to add the flour and salt. I kneaded my little heart out, then set aside the bowl and waited about an hour and a half for the dough to rise. Once it did, I punched it down, divided it in half (the recipe made two loaves), and let the dough rise again for another 20 minutes or so.

Then I rolled out the dough into rectangles, as the recipe called for. Here's where my slight problem emerged (I think). I wonder if I rolled out the dough too vigorously at this stage, because my finished, baked loaves were not that high (perhaps 1.5-2 inches). Even though my rolled out dough exactly resembled the picture of the dough from my cookbook, I think if there was anything wrong with my bread-making technique, it occured at this stage.

Anyway, once the dough was rolled into a rectangle shape, I folded the sides inward to seal them. For all you bread makers out there: should I have folded the seams inward so they were touching? Or just enough (about an inch or so) to seal the seam? I did the latter. Maybe this was another of my problems.

Moving on. Once I had my finished loaves done, I covered them with a damp cloth, and let them rise again for 40 minutes. I popped them into the oven after that, and 40 minutes later, I had my very first loaves of bread baked from scratch. The crust was awesome-crispy and crusty. The inside of the bread was moist and flavorful. As I mentioned, the only problem was that the loaves weren't very high. I did take a picture, and once my film is developed, I will post it here. My husband and I ate 1/3 of one of the loaves right then and there. Nothing beats the taste of warm bread and butter.

I plan on giving bread-making another try soon. If you have a tip or technique on how I can fix my rising problem, please let me know! But other than this minor issue, which didn't affect the taste of the bread, I am pretty pleased with my first effort. Thanks to all my blog friends who offered their support last week!

PS: I posted a picture of my grandfather and me in front of the sign he made me for my second birthday (27 years ago) here, if you're interested.

9 Responses to “Success in the Kitchen”

  1. # Blogger Geekwif

    I'm glad your bread-making efforts turned out well! I've had a similar problem with my own bread, but I still haven't figured out the solution. I'm looking forward to seeing if you get any comments on that.

    I love the pic of you and your papa with the sign! Holly Hobby was a favorite of mine as a little girl. My dad painted a mural of Holly Hobby on my closet door, but it was a rental property and we had to leave it behind when we moved. (sigh)  

  2. # Blogger Cape Man

    Hi Michele sent me.
    I'll have to try this out.  

  3. # Blogger farmgirl

    Hi Kristi,
    Congratulations on your yummy bread baking success! I will have to think some more about your short loaf problem. (And re-read how you folded the dough; I don't think too well in three dimensions LOL!) There are several possibilities.

    I am wondering about that second 20-minute rise. While three rises can give you a finer crumb, you run the risk of exhausting the yeast, so that by the time it gets into the oven, it doesn't have the strength to "bloom." You might try skipping that (although I do recommend a 20-minute "autolyse," or rest period, halfway through kneading--this is one of the bread tips I haven't posted yet--but it is different than what you were doing.)

    Another possibility is almost the opposite: the bread didn't rise enough during the "proofing" stage(another name for final rise). If you poke your finger in the dough and the indent stays, it has completely risen. If the dough springs back a lot, it needs to rise some more. If it springs back a little, you can go ahead and bake it, rather than (as said above) risk exhausting it. Putting the bread in the oven while it still has lots of "spring" left is especially popular with crusty, freeform breads--that's how the slashes in the top of the loaves open up so much.

    Of course, the best advice of all I can offer you is this: practice, practice, practice! Each loaf will be more delicious than the next--and look how tasty the first one was! Again, congratulations! : )  

  4. # Blogger farmgirl

    P.S. I love that sign! What a very special tradition.  

  5. # Blogger PractiGal

    Congrats Kristi! Sounds yummy! Now your grandma & aunt can teach you to make sauce!

    That picture is wonderful!! What a little lovey, little Kristi! Beautiful sign - so sweet!  

  6. # Blogger Amy

    I've been wondering how the breadbaking went. I'm so glad it turned out for you--there's nothing like fresh homemade bread! Like Farmgirl, I was thinking that maybe that second rise could have lasted longer. Whenever my loaves don't rise enough, it's usually because I skimp on the second rising becuase I've miscalculated my time, LOL.

    About the dough-folding--you mean that you tucked the ends just under at the edges of the roll rather than having them meet under the loaf, right? If so, then you did it perfectly. I do find that I have to manipulate my loaves a little bit after rolling them up to get a better loaf shape. Anyway, Farmgirl's the expert on this subject--these are just my thoughts.

    I'm so glad you posted a picture of the sign! It's such a beautiful memory--is this the sign you have or a different one?  

  7. # Blogger Kristi

    Geekwif-I loved Holly Hobby as a child too. The painting your father did sounds wonderful. Too bad you had to leave it behind. I had all the Holly Hobby Dolls, as well as a Holly Hobby metal lunch box, which I still have!

    Cape Man-thanks for stopping by!

    FarmGirl-Thanks for the tips! I was wondering about the rising issue also, but I think, after reading Amy's comments, that what I did wrong was that I didn't "roll" the loaf after rolling it out into a rectangle. I just folded over the sides to seal the seam, so what I ended up transferring to the baking sheet was essentially quite a long, somewhat thin loaf. I think I missed that step, and that's what caused a thin bread. What do you think?

    Marie- Awww... thanks for the sweet words. And my grandma would love to teach me to make sauce, but she only makes meat sauce, and as you know, I don't eat meat. :)

    Amy-I think I skipped the rolling altogether, and that might have been my problem. So once you roll out the dough with a rolling pin into a rectangle shape, you literally take the dough and roll it up into a tube-like shape? And then fold in the sides, right? Check out what I wrote to FarmGirl above. What do you think?

    And the picture of the sign I posted isn't the one I still have. The sign that was in my basement is a much smaller sign than the one in the picture. :)  

  8. # Blogger Kross-Eyed Kitty

    My eyes are pricking with tears! I LOVE the signs your Papa made for you and your cousins! That is so special, and that picture is precious. Really. He sounds like he was a wonderful man...and he would have loved your bread, even if it was only an inch thick!  

  9. # Blogger Kristi

    Kitty-awww...thanks! I like to think my grandfather would have enjoyed it too. :)  

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