Bread experimentation

Over the past year or so, I’ve been getting into bread baking. We heard about the five minute artisan bread recipe on Splendid Table and decided to try it. Our first loaf came out really well. Better than we expected actually. Soon we wanted additional recipes and improved technique tips, so it was necessary to buy the book. Unfortunately, the book didn’t have as many tips as I had hoped, but the internet was loaded with them.

I’ve found that baking bread and brewing beer were very similar, except that the turn around time on the bread is much shorter. This “rapid prototyping” meant that I could experiment with lots of variables in as short period and find what worked best for me. At first, I was baking about one loaf a week and buying bread from the store to supplement the home made stuff. Now, I’m up to about three loaves a week and sometimes more if friends request some. We haven’t bought bread from the store in at least six months.

What I’ve found so far is the best loaves start as very wet dough. Almost too wet to work with. Also, to get improved flavor, I use about 1/3 the amount of yeast the recipe calls for. In the five minute bread book, they recommend steaming when the bread goes in the oven by putting a cup of water in the bottom of the oven. That may work in Seattle, but in Boise, it’s too dry for that method. Instead the loaf spends the first half of the bake in an inverted pot that I mist twice to keep steamy. That seems to make a big difference in the crust.

So at this point, the bread experiment is going well. It’s turning out good results and I’m having fun trying new variations each time. And with that, it’s time to go bake the next experiment.

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