Baking Adventures: First Loaf of Bread

I now understand why people love baking fresh bread.

First of all, fresh bread tastes unlike any bread I have ever found at a store.

Second, your house smells amazing when bread is baking. Like, it’s gonna take a lot of restraint for me to not just bake a loaf of bread every single day so my house always smells like that…

Anyway. I wanted to do a quick write-up on my very first bread baking adventure. You may remember that I mentioned this newfound desire/hobby because I’d been watching too much television. Well, after baking a bunch of St. Paddy’s specific treats, I finally got around to the first recipe in Bonnie Ohara’s book.

The thing that excites me about her book is that the recipes are arranged in order of difficulty. So, this was the “easiest” bread (wans’t easy, but it’s the easiest!). I might make it a few more times before moving on to the next one…

I actually bought a number of tools just to be able to make this bread – I bought a thermometer dedicated solely to my bread making endeavors, and I bought a cast iron dutch oven for baking. I did not buy a proofing basket; I used a floured towel in another basket I already had. Depending on how far I get with this little hobby of mine, I might invest in a banneton or two down the road.

The first interesting/exciting thing for me was the fact that this cookbook uses all weights to measure ingredients. I already owned a kitchen scale, but something about weighing out each individual component (and having to measure/test the temperature of the flour and the water) made me feel like this was an extra challenging and exciting project.

One thing I’ve discovered about bread baking is that it is a fantastic hobby for writers, because you have to leave it alone at a number of points in the process for pretty big chunks of time…which is perfect for sitting down and hammering out a story or a poem or some edits! This loaf, for example, had an hour and half rise time (I used that time for meditation + getting some chores done) plus an hour and half proofing time (I wrote during that time!).

I didn’t take as many pictures during the process as I intended…to be honest, as you can probably tell from the ingredients photo, my phone camera has been acting up and a lot of things are coming out blurry…but I did get some great pictures of the final product:

As you can see above, the bottom of the loaf got a teensy bit darker than I wanted/hoped for, but I have some ideas as to how I can improve it next time. Overall, though, I ended up with a really beautiful crunchy crust and a very soft middle.

So far, I’ve eaten this with butter + jam, with peanut butter, and just plain. I think it would also be great dipped in oil + vinegar. Because of the size/shape, I’m not totally sure about making sandwiches with it, but that might work…

While not perfect, I definitely think my first loaf of bread was a success, and I’m excited to move on to other recipes in the future.