Imagine my disappointment when I saw those ubiquitous bags of Oroweat bread lining the shelves. I had been hoping for thick, hand-sliced pieces of bread made only hours before. I grew more disappointed as he saw a complete lack of vegetarian options (unless you consider a "topping" sandwich an option.)
Ryan stared at the menu for a few minutes before politely refusing the owner's incessant offer of "the best chicken salad we'd ever taste." When we asked him about hummus or tofu or tempeh, he shook his head and laughed, "Nope. That vegetarian mumbo jumbo wouldn't sell here."
Really? In Austin? Two miles away from the University of Texas?
I didn't buy it, and we didn't end up buying eight-dollar sandwiches made with grocery store bread. With two strikes against it, we decided a messy kitchen would be better than a boring sandwich.
Even if we only made peanut butter and jelly, we'd still have the advantage of freshly made bread. And freshly made bread makes all the difference.
Many people are intimidated by bread baking. And it can be difficult at first to learn what your dough should feel like, to get the right ratio of liquid to flour. But if you are willing to be patient, to make a few mistakes, bread making can be like riding a bike--once you learn how to do it...you can always pick it back up.
My new go-to bread recipe requires two days of work. At first, this might seem like a deterrent, but the two days actually allows much greater flexibility. After mixing and kneading the initial dough, you let your bread rest overnight in the refrigerator. This slows down the fermentation of the yeast, developing a more complex flavor than a quick rise on the counter. The next day (or anytime in the next 3 days) you take your dough out of the fridge and allow it to warm up for two to three hours. Before you know it, your loaf or rolls are in the oven before lunchtime.
Instead of settling for a boring sandwich, you can break open a roll, slather a spread, pile on a few ingredients, and then float up to heaven while your coworkers gnaw on their more common fare. You can forgo a bowl of cereal for a roll covered in jam. Heck, dessert even seems blase when you have homemade bread to tempt you.
I love teaching people how to make bread. If you live near Austin, I'd love to come over to bake with you. If you live further, I'd be happy to answer any questions or walk you through the process via email or the phone.
Just remember that if you fall down, get up and try again. Eventually you'll find out what your dough needs to look and feel like...and the best part is you already know what it should taste like...heaven.
3 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
3 cups bread flour
1 TBSP kosher salt (or 2 tsp table salt)
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/4 cups warm water
1 1/4 cups lukewarm milk
1 1/2 TBSP instant yeast
1. In a mixing bowl, whisk the flour and salt together. In a separate bowl, whisk the water, honey and milk together; add in the egg and oil; whisk in the yeast until dissolved.
2. Add the wet mixture to the dry ingredients. Use the paddle attachment on your mixer or a large wooden spoon to stir for around 1 minute. The should be wet and coarse. Let sit for 5 minutes to hydrate the flour.
3. Switch to the dough hook (or continue mixing by hand) for 2 minutes. The dough will firm up slightly and become smoother. If still very wet, add more flour, 1 TBSP at a time. If very stiff, add more water. The dough should be supple and slightly sticky. Continue to mix for 4 minutes more.
4. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and knead by hand for a final few seconds. Form the dough into a ball. Do a "Stretch and Fold" by reaching under the front end of the dough, stretching it out, then folding onto the top of the dough (like folding a towel in half). Repeat this process with each side. Flip the dough over and then cover with a large bowl for ten minutes. Repeat the "Stretch and Fold" process two times within 30 minutes.
5. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Place in refrigerator overnight or for up to 4 days.
6. Remove the dough from the refrigerator 2-3 hours before you plan to bake. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and divide into small pieces for rolls (about 2 oz each). This recipe will make A LOT of rolls, so I usually bake one batch the first day, and a second batch the third or forth day.
7. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and proof the dough on the pan. Mist the dough with spray oil, cover loosely with plastic wrap and allow to rise for 2 hours, until about 1.5 its original size.
8. About 15 minutes before baking, preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake rolls for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 20 minutes before serving.
Anecdotes and Apple Cores