Pleasures of baking

oatmealbreadSome days it’s seems as if we’re living in a bread-phobic culture, but regardless — I love to bake. Bread, challah, pizza, cinnamon rolls, scones and biscuits, are all regular visitors to my kitchen.

In the week before Passover, I’m appreciating them even more as I contemplate the eight days of doing without both the eating and the baking of bread (though I may try baking my own matzo this year).

Ah, the baking. The magic of creating something that can grow and transform, the thrifty satisfaction of turning such basic ingredients into appealing and sustaining foods, the fragrance in the kitchen. . . .

Yes, it takes time, but most of that is not active hands-on time (though the hands-on part is fun), and, besides, it’s a good way to slow down and be productive at the same time.

I’ve heard it said that many people are afraid of yeast (yeast-phobia?) and that’s a shame. It is really not so scary! If you are new to bread baking, you do not, repeat NOT, need a bread machine. What’s the worst that can happen? Your bread doesn’t turn out? You haven’t wasted a lot of money or time, and some birds in the neighborhood might be grateful for your efforts. Anyway, we learn by mistakes — don’t we?

I’ve been making bread doughs with yeast or sourdough starter (whether knead or no-knead) for a long time, so I’m pretty confident that I know how the dough should feel, and I rarely look at a recipe.

I know if I start with a cup of water, for example, how much I will need of yeast or starter, flour and salt, and what approximate ratio of whole grains I should use (Yes, I’ve had a few brick-like breads, when I overloaded the dough with whole grains, but the bread was still edible. More or less.)

Or if it is a dough for challah or sweet rolls, I may add an egg and a little oil and honey to the dough, depending on what’s on hand.

mini challah

I often make miniature challah (rolls, really) and put a few in the freezer

cinnamon rolls

I shaped part of the challah dough into cinnamon rolls and let them rise slowly in the fridge overnight. Next day, I popped them in the oven, for Sunday morning freshly baked rolls!

Of course, if you haven’t baked much before, recipes are useful guidelines. Professional bakers weigh their ingredients for consistency, but for the home baker, that’s not necessary.

When it comes to quick breads (scones, biscuits, muffins, etc.) I do look at measurements a bit more carefully, though there is still room to play around.

bigbiscuits Last week I followed my tried-and-true biscuit recipe (which you can see here) with my new, and bigger, biscuit cutter. This informative New York Times article on tender biscuits and scones offered some tips, and I wanted to see whether cutting my biscuits with a sharper cutter would make them better. I also learned that placing biscuits close together would make them rise up rather than spread. Makes sense.

biscuitsonplateThe biscuits were delicious. But were they actually better than the smaller ones? Not really. Either way, these are great and go with nearly everything.

biscuitsandfreshjamP.S. I know it looks as if we consume an unconscionable amount of baked goods. So let me just say that these photos were taken over the last month or more. Really.

 

Advertisements

5 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

5 responses to “Pleasures of baking

  1. I always your love your blogs, and I love bread as much, if not more. The biscuits made my mouth water.

  2. Hello Toby! I love reading your posts and seeing what you are up to! So it’s bread, eh? Funnily enough, just this afternoon we had a new friend round who is doing research into bread ovens in Turkey! Yes, she is American! Hope you are well! Love C.

    • lemonodyssey

      Thanks, Claudia. Oh, those fabulous breads of Turkey . . . it might make it hard to have enough reasons to bake at home!

  3. KAREN.JAMESON

    You’ve inspired me, Toby.  If you leave your front door open you will have the aroma of my freshly baked bread wafting in.  Oh, yum.  Karen 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s