Welcome to The Island of Misfit Rolls: Do You Really Need a Razor Blade on A Stick?
Posted On December 27, 2021
You should bake bread. We should all bake bread. Why is everyone so afraid to bake bread? Bread is insanely simple to make. It is time consuming. And if you are me, it is impossible to make look nice. I do not do well with the whole shaping thing. My loaves and rolls look like misshapen lumps. But they taste good!
My best advice for the wanna be bread baker is to find yourself a good baking cookbook with basic bread recipes. It will surprise no one to know that my book of choice is How to Bake by Paul Hollywood. Get this book. While I have not yet ventured beyond basic white bread and rolls, the book is full of potentially disastrous recipes I will likely be trying and documenting for you, dear reader, in the near future.
While I cannot put Mr. Hollywood’s recipe here (buy the book), I can talk a bit about equipment and ingredients.
Ingredient and Equipment Notes
Use bread flour. I have no earthly idea why. Just do it. I suspect the use of bread flour, as opposed to an all purpose flour, is 100% responsible for my success thus far.
Yeast. So, I pandemic purchased fresh yeast. Remember when you couldn’t find yeast and then you could find yeast? Well, I bought a bunch. Then I read that is is only good for like 48 hours (kidding), I think I read one month somewhere. So I almost threw away a bunch of yeast. DON’T do that. I have been using year old yeast, and it is JUST FINE. When it stops working, that’s when it goes.
Water temperature. The first time I made a loaf of bread, I got all anal and looked up the ideal temperature for “cool” water. I am not even going to tell you what it is because that was stupid. Cool water is cool water. Turn on the tap and get your water. It really is not rocket science.
Mixing. I have a hand mixer with a dough hook that I used before I splurged on this baby…
A hand mixer is just fine, but if you sometimes want to let a machine do pretty much all the work, then a stand mixer is the way to go.
5. Proving bags – a year ago I did not know what it meant to prove dough, and I certainly had no idea I needed a drawer and/or bags to do it in. As it turns out, I don’t need either of those things. “Prove the dough” is a fancy way of saying “leave it alone for a while so the yeast can make it rise.” Once your dough has risen once, you knock all of the air out of it, shape it and then let it rise again. If feels kind of cruel to “knock back” dough after it’s gone through all the trouble of doubling in size, but there’s some point to it, I guess. Anyway, for that second rising, some bakers use bags instead of covering their nicely shaped loaves and rolls with towels or plastic wrap. The bag can be puffed up so it doesn’t touch your dough as it rises, creating a potentially sticky mess. Since I have literally no space for any additional stuff in my kitchen, I improvise…
6. A bread lame – OK, so before you put your bread in the oven, you have to cut the top a bit to let out some steam so that your beautifully shaped dough (ha) doe not bulge in unseemly places. When I became all obsessed with making bread, I bought one of these lame things. And that is how I found it to be, lame. Seriously, do not bother. They aren’t expensive, so I don’t feel like I wasted my money. But unless you are planning to make designer breads with designs cut into them, a pair of scissors, a sharp knife, or a razor blade (a bread lame is a glorified razor blade holder) will all do just fine.