Baking bread was a culinary fear of mine for the following reasons:
- I thought it was impossible to do without a stand-mixer.
- I was sure to mess it up somehow when kneading the dough.
- I would end up with one hunk of really dense bread.
I realized that thinking about trying something new in the kitchen is only the tiniest of mountains to overcome in comparison to when you actually start the motions of doing something.
I had wanted to bake some type of bread ever since watching Samin Nosrat in the Netflix special Salt Fat Acid Heat, where she learned how to make focaccia bread from scratch while in Italy. I was mesmerized by the pillowy but sticky dough and the vibrant colour of what looked like the most delicious olive oil. It was almost like I could taste the distinct notes of flaky salt grains or true olive taste through the TV screen and wow, it changed my whole perspective on how easy it looked to make bread by hand.
Shortly after, I had a breakdown about not owning a stand-mixer. I thought it was essential for creating the proper consistency of dough, but little did I know how advanced the world of break-baking can be by with using the simplest of tools — a mixing bowl, a wooden spoon, and your hands. I ended up finding an ideal first recipe that followed the concept of a “no-knead” bread dough. It was a game changer and made the mountain seem not so tall after that.
I began my bread-baking day early in the morning, around 7:30am. I brewed my coffee as I went around my kitchen collecting the tools and ingredients I’d need. Barely awake, but jittery with excitement, I began to follow this recipe for no-knead bread. It looked rustic, relatively easy, and required very little steps to produce a forgiving loaf that I could serve to my parents who I was hosting for dinner that very night.
Trust me when I say that I felt exactly like a culinary student—skeptical, nervous, and a little frantic to work with something I had no prior experience with before…not even in the slightest. I did end up buying a shiny, cherry red dutch oven to bake my bread in. It was a kitchen item I had been eyeing for a while but never had purchased because I thought I didn’t have enough storage space. Needless to say, I made the room and have not regretted that purchase for its perfect use not only in baking bread, but also for every other time I’ve used it for creating one pot wonders.
What I didn’t expect to feel was the giddiness of checking on my bread throughout the day as it rose. I ended up turning up the heat in my apartment on that cold, snowy winter day. Controlled warmth is ideal for fermentation/rising of the dough and hey, it absolutely worked. You have to make do with what you’ve got friends!
So, the results? What a perfect little first loaf it turned out to be. It had beautiful colour on the top and was browned all the way around because of the pre-heated dutch oven. When we finally cut into it at dinner time, it brought me instant relief to smell that freshly-baked bread. The crumb was not too dense, it had puffed slightly in the middle, and tasted incredible with a healthy schmear of real butter or a quick dip into olive oil and balsamic.
If you guys really want to challenge yourselves, I think this would be a great start. Who says no to freshly baked bread??? Only crazy people, that’s who.
Peace and good eats,