Breaking Bread

A bit late to the game but we’ve been baking bread the last couple of months, a half-dozen times anyway.

One recipe was from the LCBO magazine, the other from the New York Times, both no-knead. These and similar ones are easy to find. We are not opposed to kneading in any way, but lack any real skill in the process.

Our loaves came out pretty well. The results reminded me of a solid country loaf, or some sourdough. We used a mixture of white and brown flour, just the usual types in the supermarket. Robin Hood was one brand.

I found the bread got better with a few days in the hamper. It dried out a bit which made it lighter. Toasting it worked well, too.

I liked making our own partly because I could reduce the salt content. I find it too high in most commercial breads, even – maybe especially – artisan types.

We did do one kneaded bread, a challah loaf, which came out pretty well despite rudimentary skill at kneading. The braiding came out, well, serviceable, but practise is needed there, too.



While the proving overnight took time and preparation, once you got the hang of it the routine was quite pleasant, or not unpleasant.

With a few more tries I think we could get better at it, in sum.

Reaching a few years before the Internet age, well, 1885, a vibrant explanation of preparing dough was offered by Emma Ewing in The Chautauquan, see second column, p. 85.

She placed fermentative power first in importance for dough to reach its proper condition. She didn’t state not to knead, but seemed to imply it’s not necessary, while advising to stretch and pull dough if possible.



I wonder if bakers’ yeasts had greater vitality at the time compared to our dried commercial yeasts of today. In any case, albeit after the fact, I took comfort that a Gilded Age authority felt kneading was not essential.

There is, anyway, almost a literary merit to her explanation. Clearly she viewed dough as a kind of living thing to be held in high respect. Punch it with your fist and it comes right back at you, she said (more elegantly than my paraphrase).






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