If you asked me ten years ago if this post could ever happen I would have snorted with laughter. No way I could ever make a loaf of bread that
a) rose and
b) cooked through and
c) wasn't like chewing on a foam mattress.
After reading so many of my favorite bloggers successfully baking bread from The Bread Baker's Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread and raving about the quality of the instructions and the results, I broke down and bought the book. The day after it arrived, I sat down and started reading. And the next day. And the day after. I started thinking I could do this. So I thought about joining the BBA blog event, but discovered it was closed.
Then a little voice in my head suggested I bake Anne's rolls, and I did. And they were great. So I decided to attack the book, and start at the beginning as the blogging event did. The first recipe is Anadama bread, which has molasses as its dominant flavor agent. True to form, I messed up almost immediately, adding all of the flour to the sponge mixture instead of just 2 cups of it. I realized immediately, and almost tossed the mixture in the trash and started over, but I thought I'd see how it worked out. The mixture did start bubbling, just like it was supposed to, and we were back on track. Since I was doing this in the evening (again), I again cheated and used the dough proof cycle of my oven, which creates a 100 degree environment for the dough. The book tells you that every 17 degrees of ambient temperature halves (if it's warmer in your room) or doubles (if it's cold in your room) the proofing time.
After the dough rose, I divided it and shaped it (not very well) and put it in the loaf pans to rise. Each rise took about 45 minutes. I put one of the loaves in the fridge to hold for a day or two before baking (there are only two of us, and one loaf of bread is already daunting). Then we were ready to bake the loaf.
The recipe calls for rotating the pan 20 minutes into the baking. Since I have a convection oven, I figured that was unnecessary but decided to do it anyway because, well, I wanted to give my loaf every opportunity to turn out right.
After ten minutes, I turned on the oven light and saw this:
You may not be able to tell from the photo, but the bread continued to rise in the oven and was now being constrained by the top rack. What?!? I quickly took out the top rack and hoped for the best.
After 45 minutes, I took its temperature. It registered 209 degrees, and I took it out of the oven. It was (to me) a thing of beauty. Crisp crust that echoed when I thumped on it. Unfortunately, it was already 11:00, past my bedtime, and I went off to bed. But as soon as I woke up, I sliced off a piece and enjoyed it with my coffee.
It was fantastic! I think (from looking at the sliced loaf) that it could have baked for another few minutes since there's a little area that looks a little darker than the rest. It didn't taste any different from the rest of the piece, so maybe not.
I no longer fear yeast. I learned that baking bread isn't especially hard, that yeast isn't particularly finicky, and that nothing makes your house smell better than bread baking. But most importantly, I learned I can do anything I set my mind to. I learned not to doubt myself or tell myself "I can't." Because that can become a self fulfilling prophecy.