Home made bread

I have 4 loaves of bread cooling on the counter.

Three are plain white. One has cinnamon added. All will be teh yum!

It’s really an accomplishment for me to make bread completely from scratch. Back when I was married to the ex- (15 years ago), I tried making bread. It would raise beautifully the first time, but once in the pans, it wouldn’t go anywhere. The outcome, of course, was a flatish brick of cooked dough, but not anything I’d ever call bread.

Birth mother had gone through a phase when I was still living with her, when I was about ten I’d guess, where she would make bread every month. She’d make enough that we’d have bread for the whole month, freezing the loaves we wouldn’t eat right away.

I remembered watching her make it, and it didn’t seem like it was all that hard. Mix everything together, knead it for a while, put it in a greased bowl in the oven to raise. Once the dough raised double, take it out of the bowl, punch it down, put it into greased bread pans, and then put it back in the oven to raise again. (Or, if the oven was already being used baking another batch of bread, put it on the back of the oven to raise again.)

Did I mention that our oven at birth mother’s house was gas? The kind with the pilot light on all the time? Did I mention the oven I was using when I tried making bread 15 years ago was electric?

Yeah, there’s the difference. The pilot for the gas oven kept the oven at a slightly warmed temperature. Perfect for causing the yeast to grow. The cold electric oven never did that.

I made at least 20 loaves of bread before I finally gave up as it being a lost cause. And of course, the ex- used that against me — I was so useless, I couldn’t even make bread right! (But he never tried it himself.)

I felt a total failure. I *was* a total failure in my mind.

I eventually received a bread machine for a birthday gift a while back. I used it all the time, but it didn’t redeem my failure at making bread. After all, in a bread machine, all you have to do is put the ingredients into the machine in the correct order and turn it on. The machine did all the hard work (mixing, kneading, keeping it at the correct temperature) for you.

While I had the bread machine, I did a lot of research into bread making, and knew the theory of why I had hard, dense loaves of baked dough all those years ago. I still wasn’t willing to try to make bread from scratch. I knew when I failed (not if I failed, but when) it would just re-enforce how I was a failure. You know, can’t even make bread right.

When MiL bought the new oven, I saw it had a proof setting and thought it was time to get over my fear of failure with the bread. I no longer have the bread machine, so if I want fresh, home made bread, I will just have to do it the hard way. Still, it took 6 months before I worked up the courage to try.

Two weeks ago, I made my first ever batch of home made bread. It turned out wonderfully. It rose well, had a great density, wonderful grain, and tasted awesome! The only problem was that according to the recipe, it was only supposed to make two loaves, but it really should have made four loaves. So I had a couple misshapen loaves from when they over rose the bread pans.

Today, I made another batch. This time I used four bread pans, and I have beautiful looking bread loaf sized loaves of bread. They’ve just come out of the oven, so I can’t cut into them yet to see how the inside is, but I’m sure they are as good as the last batch is.

Even though I’m getting better, the old thoughts, the brain washing my parents and ex- did sometimes still creeps in. But I like that I can now add “bread baking” to my list of skills. I like even more knowing how far my self esteem has developed in order for me to even attempt it two weeks ago. At the time, I went ahead and did it, even though I wondered if I would fail again. I was willing to risk having to deal with the voices coming back if (when, the voices were saying) the loaves turned into flat loaves of baked dough.

Pushing myself can have good consequences, I’m finding. In this instance, delicious consequences. Later, once the bread has cooled enough, I’m going to cut myself a slice and spread some butter and honey on it. Yum

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12 Responses

  1. Awesome! Congrats.

    I’ve only made yeast-risen bread once, and since I fooled around with the recipe – changing it from a white bread to something closer than whole wheat – it didn’t rise quite right, but did taste fine.

    But, as you point out, that was with a gas oven that was always slightly warm. I have electric now, and it has occurred to me that “put the dough somewhere warm to rise” is going to be an issue. 😦

    • Usually in the summer (at least, everywhere I’ve lived –Chicago, Boston, Providence, Upstate NY, and Germany) there’s no real need to find a warmer place. In the winter, pick a day when you’re making something either in the oven or when you’re making something on the stovetop that takes a while (soup/stew, for example) and the use the stovetop (if you’re using the oven) or next to the stove. Or if you have radiators for heat, put it on/above them. (or on a chair/stool set on a vent if you have floor vents for forced air heating.)

      If you’re interested in whole wheat bread, try the Tassajara Bread Book. That’s how I learned to bake bread, growing up. The basic recipe is step-by-step (each step illustrated) with in-depth instructions, and then there are lots of variations.

      • I’ve had the same experience, TBS. In summer in California, there’s no need for the stove to be warm, and in winter it works better if you’ve got something else cooking to help keep it warm enough. Heck, sometimes even in winter I don’t need anything else cooking!

        There really is nothing like fresh, warm homemade bread to give a feeling of being loved and cared for, is there?

  2. I made bread today, too!

    In my experience, even bad home made bread is good. If it doesn’t turn out exactly right, it’s just another variety of bread.

    • Exactly! My friend from college’s mother used to make her “doorstop” bread– the kind where it never rose because the yeast was intentionally left out. She loved it and really looked forward to the care packages that contained it. So, one person’s failure is another person’s gourmet… I’m a bread machine person myself, but I recognize it really takes a knack to succeed at “really” making home-made bread, so good for you! Screw the ex.

  3. I’ve found that putting dough on top of the refrigerator to rise works really well…

  4. Exactly! My friend from college’s mother used to make her “doorstop” bread– the kind where it never rose because the yeast was intentionally left out. She loved it and really looked forward to the care packages that contained it. So, one person’s failure is another person’s gourmet… I’m a bread machine person myself, but I recognize it really takes a knack to succeed at “really” making home-made bread, so good for you! Screw the ex.
    P.S. – Sorry, forgot to tell you great post!

  5. Bread will rise at many different temperatures, but it takes a lot longer if it’s cold. It also makes a difference in the flavors, one of my favorites is actually started with cold water and left overnight in the fridge for it’s first rise.

    Check the library for a book called the Bread Baker’s Apprentice to get a feel for making bread by hand. It has lots of pictures on how to make the various shapes too, if you want to try the free-form breads.

  6. Great job! Baking bread with my grandma is one of my treasured childhood memories, so its something that I love to do now. Sometimes I get a little too experimental or impatient and it doesn’t quite rise correctly, but it is almost always yummy (never anything a little extra butter can’t solve!).

    Have fun with your baking!

  7. If you have trouble with finding a warm place to prove your bread, try this recipe. Its now the only recipe I use, because it makes the best bread EVER, and also because its so easy and I’m lazy. You don’t even have to knead it!

  8. Inspirational – I love bread and I’m going to try this, thanks

  9. […] You are a great writer. I can’t wait to see your name on the cover of your book, when it’s published! Bronwen´s last blog ..Home made bread […]

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