We all bake for our own reasons. Some people bake because they enjoy the creativity involved in decorating cookies or cakes; others do it to help them stay within their grocery budget; still others (me included) simply derive joy out of the baking process itself. I wish I had a knack for decorating cakes and cookies, but I don't have an artistic bone in my body. As for saving grocery money, I find that baking probably increases my weekly food expenditures rather than decreasing them. Rather, I bake because I find it to be a great stress reliever and because, frankly, I have the world's biggest sweet tooth.
I first started baking when I got married. As I was unemployed, I had plenty of time to experiment in my kitchen. In that time, I developed a strong love of food. I would try a new recipe every couple of days and, by the time I enrolled in law school, I had gone from not knowing how to cook or bake at all to having a firm grasp of the basics. However, the time pressure of law school meant my skills stagnated and I never went beyond the basics. So, while I can work wonders with quick breads, cookies, cobblers and crisps, I am not terribly comfortable with bread, pastry, or elaborate cakes.
This is where Tuesdays with Dorie comes in. This Christmas, my mother gave me Around My French Table and Baking From My Home to Yours. I immediately tried three recipes from the latter book and decided I had a new favorite cookbook. I am not sure at what point I decided to run a google search on the book, but once I did, I learned about this online baking club that was not only starting a new book, but was also accepting new members. Better yet, the book it was starting \featured recipes for those items that have always intimidated me and that I have been meaning to tackle for quite some time. Clearly, I had to join.
This brings us to this first post. This week's assignment was to make a basic white bread. The recipe was simple and not at all complicated—the perfect recipe to ease me in to this new project. Initially, despite the recipe's simplicity, I was certain that I would manage to mess it up somehow because of all the bread recipes I have tried, only one has turned out. Most of the time, they have turned out too dry and too dense, causing me to simply leave bread to the experts.
This recipe, on the other hand, has changed my mind. Much to my surprise, the white loaf I made this past weekend turned out wonderfully. Since I don't have a stand mixer, I mixed and kneaded the dough entirely by hand. I also only made half a batch because I only own on 9 x 5'' loaf pan (instead of the 2 smaller sized pans specified in the recipe's instructions). The bigger pan meant that my bread was ready to come out of the oven after 36 minutes. Wanting a browner crust all around, I removed the bread from the pan after thirty minutes and let it bake directly on the oven rack for the last few minutes. What was the result? A nice crisp crust with a toothsome interior. In short, this bread has substance. Its body is sturdy enough to hold sandwich fillings without becoming immediately soggy.
Here is the best part about the recipe: the book doesn't lie. You are told that you could whip up this bread in the morning and slice into it at lunch. Sure enough, I put the dough together first thing in the morning and by lunch my husband and I were enjoying it with some brie and crudités. It was even good enough to eat with salted butter and honey alongside a strong coffee for breakfast the next day and only a truly good fresh bread makes this combination come to life.
Finally, I would like to thank Laurie and Jules for organizing Tuesdays with Dorie and I would like to thank Dorie Greenspan herself for keeping me busy with new recipes for the foreseeable future!
To see the recipe for White Loaves visit Jules's blog at http://someonekitchen.blogspot.com.