Saturday, January 22, 2011

My Newest Addiction: Freshly Baked Bread

As if my coffee addiction is not bad enough, I am now hooked on freshly baked bread. I guess there are worse things that could happen. And my family seems genuinely pleased with my infatuation with creating the perfect dough.

It all started a couple of weeks ago when I mentioned on Facebook that I have been wanting to bake my own bread. I gave away my bread maker more than 10 years ago because I rarely used it. And, until now, I thought that was the only easy way to make homemade bread. I was very wrong.

Immediately after I posted on Facebook, several people told me that I needed to get the book "Artisan Bread in Five Minutes A Day." I checked it out and did what any impatient girl would do... I ordered it from Amazon right then. Two days later the book arrived and I have not stopped baking since then.

Do you all know about this book? If you do, then why have you not told me about it?! Seriously, this book is amazing!
In fact, I had to buy new, larger flour canisters to support my new addiction. Here you can see my big-enough-to-feed-an-Army sized jars of wheat flour, white flour, and the sugars. I found a local source for bulk organic flours, nuts, oats, and dried fruits. I am in heaven.

So here's the deal:
The book is based on the discovery that you can prepare a large batch of wet bread dough that will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks, allowing you to quickly bake small batches using the ready dough. It's very fast and very easy and you don't need a bread maker or any other special equipment. In other words, even if you have 6 children, you can still bake your own fresh bread each day because it is just that easy.
For the first few days I experimented with loaves of white or wheat bread so that I could get the feel for making the dough. I used the bread in place of our usual store-bought organic bread for sandwiches. It was simple enough that I was expecting a disaster in the kitchen and it just never happened. (Disasters in other rooms, yes, but not in the kitchen.)

Using my stand mixer, I just added water, yeast, salt, and flour. It makes a perfect, moist dough. Then I toss it in the fridge and cut off chunks as needed to bake each day.

After quite a few loaves of bread, I decided to expand my horizons a bit. Next I made the most delicious, sweet, sticky caramel pecan rolls that our house has ever seen. It was a Sunday morning treat that my kids will never forget. They were proclaiming their love for me for the rest of the day.
A recipe for olive oil dough got me thinking that I really should try making a pizza. I've made my own pizzas many, many times but have not once attempted to make my own dough. The olive oil recipe was simple and I tossed the dough by hand to make a large pizza crust. I used a store-bought sauce (Newman's Own Organic Marinara) this time because I wasn't sure how it would turn out. I sprinkled the sauce with fresh basil. Then I added a layer of fresh spinach leaves from our co-op box and topped it all with a shredded block of organic mozzarella cheese. I made a second pizza with the same ingredients and then added a bit of local sausage that I seasoned with spices and browned first. Jason loves meat on his pizza.

I have to say that those pizzas were amazing. The crust was perfect! They were so delicious that I never want to order pizza delivery again. Even the kids agreed that it was the best pizza they'd ever tasted. And it only took me 5 minutes to mix the dough.

It's only been two weeks, but I am in love with "Artisan Bread in Five Minutes A Day." I love the feeling that comes with making something that tastes so good. I love being able to control the ingredients that are going into our breads. We have never been big bread-eaters, but my kids always had sandwiches a few times a week and now those sandwiches have become a special treat. I am afraid to even say it, but for the first time in my life I think I am starting to love cooking and baking. (What?! Did I really just say that? I used to hate cooking!)

I don't know what is happening here. I bake my own bread? What is next? Will I start growing my own vegetables in the backyard? (Don't answer that.)
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