Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Baking Bread Without A Recipe

Today I wanted to make simple Italian baguettes to go with a supper of marinara and pasta.  Once you have been baking for a while and have become familiar with the different steps of bread baking, it is easy to bake bread without a recipe.

My two favorite tools are a good bread flour and my mixer with a bread hook.  I used to stick up my nose at using machines to bake bread, but with age and arthritis I have come to be appreciative of them.  My only regret is that I wish I had gotten a larger capacity mixer.

Bread Flour And Kitchen-aide

Start with a sponge appropriate the the amount of bread you wish to bake.  I mixed together 2 1/2 tsp. yeast, 1 cup warm water, a couple of squirts of honey, then mixed in enough flour to make a loose sponge (like unset plaster of paris).  Cover with a damp cloth for about 15 minutes.  It should be bubbly at the end of that time.

Sponge Before

Sponge After Fifteen Minutes

Now add 1/2 - 1 tsp. salt, a drizzle of olive oil, and slowly add flour with the mixer on low.  When the dough begins to pull away from the sides, increase the speed to medium for a couple of minutes.

Dough Pulls Away From Sides Of Bowl

Place in a well oiled bowl.

Cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap and let it sit in a warm place.  I like to sit mine on the dryer in my garage.  A friend of mine used to raise dough in her car parked in the sun.  In Florida cars can get so hot in the summer that it can kill your yeast, but it worked for her in the winter.

Once it has doubled in size turn it out onto a generously floured surface.  Now is the time to get dear daughter involved in kneading the dough until it has absorbed enough flour that it is not sticky.

Get The Kids Involved
Divide the dough and roll into log shaped loaves.  Lay on a pan that is lightly greased and sprinkled with cornmeal.  Cover as before and let rise until doubled in size.  Once that is done slit the tops with a sharp knife or razor blade, brush with melted butter, then sprinkle with garlic salt.

I baked this batch in a 375-400 degree oven for 13 minutes.  You can see that a 1/2 sheet pan fit right onto the oven shelf supports which works well to allow good heat circulation.  When they are golden brown and sound hollow when thumped they are done.

Right Out Of The Oven
Place the loaves on a wire rack to cool, otherwise the steam they give off may make the bread soggy in places.

Ready For Supper
Once you get used to bread baking you should be able to make simple loaves for your family without a lot of fuss and bother.  I made this bread while doing other tasks at home.  Not using a recipe allows me to compensate for the humidity and other environmental factors that can make bread fail.

Give it a try.  Your hungry family will thank you.  Few foods are as good and appreciated as home baked bread.

God bless,

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful! I could grab up a loaf and tear off a big bite right now! ~Liz