I decided to make my own bread yesterday. After reading one-too-many articles about all the nasty stuff they’re putting in pre-made bread (preservatives, high fructose corn syrup, etc.) and learning that making your own bread is a fairly straight-forward process, I decided to go for it.
I don’t know what’s gotten into me either. Apparently not washing my hair for a couple of days has turned me into an all-out hippie.
Anyway. I’m not going to worry about repeating the recipe because I basically just followed this one exactly. Instead, I want to talk about the lessons garnered from the experience. Here is what I learned from the experience of making bread. Because yes, actually, it is an experience.
First things first, I completely understand why I have just always bought my bread in a bag at the grocery store. And why my mother and my mother’s mother have done the same thing.
Know why? Because while making bread isn’t hard, it is involved. There are a lot of steps. And a lot of downtime. As in, a lot of time where you are literally just waiting around for the bread to be ready to be baked.
Raw dough is terribly needy and insecure.
From start to finish, the process takes just over three-and-a-half hours. Hours. And it would take even longer if you don’t have a stand mixer.
When you consider that I rarely make a dinner that takes me more than half an hour to throw together, this is a major culinary investment. You definitely need a mostly open afternoon (though it helps if you have other chores to fill in the gaps with) to bake your own bread. I worked from home yesterday, so that’s the only reason why I could get this accomplished.
Lesson learned: Sometimes it’s okay to take the easy way out if it makes the rest of your life more efficient. On the other hand, sometimes you just need to attempt making your own bread.
In a different but similar vein, baking bread requires patience. Like, a lot. Three and a half hours, remember?
You have to wait for the yeast to dissolve in the water. You have to let the dough rest. You have to wait for the dough to rise. Twice. You have to let the dough rest again. You have to wait for it to bake. You have to wait for it to cool before you cut it. (Otherwise apparently you run the risk of it coming out gummy?)
Basically, you have a lot of time to re-think why you ever thought baking your own bread would be a good idea in the first place.
I am not a particularly patient person. But because I was pretty sure rushing any of these steps would lead to disaster (and therefore a wasted three-and-a-half hours along with several cups of flour), I had to force myself to fight back against those impatient tendencies.
So I tried to appreciate the time. I got a lot of other things done. I did a full day’s work, organized the two big closets, photographed the clothes I want to sell and opened a Threadflip account, tidied up the bedroom, ran a couple of errands, and cleaned the kitchen and dining room. All while also baking bread. (Get multi-tasked.)
And you know what? Baking bread is a chore similar to laundry. You do a bit of work, but most of it is waiting time when you can get a lot accomplished.
Lesson learned: Maybe it’s okay to slow down enough to make your own bread now and then.
Finally, it has to be said, there are few things more satisfying than cooking entirely from scratch.
This is kind of related to my post a couple of days ago about how I want to be able to do just about everything for myself. I like being self-sufficient. I like knowing that I can do things. I like creating and working with my hands. There’s something soothing about making food from very basic ingredients. (Plus, if you don’t have a mixer, I hear kneading bread is a great stress-reliever.)
Besides, you can’t beat that first bite of homemade bread.
Lesson learned: You just can’t beat accomplishing things by yourself.
So, I know what you’re thinking. How did it turn out?
Not bad, I say. It’s quite a bit denser than bread you buy in the store, and it could maybe use a little more salt, but assuming you add a spread or use it for a sandwich, you’d probably never notice that.
The recipe makes two loaves, so at least I know I won’t have to make bread again for another couple of weeks. (One is keeping in the freezer.) But I think I’ll stick with it. Maybe next time try to be a bit more patient so the dough can rise even more.
Have you ever made your own bread? What was your experience?