Sunday, March 13, 2011

a non-overachiever bakes bread.

For the longest time I was convinced baking bread was solely reserved for over-achievers.

And, trust me, I am not an over-achiever.

I never once made straight A's in school.
Even if I clean all day, which I don't, my house is always a mess.
Henry's new thing is to sleep in his clothes and then wear them again the next day.  And, I like it.
As a teacher, I got to work at 7:30am and left promptly at 3:30pm. 
I was not one of those teachers with cute thematic bulletin boards.
I never do the dishes until the sink is completely full.

Seriously.  I'm not an over-achiever.

But, I do live in a family of carbotarians and I did not like the way hidden dairy ingredients in store-bought bread never allowed Henry's ezcema to fully heal.  Taylor's college career consisted of jobs in yummy bakeries around the state and he had plenty experience with various forms of dough to convince me that any fool can bake bread.  So I gave it a try.  My first few batches were decidedly not tasty but as each successive batch of bread became tastier and tastier I gained confidence to play around with the recipe and figure out what works for me. 

At first, I sat around in the house waiting for the yeasty dough to bubble...waiting for the dough to double...waiting for the loaves to rise.  All that waiting made for long boring days in which I felt compelled to constantly monitor my dough's progress.

Then, I realized a watched pot never boils.  And, trust me, watched dough is never going to bubble, double or rise.

Now:  I start the dough first thing in the morning and leave the yeasty mixture in the oven with the light on.  Leave it and forget it.  A few hours later when I see the flour on the counter that I never did put up, I remember the dough in the oven.  It's big and bubbly.  Perfect.  If everybody is happy, I add the next set of ingredients and knead the dough.  If everybody is not happy, I stick the dough back in the oven and wait until naptime to get my hands sticky and doughy.  After the dough is kneaded, I stick the dough back in the oven with the light on to double in size.  A few hours later when the thought strikes me, I check on the dough and divide it out.  Since I double the recipe, I break the dough into 4 equal pieces -- 2 to bake and 2 to freeze wrapped up in foil.  The two loaves to freeze go in my glass loaf pans in the oven with the light on.  A few hours later, I remember to check the oven when I see the mess all over the counter from kneading the dough.  If the dough has risen sufficiently, I turn on the oven and bake the bread for 35 minutes.

Literally, I start the process at 7am and we have freshly baked bread right around Henry's bedtime.

I say all this to let you know that eating freshly baked bread from your oven is not just for over-achievers.  Even mamas who work can pull it off during the weekend because the dough is left unattended the vast majority of the time.  And, this is coming from a woman who was seriously fearful of dough.  I was convinced it was too difficult for a non-detail oriented person such as I.

Even though I feel like I am well on my way to mastering the art of baking a quality whole grain loaf of bread, I need to make sure you are firmly convinced I am not an over-achiever.  

This is a picture of my dining room floor right now.  See the specs all over the floor?  Yep.  Those were Liza's lentils from last night's dinner.  And that thing in the middle?  A sock Liza wore a few days ago. 

We might have fresh baked bread but the house is still a mess..... 


BrownFamily said...

This post made me breathe a sigh of relief...I was convinced that you were perfect and I feel much better about myself now! The bread looks fantastic!

Laura @ our messy messy life. said...

HAHAHAH!!!! You obviously don't know me in real life :)

Maybe I should take some pictures of my house right now so everybody knows that I am really not very put together...

Tara said...

The picture of the mess under the highchair: priceless. Ere but for the grace of our boxer and labrador we would have the same mess. every day.

I love baking bread. Growing up I was the bread-baker in our house as soon as I got old enough for my mom to teach me. She taught herself, not having a mom to show her things like that, from the Tassajara Bread Book. That is the most awesome bread cookbook out there in my opinion.
Thanks for keeping it real--I really love reading your blog for that reason. I might even have to bake some bread today!

Jude and Alisha said...

I'm convinced and might even have a go at the dough.


Laura @ our messy messy life. said...

Tara, I'll have to check into that cookbook. Thanks!

Alisha, seriously. If I can do it, you can do it.

Mollyandollie said...

I love this post!! I just made some bread on Saturday. I might almost have a multigrain recipe that I like!! I totally agree about the Tassajara Bread's awesome! And you get to learn the art of the sponge...Waaaaaay easy!

Oh, ask Jessie about our four legged vacuum sometime. As much of a pain in the neck as she can be, she is great about making sure that any stray food is not left about!

Laura @ our messy messy life. said...

Since we are keeping it real, I really am a horrible housekeeper and there is *always* food on the floor. We kept a friends' dog for a few weeks a while back and the poor little thing kept puking because there was more food on the floor than he could keep up with....

I'm on way to alibris to check out that cookbook!

The Quinns said...

Laura, don't know if you have me sold on the bread-we have a Great Harvest Bread Co, here that makes the best multigrain bread and a high fiber one that can keep anyone moving smoothly-but 'Leftover Bread and Vegetable Frittata' today in People magazine. Made me think of you and the batches of bread that might not make the cut, pardon the pun. Knowing you hate to waste anything, except that food under the high chair:), I thought it might be a good recipe for you to check out. I can't find a link to it online anywhere but it's on page102 of the March 21 issue of People. It's by Lidia Bastianich of PBS and after scouring her website she has a ton of other 'leftover' recipes as well since her "goal in 2011 is to not waste food." If you want me to email it to you let me know. Happy baking and I'll let you know if I take the leap!

The Quinns said...

Sorry my post should have said, "but anyway, I saw a recipe called 'Leftover Bread..." my computer ate a couple of words.

Laura said...

Elizabeth, I *do* hate for things to waste. My favorite veg cookbook as a recipe for a bread and veggie frittata as a spinoff of our favorite Spanish-style potato frittata. The only issue with making a leftover bread dish is that we never have leftover bread....we love some carbs around my house :)

Are you still in Jackson? I've never heard of that bread company?

KazVik said...

That's a great idea to take a picture of your dining room floor. I need to do it sometime. Alex also loves to sleep in his clothes, or wear pj all day long.