July 4th Weekend 2022, in Which I Bake Bread

I still have the little recipe clip thingummie my kiddo made when he was a peanut

Some of my readers were surprised to learn I baked my first pie, ever, last Thanksgiving. Yesterday, I baked my first bread, ever. It’s true. I announced to The Chef whilst we were on our weekly shop on Saturday I intended to bake bread. Great, he said. Go for it! Just don’t forget to bring your patience.

And so yesterday while he was at work, I did. I specifically waited ’til he was gone so I wouldn’t burden him with cussing and tantrum throwing, which had already transpired a little in the hours leading up to yesterday, when I discovered a bit of a discrepancy in the King Arthur Flour recipe I downloaded. The problem, specifically, was the definition of “proofing” and how they used it in a tip at the end, where the author suggests if you use active dry yeast in lieu of instant yeast, no proofing is required. This in turn led to a bit of a heated discussion between The Chef and myself as to the best interpretation of the language. In the end, I looked up proofing and satisfied myself with the notion that proofing refers to the second rising of the dough.

Okay, fine, whatever, said The Chef. But anyway, he continued, I think you ought to let it rise a second time, even though they say you don’t need to.

Because I once lived right down the road from King Arthur Flour in Vermont, I’m rawther smitten with them, questionable proofing notwithstanding. Still, turned out The Chef was right. I actually had a fantastic time baking my first-ever loaves of bread.

our new kitchen has excellent lighting, but my photos, for whatever reason, came out a tad underexposed

I went to great lengths to scale the flour accurately and used precise measurements elsewhere

The recipe I used calls for bread flour but we had only multipurpose flour in the pantry. The Chef said, That’ll do fine. He was also correct about that.

Here is a truth: We need a new stand mixer, and I shall remedy that as soon as possible. This one has seen better days, and while it tap danced all over the countertops during the kneading process, left a trail of machine oil. Still got the job done.

after proofing…they do look much fluffier
and lo, there was bread

And dang, it was good. This bread-baking desire grew not out of being trapped at home during a pandemic, or some such, but instead out of wanting to practice ever healthier habits. I had a bit of tiresome news handed to me after a recent health check and now am fully committed to eating better, not that our diet in this household is objectionable. But I keep on hearing food writer Michael Pollan urging us to make our own food. And then there is the skyrocketing price of groceries and the looming recession. Feels somehow like the correct moment to take up bread baking.

After I finished, I lingered a while in the kitchen and made a batch of Cream of Refrigerator soup, although this soup is not creamy at all, but nourishing and brothy. I used some leftover ginger marmalade chicken in the fridge as the protein, and added no-fat/no-sodium chicken broth as the base. Chopped up and sautéed what I found in the crisper, threw in some frozen peas, et voilà!—lunches for the week, healthful beyond reproach at fewer than 100 calories per cup, with minimal sodium and fat.

secret’s in the sauce: the ginger-marmalade marinade imparts a wonderful, spicy flavor to the broth

I’m all ears if anybody has bread-baking wisdom to share. I don’t sew beyond repairing shaggy hemlines or replacing lost buttons, and I knit like a kindergartener. I don’t quilt, hook rugs, paint, or throw pottery, like some of my gifted friends do. Betcha I can bake, at least. Y’all holler at me in the comments.

Sous Chef Scout-the-Goldapeake-Retriever would like to leave you with this notion: Food is fun, but naps are important too.

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