The last time I baked a bread, what emerged from the oven was a loaf of casatiello, a gorgeous hunk of Italian bread studded with salami and oozing with hot cheese.
So you might understand why I wasn’t exactly looking forward to this week’s Bread Baker’s Apprentice challenge loaf: Light wheat bread.
After the sexy Italian, wheat bread seemed like the yawner of a boy next door.
(You know — the ugly one.)
But after having spent several weeks in Singapore without an oven at my disposal, I was itching to bake something. Anything.
And, as it turned out, this plain boy next door actually had his surprises.
This bread began as several others do — first, I mixed together the dry ingredients, which in this case were bread flour, whole-wheat flour, powdered milk and yeast.
Now, in this recipe by author Peter
Reinhart, the wheat flour only accounts for 33% of the total flour so
it’s not as hardcore as whole-grain loafs. If you’re more of a white-bread kind of person, this loaf’s for you.
Then, I added in some shortening, honey and room-temperature water.
After mixing and kneading, it was time to let the ball of dough ferment at room temperature for 90 minutes. (This bread turned out to be a real riser — it more than doubled in size during that time.)
Next, it was time to press that dough ball out into a rectangle …
… and then roll up that rectangle into a loaf and let it sit for another 90 minutes or however long it takes until the dough “crests above the lip of the pan.”
During this time, I set the timer and, of course, proceeded to forget to periodically check on whatever cresting activity might be happening. (Does anyone else out there find the rather cheesy “Supernatural” quite as mesmerizing as I do?)
So when the timer went off, this was what had happened. My dough had grown so much it was practically on the verge of sprouting hands and lifting itself out of my loaf pan. (What would Yeastspotting say?)
Into the oven it went and less than an hour later, this gorgeous, caramel-hued loaf came out.
Now, when it was baking, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect of this bread.
Unlike the casatiello or the cranberry-walnut celebration bread I’d made in previous weeks, this loaf did not fill my apartment with any discernible smell during baking. There was no provolone fog or clouds of cranberry mixed with lemon.
When I sliced it open, however, there it was — the simple, sweet smell of freshly baked bread.
Toasted and slathered with blueberry jam,
this bread was just divine. It was even better the next day buttered
with dijon mustard, a little mayonnaise and topped with cheddar and
thickly sliced bone-in ham from the fancy-ish store down the street.
As bread goes, this light wheat bread may not have been my first choice. Oh, how I’d sneered at it!
But in the end, it turned out to be basic, yes, but also versatile and surprisingly satisfying — the sort of bread that really grows on you.
You know, just like that boy next door often turns out to be.