I finally made a decent loaf of bread! I guess I’ve been a bit arrogant about my baking abilities, because I have been trying to bake a good, tasty loaf of bread for a while now, and just haven’t had the best of luck. Bread is such a simple food, so it should be simple to make, right? There is, however, and art to it, and I am just not an expert yet on that art.
I’ve tried a variety of bread recipes, rather than staying focused on one kind. I made a challah a couple years ago and while the texture was nice, the flavor was meh. I made an Irish soda bread a few months back, and the flavor was delicious, but it was entirely too dense. I whipped up a focaccia last month for a dinner party, and it was OK, but the flavor was still a little meh, like it was missing something. I also tried to make a whole wheat “artisan” bread in my cast iron dutch oven, and it came out very bitter, with the bottom crust over done.
I was feeling defeated. I can whip up cakes and cookies and bars like nobody’s business. And I’m generally successful at regular foods I prepare, so why was I having this mental block with bread?! I decided to start reading the recipes – really reading them, paying attention to specifics and nuances. I read articles on baking successful bread, and the funny thing here is, for every tip, there is a tip that contradicts it. I think what it really boils down to is figuring out what works where you are and during a particular time of the year. You will get different results in colder, drier climates than you will in hot, humid climates. You’ll get different results at different altitudes. And, of course the freshness and quality of your ingredients is super important.
I was feeling inspired again, and determined, so I decided to start with this Sweet Molasses Brown Bread recipe I found on Pinterest. While it is slightly sweet, it’s not overly so, so it is very good as a sandwich with savory ingredients, like corned beef with spicy brown mustard and provolone cheese. It also has a nice flavor on its own, and tastes delicious warm with just a little butter on it. It’s not too dense, but does hold it’s own. The recipe made three small loaves, so I froze two, but then had to retrieve one from the freezer two days later because we had already polished off one!
Having finally had a success, I’m going to try to make a nice, crusty sour dough or French loaf this week. Wish me luck!
Sweet Molasses Brown Bread
(Original recipe from House of Nash Eats)
- 2 1/2 cups warm water
- 1 1/2 tablespoons instant yeast
- 1/3 cup molasses
- 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
- 3 tablespoons oil
- 1/3 cup honey
- 3 cups whole wheat flour
- 3-4 cups bread flour
- 3 tablespoons butter, melted
- Old-fashioned oats, for sprinkling on top
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the water, yeast, molasses, cocoa powder, oil, honey, salt, and 2 cups of the whole wheat flour. Mix until combined.
With the mixer running, gradually add the rest of the flour starting with the whole wheat, then adding the bread flour until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl (you may not need the last cup of flour). Knead for 5-7 minutes. The dough should be soft and slightly tacky.
Transfer the dough to a large, lightly greased bowl, then cover with a sheet of plastic wrap lightly sprayed with cooking spray, or cover with a light dish towel. Let rise until doubled in size, 1-2 hours.
Punch down the dough and divide into two or three evenly-sized pieces (depending on how large you want your loaves). Shape into tight oval loaves and place onto parchment-lined baking sheets, making sure they have space to rise without touching each other. Lightly cover with plastic wrap lightly sprayed with cooking spray or a light dish towel and let rise again until puffy and doubled in size. Right before baking, you can use a very sharp razor, knife or bread-slashing lame to cut three slashes across the top of each loaf, if desired.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Bake the loaves for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and lightly brush with the melted butter, then sprinkle with the oats and bake for another 5-7 minutes, until browned and cooked through. Cool before slicing.