Today, I decided I needed to bake some bread. Not for dinner, but it would be nice to have some for toast in the morning. Instead of following a recipe, I decided to eyeball everything. So you can recreate it, I've got photos of each step, so you can see what your dough should look like at each stage.
I started with the usual cup of flour, more-or-less tablespoon of raw sugar, and a yeast-spoon (equivalent of a package, or 2 1/4 teaspoons) of dry yeast, and a cup of water. Here it is in the mixer bowl:
I let the yeast rest there a bit, swirled it around and waited until it got bubbly, like this:
I added a cup of whole wheat flour. I usually let the yeast snuggle up to part of the flour I'm using, and if I'm using something other than white, I put that in first. Maybe no sense to it, but in my mind the wheat, rye or whatever might want a little extra time to drink up some of the water. Mostly I just scoop it out and don't measure, but here's a measuring cup with a rough measure of flour.
I mixed it up and let it sit a bit to get bubbly again. It's about the consistency of pancake batter:
Time to get serious with bread flour. Yes, it's a different measuring cup. I keep a one-cup measure in my bread flour for easy scooping, and I keep a half-cup measure in my AP flour. Here's a rough cup full:
I always add my salt with the second addition of flour. Here's the teaspoon of kosher salt about to meet with the ingredients in the mixer:
After some mixing, it's obvious that the dough is still too wet for what I want.
I dropped in another half-cup (ish) of flour, and then decided that I could use up the leftover cooked steel-cut oats I happened to have on hand. This looks to be about a half-cup or maybe a little less. It all went in.
The oatmeal added more liquid to the mix, so I ended up adding about another half-cup of flour. If you're keeping track, that's roughly one cup of whole wheat, two cups of white bread flour, and about a half-cup of cooked steel-cut oats.
Now the dough looks lumpy because of the oats, but its nearly correct as far as the flour. The dough is getting stretchy, but it's still way too sticky and loose.
I added about another quarter cup of flour and let it romp in the mixer for a while. Now, it's a more cohesive ball of dough. I added olive oil, again unmeaured, but I figure it's about a tablespoon or so. My attempt at an action shot of pouring the oil wasn't very successful, but here it is:
I covered it with plastic and let it have a nice rest while I wandered off to do other things.
I decided I had time for a second rise, so I removed it from the bowl, kneaded it and formed it into a nice ball, plopped it back into the bowl and ran off to take care of some errands. I drizzled a teeny bit of olive oil over it before I covered it the bowl with plastic wrap.
When I got back this is what it looked like. The yeast was obviously happy and active. And maybe I was gone a little longer than I planned on, but that's okay.
I took it out of the bowl, shaped it into a loaf, and put it onto a cookie sheet where I had sprinkled corn meal. Covered it with plastic wrap, and set the alarm for 20 minutes.
After 20 minutes, plus some time for fiddling around, I uncovered the bread, slashed it down the center and popped it into the oven at 350 degrees, convection on. I've found that bread can bake at a wide range of temperatures without fussing about it, and I've even got recipes that start in a cold oven. So the 350 was arbitrary.
Higher temps will give you a darker brown, but browning is also affected by the ingredients. More sugary ingredients will get your bread to brown faster.
And here it is, fully baked. I wanted a softer crust this time, so I put a kitchen towel over it while it cooled. Hmmm...it looks a little flat in this photo, but it actually got a good rise.
That's it. Baked without a recipe. Easy, hmmmm?