I've baked so much bread that I know what it should look like and feel like at each stage in order to get the type of bread I want. So I start with yeast and liquid and add flour and other things until the dough feels right. It's not very scientific, but it's fun. Now that I'm trying to pass my recipes along to other people, I weigh and measure and time things. When things work out, I save those recipes so I can tweak them and finally publish them when I think they're good enough.
I have a few basic breads that I repeat, but most breads are unique creations. Sometimes it's all about a new ingredient that I've found, and sometimes it's about using up leftovers. Sometimes it's planned and sometimes it's created at the moment.
But until I started blogging, I simply threw the ingredients together without worrying about measurements. After all, I wasn't very concerned about recreating my recipes, I just wanted a good loaf of unique bread. For sure there was no reason to write anything down along the way, because there was always a new bread on the horizon.But after I started the blog, I got into the habit of measuring things as they go into the mix, so I can pass the recipes along. As time went on, I'm got better at it. It was been an interesting experience, trying to document everything as I did it. Now it has become a habit, and there's a notepad and pen ready for me, in arm's reach of my stand mixer.
A few notes about ingredients:
- I usually have whey on hand that's left over from making yogurt, and I use that as the liquid in my bread. If you don't have whey (really, who does?) then use water. I use water when I run out of whey and recipes work just fine.
- I use a lot of different sugars in breads. If you don't have what I suggest, white sugar is fine, or use your favorite. Unless there's a large amount of sugar in a bread recipe, the difference isn't going to be dramatic.
- Most of the time I use kosher salt in my bread, but sometimes I'll use a different type, just to change things up. Use whatever you like. I prefer not to use an iodized salt because it tastes metallic to me, but if it's what you're accustomed to, go for it.
A few notes about methods:
- I do most of my kneading with a KitchenAid stand mixer with a dough hook attachment, and that's how most of my recipes are written. If you don't have a stand mixer, you can knead in a food processor or by hand.
- If you're kneading by hand, it's impossible to overknead the dough, but it will take you a lot longer to get the dough to the point where it's smooth and elastic. However, you can take a trick from the no-knead people and mix the dough one day, store it in the fridge, and continue the next. The overnight rest will activate the gluten and the kneading required the next day will be minimal.
- If you're kneading in a food processor, the dough comes together very quickly, but it is actually possible to overknead. At that point, the gluten will break down and the dough will collapse. As far as I know, there's no way to recover from that.
Breadmaking is fun. Wait, is the bread smiling at me?