Breadmaking. Who would have thought it could be so difficult?
Although I love to cook, I am not an accomplished baker. Oh, I can crank out muffins and tea breads—and I have somewhat of a reputation for my biscotti, which I make only at Christmastime—but I have never ventured into any territory that involves yeast or kneading. Until recently, that is.
A couple of weeks ago, I stumbled upon a recipe for wine bread. It was touted as easy because there’s no need to knead, and that appealed to me. Also, my husband and I were dazzled by a Cabernet bread that we sampled at a restaurant called Treadwell at Niagara-on-the-Lake in Ontario, and it would be nice to taste it again.
I read through the recipe, which seemed very straightforward and simple, and bought the necessary ingredients. I whisked the dry ingredients, dissolved the yeast in the wet ones, gently mixed them all together, and set the pale purple dough in a bowl to rise for sixteen hours.
Oh…did I say rise?
At 8:00 the next morning, the glob in my bowl looked precisely as it had the afternoon before. Not one to give up, I followed the rest of the recipe—heating a dutch oven, oiling the pan, and carefully placing (OK…plopping) the dough inside to bake for a half hour.
The smells that filled my kitchen for the next thirty minutes were heavenly. When the timer went off, I peered in the oven to see a golden, free-form, flat “thing”—surely not bread, in spite of the aroma. Although it had formed a nice crust, the inside was perfectly raw. And it weighed about five pounds.
“Do you know if raw dough will kill the birds?” I asked my husband. Answering my own question, I oped to toss it in the trash instead of putting it out on the deck.
The problem was—I couldn’t get that fabulous aroma out of my head. I decided I had to try it again.
The next day, I did a bit of research to try to find out why bread doesn’t rise. Dissolving the yeast in liquid that is too hot or too cold can kill it, and that seemed the most likely cause of my failure. Paying particular attention to wine and water temperatures, I carefully followed the recipe once again. After sixteen hours of proofing, I was rewarded with a fat, fluffy mound of dough. I folded the dough in on itself, let it rise for another two hours, put it in a pre-heated pan, and gently put it in the oven. Thirty minutes later: success!
The bread was crusty on the outside, softly dense on the inside, and tasted delicious. And the only thing better than the smell of freshly baked bread was the satisfaction I experienced from trying something new.