Who doesn’t love the smell of baking bread? It’s warm and makes you just feel good.
When freshly baked bread comes out of the oven and is set to cool on the counter of a nicely clean kitchen, everything seems right with the world. Nothing really matters except waiting for it to cool so it can be eaten with butter. All politics, drama, worry, disappears when a hot loaf of bread is sitting right in front of you. Doesn’t it?
Many people are afraid of baking bread. Yeasty breads take a lot of attention; they have to be proofed, mixed just right, kneaded to perfection, and formed. This might seem like a daunting task, but if you start off slow, it can be really easy, and even really fun!
Now, when I just said it would be easy and fun, a thousand images of ruined attempts and baking bread probably just flashed through your mind. Attempts where the bread machine broke, the loaf comes out disformed, the yeast didn’t proof, the dough turned to paste, flour is everywhere, your counter is covered in who knows what, flat unrisen dough is all over your clothes, gooey bread that didn’t cook all the way through is stuck to the pan; and the worst memory yet, after all of your diligent preperation, after hours of waiting for the first rise, punching it down and letting it rise again overnight, getting your hopes up that you have finally made the perfect loaf of bread, are decimated when you get called away from the oven, the dough is cooked a little too long, you are left with rocks.
Remember that if you don’t knead it enough, it will not have the right consistancy, but if you over knead it, the dough will become really tough. Don’t fear!
Keep the dough in the metal bowl and start to knead the dough with the spoon/spatula.
If it starts to get difficult with the spoon, start using a pastry scraper or your hand. remember to keep your hand relatively flat when working with the dough.
If you plunge your fingers into it, you will make a mess, and your hand could get stuck.
While you are working with the dough in the bowl, you may still need to add some water or flour (depending on your particular dough).
Now for the fun part!
Sprinkle flour on a flat surface (a counter, bread board, pan, wax paper, etc). Slide the dough out of the bowl and onto your floured surface (the flour helps it not to stick to the counter). Knead the bread with your palms away from you. Pick up the dough from underneath to move it. Use your hands like paddles when rearanging your dough. Knead it until you see it “tear” slightly when you push it away from you.
When you feel that it is ready, you can decide to make it into rolls or use it for other purposes.
On your floured surface, form the dough into a loaf shape. Round the top so that it is smooth. Using your pastry scraper, or a sharp knife, cut the dough into even sizes. For 1 dozen rolls, it gets cut in half, reformed into two loaves. Those loaves are cut into thirds, reformed and each third is cut in half.
Form the smaller pieces of dough into a roll shape. Make sure that each roll is smooth on the top. The bottom does not need to be as smooth, but each roll needs to look uniform from the top. Place formed rolls on a greased cookie sheet.
See? Bread isn’t that hard! It just takes practice. The more you practice, the easier it gets. Don’t be afraid, just try it!
If you have questions, need advice, have any tips/ recipes, or just want to chat, feel free to email or leave a comment!