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I’ve heard from many sources (although mostly from my mother) that a house isn’t really a home until you baked something in the oven. So, in order to make this, well, less of a personal web-log on a screen and more of a blog, I’m going to bake something. Specifically bread.  Because It’s carbolicious and I like to live dangerously.

So good. So simple. So crazy hard to get right.

I’ve been experimenting with bread making for a while.  My husband enthusiastically ate my initial endeavours, but honestly that man will eat just about anything, so I didn’t really know how good it was. Then I started to get better. I have a few things going against me though: we live in the desert (ergo, there is no humidity and everything, and I mean everything is drier than what I’m used to) and our altitude is over 4800 feet or roughly 1500 meters. So anything that I thought I knew about bread or that I vaguely remembered my mother/aunt/grandmother tell me about baking bread was out the window. Defenestrated, if you will. And all those fantastic bread/bun/kringla recipes of my childhood simply don’t work.

So here’s what I do (and I know as soon as we leave this place my method will have gone to pot). Bread needs 5 things: Water, honey, yeast, salt and flour. The flour has been the stickiest point for me because flour in the US is nothing like what I grew up with. Ah, Robin Hood flour..I miss thee. I use King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour.  Nothing else works up here in the high desert. Unless I wanted to add gluten or something and that seems like entirely too much work.

Stir roughly 1 tablespoon of honey into 1 cup tepid/warm-ish water. Pour this over 1 tablespoon active dry yeast that you’ve already got in a cereal bowl or equivalent. I don’t mix this because I am lazy.  Then I go have a cup of tea or coffee for about 15 minutes until the yeasties have turned all fuzzy and foamy.

Dump yeast mixture, 1 tablespoon coarse sea salt and two more cups of tepid water into    a Bosch Kitchen machine (or similar) with the dough hook attachment already on. Then add three cups of the bread flour. I mix this until it forms a soupy, pasty-coloured bog and then I let that rest for a few minutes. After that I add the rest of my flour.  Most days, that means about another 3 and 3/4 cups, sometimes a little less, sometimes a little more. Basically once it pulls off the side of the walls of the mixing bowl, I usually think I’m pretty much there.  I let the Bosch knead the dough for another two minutes and then turn the dough out into an oiled bowl. Let rise until to double in size (about an hour on the counter). I take the dough out, give it a light knead and then form it into loaves. Sometimes it actually goes in loaf pans (what I did today) but more often I’ve been making more french bread-type versions on a jelly roll pan. Let those suckers rise again, but not too long up where I live because they can fall like crazy if it gets too out of hand. I’ll emphasize again that this is a high altitude bread recipe.

I bake my bread at 450F/230C. Hot? Yes. But I also put a pan of steaming water on the rack underneath my bread so I can get a crunchy crust on it. The temp and the steam are supposed to work together to do this. This is also a high water content bread, so that’s part of the equation. I’m still figuring this part out, but that’s my routine for now. Until I tweak it again. The great thing about this is that I learn a little bit more about the process every time I make it. And that I’ll never be done figuring it out.

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