Newbie in desperate need of guidance
Story goes that I've been baking for ages, first scones and muffins, then eventually graduating to bread and finally cookies (which I always used to burn; no idea why), but today, right now, I'm making my first French bread. I'm using the recipe herein entitled "My Daily Bread," and things are going relatively swimmingly. Or so I hope. I have a few questions concerning general processes.
First: using the autolyse method with this recipe seemed a bit futile. When I mixed 1 pound of whole wheat flour with 10 oz of water, I got a really dry dough. It wouldn't even stick together. I checked my measurements again and again - I convered 1 pound of flour to 3.5 cups, and the 10 oz of water to 1.25 cups. What I wound up doing to reconcile my mind and my dough was to add the poolish to the pre-autolysed mixture. This seemed to work okay...we'll find out when the bread is actually done.
Second: I had quite the time with the order of adding ingredients. So you make the autolyse with the flour and water, but that was too much flour, so I added the poolish, but then when to add the yeast and the salt? I wound up sprinkling salt over the top of the autolyse, and then adding the yeast to about an ounce of water five minutes before adding to the dough. This resulted in a wet and sticky monster, and I didn't know what to do. So...
Third: kneading. After the creation of the monster, I decided that the best way to incorporate the yeast mixture and the salt would be to knead the dough. So I glopped it out onto the countertop (covered in flour, of course) and kneaded it well. I think. I don't know how long I kneaded it - probably only about two minutes or so. Was I even supposed to knead it? I have no idea. The recipe mentions no such tomfoolery. And if, but some strange twist of fate, I was supposed to knead it, did I not knead it enough? Does it not matter so early in the proceedings? Or should I panic?
Now my dough is cheerfully in its first hour of primary fermentation, and I am fretting, naturally. It seems like a rather odd time to ask such questions, then, certainly, seeing as it's pretty smoothe sailing from here on out (or if not smoothe, at least a done deal), but I intend to make this again over the weekend, this time as an addition to a meal I've been invited to by my boyfriend's mother. It's a family gathering of theirs. This could be wildly idiotic, for me to aspire to such heights right out of the barrel, but I'd like to give it a try, this time less iffily than these first gimp loaves will probably be.
We'll see. Thanks for any advice or answers - they are greatly appreciated.