The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Baking and quiting smoking...

Lauren5280's picture

Baking and quiting smoking...

I have long thought about baking my own breads.  I have a bread machine that I have used in the past but it is somewhat unsatisfying with respect to the process.

Well about a week ago I decided to give up smoking and low and behold I found I needed to find something to do with my hands to keep me occupied.  So I put my hair up into a ponytail and out comes the recipes and bin of flour.  First I had to learn how to proof the yeast.  Ummm.... why are there so many options? Can't we just pick a method and go with it?  My kitchen looked like a test lab because I wanted to try multiple options all at once. While I wait for my yeasts to proof I open a bottle of wine and pour a glass, I am beginning to think I will need it.

Once the proofing was figured out, it was time to decide on my method of measuring...  Again, one method should be sufficient but after about a million websites I settled on weighing my ingredients, that should be simple, Right?  Nope! All flours, just like people, are not created equal.  Who knew?  I scratch my head, pour another glass of wine and try to figure it all out. (Do not scratch your head while contemplating and baking... the flour just makes your hair look gray.)   Ok let's figure out how much each of my product weighs so I can get started. 

Here goes nothing… all ingredients are placed oh so carefully into my stand mixer.  Note to future self, when the recipe states to mix on medium/high for 5 minutes, do not immediately turn the mixer on high.  As I look down at my flour covered clothes I reach for my glass of wine and brush the hair out of my face that had been falling down out of my ponytail.  Time to start over with the dry ingredients.    

After successfully mixing the ingredients, for the second time, it’s time to knead the dough.  Well really I think I just pounded on it taking out my frustration of the nicotine withdrawals.  Ok, first rise… into the oven it goes.  I turned the light on in the oven just in case it got scared of the dark.  Or maybe it had something to do with the fact that my house was chilly... I'm going with not wanting my little loaf to get scared.

Now at this point I’m beginning to feel accomplished!  I am making bread, nothing can possibly go wrong now, could it?  Put hair back in ponytail and pour another glass of wine and wait! 

After cleaning up the kitchen it’s time to peak in on the dough and I’m confident it will have started to rise.  *Sigh* it still looks like a ball of goo rather than a nice puffy dough.  Hmm… Second check, I think it is rising but I’m not entirely sure.  As I ponder my options I grab my glass of wine, take a seat and decide to wait a little longer.  After what seemed like an eternity, it’s time to check on it again and… success!  It has risen!  I swear I could hear church bells. 

Out of the oven it comes to be punched down and start the second rise.  I decided to be nicer to my dough this time though and give it more of a massage… I mean after all it had been through it really earned it.  After about 10 minutes loving massage it is time for my bread to head back into its cocoon.  I’m in the home stretch now! 

Hmm… 30 minutes later it’s not rising, ok.  It was slow the first time maybe it just needs a bit more time.  After what seemed like 10 hours pass and after spending all of that time staring longingly into my oven willing it to rise again it was not to be.  After resisting the urge to toss the failed dough across the room, I decided I was going to bake it anyway, I mean I had a lot invested in this poor, sad little loaf of bread. 

As you can imagine my first loaf of bread came out of the oven looking more like flat bread rather than the beautiful loaves I see all of you post.  I decided I was going to try to salvage the time I had put into it by trying to convince my family it was Naan.  But they weren't having it.  I tried convincing them that this was the intended result and they dutifully nodded their precious heads in (mock) agreement.

I am happy to report I haven't picked up one cigarette and after several more tries I have since made some successful batches of breads and biscuits.

I am hooked on baking bread.  I always thought I was a cook and not a baker.  That you couldn't be both.  I was wrong.  I am now starting (my umpteenth) sourdough starter and feel I might be successful this time because I have taken the time to understand the ingredients and how/why they work.  I've never been much of a student but I have drastically reduced the number of failures just by simply understanding my ingredients.

Did I mention I am at ~6,000 ft of altitude? *hiccup*


embth's picture

There are excellent books available so use a bit of your saved "cigarette money" for a few of the classic bread baking books.   Look for sources of flour and yeast in bulk (restaurant supply stores, food coops, etc.)   A 50 lb. sack of flour and yeast by the pound gets used up faster than you might think.  When you find good flour at 30 to 40 cents a pound,  and yeast for $4 a pound (nearly a year's supply for me) your experimenting will not "break the bank."  Enjoy your new addiction….a healthy one!

aptk's picture

I had never considered the wine while I was baking bread!! I know that there are lists available, probably on the internet somewhere, of what wine to serve with what bread, but I'll bet there's not one for which wines pair well with the baking process!

Seriously, I have been known to sit on the floor and watch my bread bake in a 500 degree oven, and since I'm old and arthritic, I'm sure that if I had a glass of wine, and I'm not even saying it would have to be a "good" wine, it would be much easier to get back up!!

I enjoyed your post, and hope that you enjoy you baking and being a bread head, and that you have a sense of humor that I can appreciate. I myself have been known to bake an occasional loaf to feed either the squirrels or the birds! Welcome and nice to meet you.

pantone_000's picture

I definitely enjoyed reading your posts and can't wait until it gets some pictures in there too.
Congratulations for switching  to a better addiction. Hehe =)

Lauren5280's picture

Thank you for the responses.  I will have to figure out how to post pictures!  I have made several more loaves of bread and my family devours them!  I'm not consistent yet but I'm hoping with more practice I will be :)

dosco's picture

Are your pictures on your computer?

If so, there are 2 options ...

1) Start a blog here, each blog post you can have 1 "main" image uploaded (the upload button is on the top of the dialog box for blog posts).

2) Click the image button on the "Comment" dialog box (the little button that looks like a picture of a tree). To the right of the "image URL" field is a button, click that. Then click the "upload" button on the left. Then click "browse" and find the file on your computer. The click "upload," once the machine stops processing close the upload dialog box by clicking the "X" on the right hand corner. Then click insert file and close the dialog box. Then click insert file on the next box, then you should be done.

It sounds hard, and is sort of hard to figure out, but once you do it you'll wonder why you hadn't before.