Offgrid novice/propane range wants to make artisan bread - LONG, sorry
Wow, loved finding this site. Was looking for pizza crust and had been planning on looking up artisan bread recipes tomorrow, but hit this site. Wish there was a "New, green idiots" forum category.
I live off grid, in Idaho. Our oven is a gas range that (I assume) has been rejetted for propane. Most of the propane references I've found on this site have to do with some camping thingy that Coleman sells.
I live and work in heaven: an old funky log cabin in the Idaho low panhandle mountains. We moved here 5.5 years ago and I've been feeling a distinct lack of decent bread for that entire time.
I'm a really good cook. Dinner last night was homemade shrimp manicotti - shrimp/onions/garlic/herbs in ricotta and whole milk mozzerella, with homemade manicotti shells and a marinara cream sauce - and that's a weeknight dinner ;-). (Was great.) I'm not afraid of cooking, but I AM afraid of baking. I can invent anything when I cook, but baking is voodoo.
We moved here from Portland, Oregon where you could ALWAYS get good bread, even at corner grocery stores, I swear. The bread where I live...sucks. In the past six months (after almost six years!) they finally have started buying dough or something for two kinds of bread from some other company, but they don't cook it long enough, so these teeny, un-risen sourdough loave that they sell are sort of...pale, white - whatever you might call it. Just not cooked enough.
To get adequate bread, we have to drive 65 miles to either Coeur d'Alene or Moscow, and even then, it's sometimes hard to come by.
I used to bake on occasion - sandwich bread, basic braided loaves for Christmas, cinnamon rolls (and of course, cookies and brownies and stuff...I'm not into sweets but friends of mine are!)
This will probably only make sense to West Coasties - actually, I'm not sure where all these generic grocery stores are - but our favorite breads these days (65 miles away) are the artisan breads at Safeway. I'd love to be able to make something even slightly like what is sold there: Crusty, chewy, and given to lots of variations. Actually, I'd love to make stuff a bunch better, but I'd settle for Safeway "Artisan" breads- their generic Tuscan-like (only salted ;) loaf, parmesean whatever. I'd settle for just plain old bread. lol. (Seriously, you have no idea how bad the bread sucks here!)
One draw back I have is that we've got a propane oven (range). It just doesn't seem like I get the heat from this range that I would from a natural gas or electric range. (I notice it especially when trying to saute.) To make matters worse: All the numbers are worn off the oven dial. I finally got an oven thermometer and scritched a mark in the dial at 350 degrees. We just sort of guess from there.
Anyone have a suggestion of a bread recipe on this site I might try? For someone fairly technical who can follow directions, but hasn't baked much? I love crusty, *really* chewy, loaves. (Chewy chewy chewy - lol - I found a recipe a couple of weeks ago that I tried for french bread and to my way of thinking, it ended up sort of biscuit-y.)
Sorry this is so long!
P.S. We also have an old wood cookstove - I've used one of these for baking in Portland, but never used it for baking here.