In the past I have always made resolutions along the lines of "lose weight" or "drink more water" or something else easily shoved to the wayside on, oh, January 2nd. This past year I flippantly made the resolution that I would "learn to bake bread". As we had a really busy first eight months of last year, what with planning a wedding and all, I didn't really think about my resolution. When I went to WI to visit family for three days this past October I had a plan in my head to have my sister teach me how to bake bread. We never ended up doing it, so when I got back to Seattle, with just over two months to reach my goal, I had to take matters in to my own hands.
On a whim I decided to make the rolls for Thanksgiving dinner. Not sure how I would pull it off, and very sure I would just go buy some rolls at the store if I didn't, I just jumped in and gave it a try. They turned out great! I was so proud of myself and decided it was time to move forward in full-fledged bread-making mode. The following weekend we visited my in-law's and I spent some time browsing my father-in-law's cookbooks (on of my most favorite things to do when I visit them! He has quite the selection!) I found a book on his shelf called, appropriately enough, The Bread Book. As I looked through it I discovered that the book really outlined in detail how to go through the steps to make each of the different kinds of bread. Easy peasy! My father-in-law told me I could borrow the book if I would like to, so I did.
When I got home I dove right in to a recipe for a whole wheat free form loaf. It all went very well except for the bread totally spread out during it's last rise, so when it came out of the oven it was more like a large, domed pancake. It tasted good and had good texture, so at least I was on the right track! The next time I tried I made a recipe for traditional white bread in a bread pan. This loaf turned out very well except I took it out of the oven too soon, not having quite figured out the whole knocking on the bottom of the loaf thing (though I'm getting better!). Luckily I sort of salvaged that loaf by sticking it back in the oven for a couple of minutes after I already sliced the end off. Tee hee.
Now I have baked about a dozen loaves of the white bread and all have come out very well! They all end up looking a little different, depending on how deep of a slice I made in the top or how well I pinched the side together when I rolled it up, but they all taste fantastic!
I am so proud to say I've learned how to bake bread in 2008. I look forward to learning alot more about bread baking and am really hoping to take a class or two in the new year to help expand my repertoire of, well, one kind of bread!
I wanted to include a really yummy recipe I made one morning with a loaf of my white bread. Either go ahead and bake yourself a loaf of bread or pick one up at the store that you can slice yourself (you'll want thick slices for this!)
Without further ado, my adapted recipe for eggnog french toast! (The majority of the recipe comes from here).
Eggnog French Toast
1/2 cup eggnog
1/2 cup whole milk
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 (1/2-inch) slices day-old or stale country loaf, brioche or challah bread
4 tablespoons butter
In medium size mixing bowl, whisk together the eggnog, milk, eggs, sugar, and salt. You may do this the night before. When ready to cook, pour custard mixture into a pie pan and set aside.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Dip bread into mixture, allow to soak for 30 seconds on each side, and then remove to a cooling rack that is sitting in a sheet pan, and allow to sit for 1 to 2 minutes.
*I used a griddle for this next step!*
Over medium-low heat, melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a 10-inch nonstick saute pan. Place 2 slices of bread at a time into the pan and cook until golden brown, approximately 2 to 3 minutes per side. Remove from pan and place on rack in oven for 5 minutes. Repeat with all 8 slices. Serve immediately with maple syrup, whipped cream or fruit.
I plan on making this for Christmas day brunch this year. Possibly with a strata, also made with my homemade bread!
p.s I think my resolution for next year is to really learn how to knit. At one time I learned how to cast on, knit, purl and cast off, but you know, I never really understood it.