First ever bread bake

With my baking weekend going so well, I decided to take on yet another challenge – baking my own bread! For whatever reason, I’ve always loved bread. It’s so versatile, and almost every country has their own version. Unless you’re one of those carb haters (now would be the time to excuse yourself inconspicuously. I won’t judge … out loud), when does anyone turn down a slice of freshly baked bread right out of the oven?

Eating is one thing, but baking it is another. I never knew there was so much work involved (most of it sitting around and waiting, but for all you aspiring bakers out there, perhaps you can relate when I say that can be the most agonizing part). This is the real thing. No bread machines. Just a regular oven and my bare hands. Scary, right?

I don’t know how this is going to turn out, but you’re welcome to watch me try to tackle this new baking challenge. I’ll post updates as I go, and hopefully I can prove that you don’t have to be a professional baker to make that perfect loaf of bread.

My mission today: a twisty bread ring with three kinds of herbs (basil, parsley and thyme). Let the fun begin!

Assemble the dry ingredients!
Assemble the dry ingredients!

I’m using a mix of dried and fresh herbs. Actually, there’s only a handful of fresh basil. The rest is dried because quite frankly that’s the best our little basil plant can do right now. Give the poor thing a break. It’s only a tiny potted plant sitting on our window sill. As far as my nose knows, dried herbs still smell amazing.

Made a well. Bring on the wet ingredients!
Made a well. Bring on the wet ingredients!

I decided to be super cheffy and use my kitchen counter instead of a bowl. One important tip: don’t pour all your wet ingredients into that well all at once if you don’t want to end up with a lake on your counter. (Fortunately, I figured this out before the lake became a waterfall.)

Throw in a little olive oil, milk and the yeast (a.k.a. where all the magic happens).
Throw in a little olive oil, milk and the yeast (a.k.a. where all the magic happens).

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My favourite part: mushing it all together. I love squishing dough, and punching it down can be a pretty good stress reliever!

Sticky hands are a sign that you're going to have some very good bread!
Sticky hands are a sign that you’re going to have some very good bread!

It’s a good thing I didn’t pour in all of the milk mixture at once. I would probably be looking at a doughy swamp. A little extra flour goes a long way to free your fingers from that squelching sticky goo.

Make sure you use up all the yeast and milk, even if it sometimes looks like the dough just won't soak up any more of it.
Make sure you use up all the yeast and milk, even if it sometimes looks like the dough just won’t soak up any more of it.

After lots of satisfying punching and kneading, it’s time to make a dough ball and pop it in the oven. We’re not baking yet! Just turn on the oven light and shut the door. Now is the time to play the waiting game.

Greased and ready to rise! Let's see how big this little guy gets after sitting in the oven for an hour.
Greased and ready to rise! Let’s see how big this little guy gets after sitting in the oven for an hour.

And now we wait …

3:18 p.m. An hour later, my little dough ball has become a giant poof ball! I think this story might tell itself in pictures.

POOF! That's some powerful yeast.
POOF! That’s some powerful yeast.

The punching part alone would make me pretty happy to be a baker, although the way the house is smelling right about now doesn’t suck either!

BAM! I love that first punch.
BAM! I love that first punch.
Time to rip it in two!
Time to rip it in two!
It's kind of hard to roll out when it keeps springing back. Come on, dough! Work with me!
It’s kind of hard to roll out when it keeps springing back.
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Come on, dough! Work with me!

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Doing the twist!

Doing the twist!

 

Behold the bread ring! It's kind of hard to think this is going to poof up even more. It's already so big!
Behold the bread ring! It’s kind of hard to think this is going to poof up even more. It’s already so big!

Give it another 45 minutes to poof up, and then it’ll be baking time!

Tada! The magic never gets old.
Tada! The magic never gets old.
Brush on a little olive oil so it turns golden brown in the oven.
Brush on a little olive oil so it turns golden brown in the oven.
Grind some sea salt onto the top and it's all set for baking!
Grind some sea salt onto the top and it’s all set for baking!
Twenty minutes is really too long to wait. The house smells amazing!
Twenty minutes is really too long to wait. The house smells amazing!

The last few minutes really are the longest. I’ll admit I spent a few minutes just sitting in front of the oven soaking up that freshly-baked bread smell.

It’s been a long wait, but that moment we’ve all been waiting for is finally here!

Et voilà! My bread is done and ready to eat!
Et voilà! My bread is done and ready to eat!
I never knew bread actually sounds hollow when you tap on the top of it. As a kid's video once taught me (about 17 years ago), "It's hollow? It's done!"
I never knew bread actually sounds hollow when you tap on the top of it. As a kid’s video once taught me (about 17 years ago), “It’s hollow? It’s done!”
I can't wait to dig in and gobble it up! This is not going to last long in my house.
I can’t wait to dig in and gobble it up! This is not going to last long in my house.

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Butter? Hummus? Olive oil and balsamic vinegar? Any way you like it, this bread goes great with it! I love that it’s got a bit of a crunch on the outside, just enough to get that satisfying crack when you break off a chunk. The inside’s is toasty warm (the perks of eating something right out of the oven!) and still has that elasticity that I was fighting with during the rolling stage.

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Mission accomplished! It turns out you do not have to be a master chef to bake some delicious bread! Thanks for following along with my baking challenge. It’s too bad computer screens aren’t scratch and sniff yet, but maybe if you stand outside take a really big whiff outside, you might catch a hint of basil, parsley and thyme wafting over from my house.

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