My Bread and Butter

Bread and butter is my bread and butter. I love the combination of those two foods, particularly homemade garlic bread.

I was recently telling a friend about the tasty homemade garlic bread I make. She asked, “Wow, you make the bread at home.”

“Well, no,” I replied. I buy a baguette at the grocery store and insert homemade garlic butter, then I cook it a specific way so the outside is crispy and the inside is soft. It is my favorite thing.

But my friend brought up a good point: What if I made the bread from scratch too? Could it be even better?

I decided to find out.

I searched around online and discovered this recipe for French bread. I was surprised by how simple the ingredients were. For some reason I thought bread involved eggs and butter and baking powder and dragon eyelashes. Nope. It’s just flour, yeast, water, honey, and a little salt.

As was the case with my recent cooking experiment with chocolate chip cookies, I followed the recipe exactly (even the weird stuff, like the instructions to toss ice into the oven at the same moment when I put the bread in the oven)…except for one key element that I continue to underestimate about baked goods. After letting the dough rise once, I should have folded it over, kneed it, then folded it over several times to get more air in the dough. Instead, I just created a baguette-looking shape with the bread and put it on a tray to rise some more.

The result was a good tasting but dense bread. I think it’ll be better tomorrow when I slice it thin and toast it with garlic butter.

I did learn, though, that yeast is magical.

Here are a few photos of the process. If you have any tips for making bread, I’d love to hear them.

bread 2

bread 3

bread 1

8 thoughts on “My Bread and Butter”

  1. Ha! Dragon eyelashes. 🙂 Those look awesome. Funny coincidence: I was waiting for some toast when I saw this.

    My wife and I really want to try a sourdough starter soon. Our go-to homemade bread recipe uses kefir instead of yeast. It adds a lot of depth. And it’s a great base for pizza / calzone dough, too.

    Reply
      • It was, thanks!

        Kefir is similar to a runny yogurt. The milk is fermented, so it’s slightly alcoholic and sour on it’s own. A small amount is mixed into the flour and sits overnight (or a couple hours, anyway) to allow the yeast time to work. It seems to make a little denser bread loaf (but that may depend on the type of grain used, too) and has a slight tang. The sour factor is tamed down through the baking process, though, and the flavor fads into the background like a beautiful background layer to a song when other things are added. We haven’t tried straight up garlic bread, but a calzone with homemade garlic butter was definitely a weekly thing for quite a while last year.

        Reply
  2. That’s a good first effort, Jamey! Try to make bread once a week and you’ll know how to do it well; bonus, you get some buff triceps from the kneading and punching.

    When you work with loaves that use wheat, spelt, rye or another gluten-containing grain, you have knead and rise, knead and rise. The gluten forms long chains that trap the air, although you can over-knead it – I’d venture on the too much side for now.

    One trick that’s helped me to get good results – with gluten and gluten-free – is to first nuke a ramekin of water for three minutes, then let the dough rise for the 30 to 45 minutes in the microwave. It’s a draft-free place, it’s warm and moist, the yeast reacts very well to the environment. This is especially true in the winter. Just put a post-it on your microwave door to know not to hit start (or set your timer and throw a dish towel over the closed microwave).

    I’ve found that bread machine yeast works very well even with hand-kneaded recipes because it’s such a fine yeast that it mixes very evenly. Milk (or milk powder) gives a nice crust, oils such as coconut and ollive add a crispness to it, and starting with everything warm helps out a great deal. No, bread isn’t complicated even though it can be. One of my favorite yeast breads is an old family recipe called potiça that is just the best nut roll you’ve ever had. The texture is unique, almost spongy, it comes from a yeast dough that is rolled paper-thin, covered with filling, then rolled back up and allowed to rise as a rolled loaf before baking.

    When you get confident with the baguette, try more exotic ones like anadama, Russian black, challah, pumpernickel and ciabatta. The other day I made some amaranth-honey-flaxseed bread, which is a favorite.

    Reply

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