I am off on retreat for a while in locales wild and remote, and one of the things I want to do while I’m here is work on my bread baking skills. The tools available to me are minimal, and my forethought in packing was also minimal, but we do what we can with what we have. I’ve baked bread twice in the last week, with interesting results.
First I made my standard recipe for French bread. Except I don’t have the recipe with me, and I haven’t made it in over a year, so it was a challenge. I didn’t use enough flour (new, wetter climates affect things like that) so the bread was rather flat. But the crumb was okay, and it was tasty. It makes good toast. I sent one of the loaves off with my dad when he left, because he doesn’t get that very often.
Today I tried The Baker’s standard Daily Loaf recipe. I followed along and tried to bake it with her once, so I kind of knew what I was doing, but this recipe is a whole lot wetter than I’m used to and I was just sure I was doing it wrong. But the dough felt all silky when I shaped the loaves, and I got a lot more oven spring than I expected.
The crust on this bread is darker than my standard French loaf. I think I panicked and took it out too soon. It’s fully cooked, but it’s really soft and hard to slice without crushing. (This may also have something to do with the dullness of the bread knife.)
I don’t have a peel or a baking stone, I have a basic oven and a jelly roll pan. I’ve used corn meal before to keep the loaves from sticking, so I searched in the cupboard and found a bag of something labeled “90789” that looked like corn meal. When I put the pan in the oven, I started smelling popcorn. So I’m pretty sure it’s something made of corn – cornmeal, polenta, something. It smelled like burnt popcorn for a while, and set off the smoke alarm every time I opened the oven, but it worked and the bread doesn’t taste burnt. But I will be looking for some baking parchment, because it does taste slightly of popcorn.
It turned out a lot better than I expected, based on how slack the final dough was. The best part was when I heard the crackle as the crust cooled. I don’t have any way to create steam in this oven and I figured I wouldn’t get that, but I did. Well, make that second best. The best part is having fresh, very tasty bread.
Edited to add: I forgot the pictures. I did take some. I’ll get them posted. Sorry!