Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Does It Really Take Forever to Make Bread?

     I have been toying with the idea of making my own bread from scratch.  Although I frequently make pizza dough and have made soft baked pretzels many times in the past, I was dreading the idea of making my own bread.  Why?  Because it takes forever.  That's a pretty reasonable feeling when you consider that bread recipes frequently list the prep time as multiple hours. 

     Like everything else in life, though, I believe that this question of whether or not baking takes too long is a matter of perspective.  If you want to make a sandwich right this minute, then having fresh baked bread in a few hours is definitely going to seem like an unreasonable amount of time.  However, consider the possibility that you would like to have bread with your dinner and it's only 10:00am.  Suddenly there are other factors to consider.  Most importantly, how many of these hours are spent actually working on making the bread.  In most cases, I am finding that the answer is surprisingly little time.

     This morning I checked my food planner and saw that we were scheduled to have BBQ Pork Sandwiches for dinner tonight.  I had everything I needed on hand, except the buns.  You can call me a big baby if you want, but I didn't want to make a trip to the grocery store while it was 40 degrees out just to pick up some hamburger buns.  So, I decided that today was the day to put my bread making plan to the test.  Let's find out once and for all whether I can truly consider taking my kitchen all the way back to basics and actually make my bread from scratch. 

     I found a recipe online at All Recipes.  It was pretty basic and straight forward and had good reviews.  So, I got down to work.  The recipe I used can be found here.  First I had to get my yeast started.  This is basic stuff that is part of any recipe that calls for yeast.  I use it enough that I am able to prep the yeast in a matter of moments. 

     Once that was busy fermenting, I was able to prep my other ingredients.  Melt a little butter.  Stir in some eggs, salt and sugar.  Quick and easy stuff.  By the time I had my other ingredients prepped, the yeast was ready to go.  So, I poured the egg mixture in and let my whisk run for a few seconds. 

     Next, I switched out my kitchen aid attachments.  For a beginner, this might take a moment, but after a few years of experience with my kitchen aid, this step was measured in seconds.  Dump in the flour and turn it on.  I was able to clean up all of my dishes (not that there were many) while my dough hook did all the work for me.  The dough and I were ready at about the same time.  A little bit of kneading, rub the bowl with a little oil, and Plop!  The dough is ready to rise.  That was about 10-15 minutes worth of work before I get to walk away and ignore things for about two hours.  I'm good with that.  I did my part, so let's let the yeast do it's part.

     Two hours later, I  punch the dough down and dump it on a lightly floured counter.  I think the process of turning the dough into 8 round bun shapes took me a total of 10 minutes including covering them and cleaning the bowl.  Again, I get to walk away and ignore them for another half hour.  Then, the final step was a quick egg wash and into the oven where they baked for 15 minutes. 

     All in all, I probably put a half hour into my freshly made hamburger buns.  Is that much time?  Again, it depends on your perspective.  It would have taken me almost that long to drive to the grocery store and pick up a package of buns.  And my family all agrees that those don't taste nearly as good as the ones I made today. 

     My final assessment is that it was worth the effort and didn't take much time.  I actually feel a bit silly for being concerned about the practicality of baking my own bread.  Of course, I still need to look at the price difference, but I prefer to consider that factor as I get more comfortable with different types of bread and all the different possibilities available as far as preparing dough in bulk and possibly freezing loaves.  For now, I plan to keep moving forward.  How about you?  Aren't you just a little bit curious about what a hamburger tastes like on fresh homemade buns?  Give it a try and let me know how it works out for you.

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