Ever think about making bread, but then stop because you need a recipe and exact amounts?
I must admit. I mostly avoid baking because it means I have to follow directions and measure things.
I am a one-pot cooking kind of chick. My food is delicious, but the presentation turns out mediocre at best. Any time I have to use extra utensils and gadgets, I am annoyed and try to avoid it if at all possible.
I do love to cook. I absolutely love to eat. But I don’t like to make it a whole thing, you know? Let’s keep it simple. Who’s with me?
It was recently brought to my attention that you don’t actually have to measure when making baked goods. You can just wing it.
I watched my foodie sister-in-law do this. She made banana bread by eyeballing an amount of flour and mixing it up with some other things. No measuring cups. Smashing bananas with a fork all willy-nilly. It worked!
The thought of actually taking a fresh loaf out of the oven really appeals to me. I’ve been romancing the idea for a good 10 years now. I finally made up my mind. Yesterday was going to be the day.
It seems like creative and introverted homesteading gals always have a hot loaf of bread ready to go. They do fun things with it, like make crafty cutouts and artful patterns by shaking flour over the top.
I’m not doing any of that. It’s just not my jam.
But you know what is my jam? Actual jam. Jam, made with berries and sugar, slathered all over a fresh slice of hot bread. With a big pat of butter, what some people might define as too much butter, dribbling down the side.
So much butter that when you’re done you have butter face, and are disgusted with yourself. Woohoo!
Are you getting excited about bread? Well, let me tell you who finally inspired me to just go for it and bake some bread. It was that sweet little Italian granny, Nonna Pia.
I showed my Italian parents her cooking videos and my mother questioned why she uses her hands to do everything.
Wait a minute, wait a minute. Sloppy is as sloppy does and that is my M.O. in the kitchen. One cannot truly rejoice in the glory of cooking if one is constantly wiping things and fretting about exact amounts. I like it sloppy. So let’s do this.
I looked at Nonna, making bread with her bare hands, and it occurred to me that you don’t need all the complicated machinery they are always trying to sell us.
I mean, don’t get me wrong. If you love the Kitchen Aid, I have to say that is a pretty rad gadget. But you don’t need it. Nonna used her hands. She didn’t measure. She put the yeast in a pot with warm water and broke it up with her fingers.
( I just want to stop and get a little technical here, much as I hate to be exact. You do have to bloom that yeast. Cut open a packet of yeast and pour it into about a quarter cup of warm water with two pinches of sugar. Cover it and wait for maybe 15 minutes until it’s foamy.
That is your bread science that is going to make this baby rise.)
Okay, back to Nonna Pia. When it was time to make the bread, she poured the flour and salt mixture together with the yeast liquid, stuck her fist in it and turn her hands into a dough-mixing machine.
And that was my Eureka bread-making moment. That was my realization that I, too, could make bread. Me, not knowing where the measuring cups are, not bothering to level off with a knife or measure at all.
I could just pour some flour and a yeasty, foaming science experiment into a bowl, turn it about with my hands, and play with it like Play-Doh but it’s real dough AND we’re allowed to actually eat it!
Put your doughy creation in a bowl that has been lightly oiled with olive oil. Pop a cotton towel over the top and push it into a dark corner at the back of your countertop. Let the bread rising begin.
Take a few hours to write some stuff, which is what I do because I’m a writer. Do some computer tasks. When you start to smell a warm, yeasty smell wafting from the other room, rejoice. The Bread Has Risen.
Peek under the towel. Is your dough ball getting bigger and fatter? Cool.
Turn the bread dough out onto a floured counter surface. Use your blessed two little hands to pull at an edge of the dough, bring it into the center, palm it flat, and then repeat that all the way around in a circle until the dough is now a ball. It should be getting a little bit stretchier now.
Do this for some time. I don’t know. Less than 10 minutes? That’s what I did.
Return your dough ball to the oiled bowl. Tuck it in again beneath its cotton cover and slide it back into that dark corner. Go and write 10 articles for your content customers, which is what I did.
In another hour or two, check and see how your bread ball is looking. You might even see it beginning to form a dome beneath the kitchen towel cover. It’s alive! It’s ready to bake!
Get a big, flat cookie sheet. Heat up the oven to 500°. Turn the dough ball out onto the cookie sheet. Use your hands to pat it into a shape of your choosing, if you like. Or just leave it as a ball.
Slide your tray of dough into the oven and let it bake away. I don’t even know how long mine took. I just continued to stay mindful of the aroma.
For a while it smelled like dough. Then I started to detect the scent of fresh baked bread. I went in to check and see if my ball of dough had transformed into a hot loaf of goodness. And it looked like that had pretty much happened.
So I poked it a bit, it didn’t deflate. I stuck a fork in it and the fork came out clean. The universal sign of a fully baked food item!
Removed the tray with bread on it, placed it on the stove top to cool. As soon as it was barely able to be handled without scorching my fingers, I sawed into it, slathered with aforementioned copious amounts of butter, and had myself a fresh slice of hot bread.
Yay for bread making! And thanks to Nonna Pia for turning me into a bread baker.
Will you make bread with me?