The current state of bread-making at the Secret Lair…

I bake every five days or so, usually well before I’m out of bread in summer because it molds before I finish eating it. Less often in winter, because it doesn’t.

I’ve been doing this for most of the fifteen years I’ve lived in the Gulch, and regularly for all the (ten years in November!) I’ve been in the Lair. The recipe kind of evolves over time, but I’m still no expert. I’m not a great baker or anything – I don’t really have ten years’ experience, just one year’s experience repeated ten times.

First, wear out your dog.

He’s good for a two-hour nap minimum.

Start the bread by proving two teaspoons of yeast in 2 1/2 cups warm water* with two teaspoons salt and 3 tablespoons sugar, then add an egg and a little oil…

One cup of ground wheat flour, while the wheatberries last…

This step isn’t necessary but really has done lovely things for the flavor of the loaf.

Then beat in sifted all-purpose flour until the dough ball just stops sticking to the sides of the bowl…

It should still be a bit moist and sticky. Dump it out onto a floured table and knead the hell out of it until it’s … well, thoroughly kneaded, adding a little flour at a time as needed. I’ve read treatises on what kneading does to the dough but can’t say I ever fully understood it. Takes about ten minutes and mustn’t be scrimped. With practice you’ll know when it’s ready. Too much added flour will cause the dough ball to get too dry, so take it easy. This part takes practice but imperfection won’t totally ruin anything.

Put a little oil in the bottom of the mixing bowl, drop the ball in and roll it about until it’s oily. Cover with a dishcloth and let it rise until it has about doubled.

This is the part that I’m still working on: At this point I have not enough dough for two loaves and too much for one. For a long time I settled for two rather flat loaves but that stopped being acceptable; so now I chop off a little at a time, turning the extra into bread sticks…

…until I have enough of a dough ball to fill a bread pan about 2/3. This leaves enough room for another doubling without overflowing the pan.

Cover the bread pan and let it rise again. Meanwhile heat the oven to 350o, then pop in the bread sticks for about 20 minutes.

…by which point the bread should be just about ready to bake. When it has risen to your liking, bake it for 40 minutes at 350o.

And there you go.

Good! Enjoy.

*I live in a very arid environment at 6000 feet, so don’t fear to fiddle with fluids if this doesn’t work out well for you. This is just what I ended up with after much experience with poor results.

About Joel

You shouldn't ask these questions of a paranoid recluse, you know.
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10 Responses to The current state of bread-making at the Secret Lair…

  1. Anonymous says:

    I can smell it from here…San Francisco.

  2. coloradohermit says:

    “First, wear out your dog.”
    Looks like you did as good a job of that as you did with the breads. 🙂

  3. Beans says:

    Kneading stretches the loaf, and allows air pockets to form between all the elasticy bands that you are stretching.

  4. Robert says:

    Joel, how much difference does the egg make? I would think your bread would be more cake-like with the added poultry product. Lazy, I mean, enquiring minds wanna know.

  5. Joel says:

    It’s been a long time since I last forgot the egg but as I recall the bread was unacceptably crumbly.

  6. Ruth says:

    the extra fat, and binding properties, of a single egg in a batch of bread makes a noticeable difference actually, even for us sea level folks. I used to do it all the time till my digestion decided it wasn’t going to handle eggs any more. The effect can be mostly duplicated by adding softened butter and exchanging the water for milk in the bread recipe. Its not a perfect substitution, but it mostly works.

  7. Robert says:

    Thanks for the reply, Joel. I figgered the egg would add some structure due to the protein.

    ” forgot the egg” Try forgetting the yeast and you’ll bake a brick which smells delicious. Which is why I no longer let my landlord babble at me while I’m attempting to make bread.

    Ruth: “duplicated by adding softened butter and exchanging the water for milk”
    Ah! That might explain why my bread machine recipe calls for butter and powdered milk, but no egg.

    Coming here is educational.

  8. Mike says:

    Once again, I’ve shown the photos of your home-made bread to my wife with the suggestion that we could try this. And, once again she has laughed at me… Sigh…

  9. Paul Joat says:

    I started baking bread about a year ago, I’ve learned a lot. One, as long as you have live yeast and the consistency feels about right while kneading it will be edible, from there you can adjust to make it better.
    Most of the bread I bake is basic sour dough with just flour water salt and starter. The addition of fat to the dough makes the bread a softer consistency butter oil and egg all work similar.
    @Mike, don’t ask just try it, worst case you waste less than $5 in ingredients.

  10. Arthur says:

    Hey Joel, I’ve discovered you via a forgotten weapons video you did with Ian a few years ago, and was curious about you.

    I live in France and your lifestyle is basically what I dream of doing one day… Shame my wife like her fancy life ! Anyway I am able to live my dream a little with your updates and all the stuff you post.

To the stake with the heretic!