This past week I decided to finally try something I’ve been too intimidated to do. The whole process of kneading the dough felt too complex and easily ruined but I had a spur of confidence in my abilities and I decided to try.
I do think I will continue trying new recipes and adding different flavours to breads in the future. Once I began the process it wasn’t nearly as intimidating and it was in fact quite fun to make. I did film the whole experience, which shows the mistakes I made during the process and really shows the end results quite well.
I made two different recipes in my experiment, to see which method I preferred. I made a no-knead dough, which took about 28 hours from start to cool down. I also made a kneaded dough which took less than 6 hours from start to cool down. I can tell you I preferred the kneaded method for making the dough, as it was so much faster and the bread it yielded was a little sweet and dense. But cooking method also had a lot to do with my preference.
The kneaded dough called to be baked at a lower temperature, 350 degrees, for 45 minutes. It came out a light golden brown and there was no issues with its baking method. As I don’t own a bread pan, I gently pushed out the dough into a 8 inch square cake pan which I oiled liberally. It rose roughly twice as much in the centre, but yielded a nice, every cooked loaf. This dough has a little sweetness to it, and both my man and I agreed it would be the perfect loaf to make into garlic bread. I did butter the loaf directly after removing it from the oven to give the crust a nice soft texture. It is shown below.
The no-knead dough was to be cooked in a maxed out oven (mine goes to 500 degrees) and was supposed to be cooked in a cast iron dutch oven which had been pre-heated with the oven. The recipe called to have it cook on a floured piece of parchment paper, which may have worked in a dutch oven, but I don’t own one so I improvised. I used my cast iron skillet and added multiple cups of water into the oven in another baking tool to add moisture. This moisture did help the dough keep some humidity, but the parchment paper burned onto the dough which left some interesting patched I had to scrape off. I will say that the dough was actually quite nice, even with the charred marks on the bottom. I did do an egg wash on the dough before baking it and buttered it after it was removed from the oven. We paired this bread with an anti-pasto board and it paired beautifully with sweet, spicy, sharp and smooth flavours. Though it was not as pretty, it was admittedly a better flavoured bread. I need to adjust the baking method to avoid burning the bottom again. I think the next time I make it I will oil the cast iron liberally and let it bake directly on the skillet. I would still pre-heat the skillet, as it takes a good amount of time for it to build up heat and I feel not pre-heating it would cause the crust on the bottom to be raw while the top would be hard. It is shown below.
It took me two days to make the two loaves and I enjoyed the process. I also did a cost analysis on the dough and I estimate it costs $1.50 to $1.65 to make loaves like these. The closest comparison I can make to commonly available breads in grocery stores of this style come in at around $4.00 a loaf. So it is cheaper to make a loaf, but it is very time consuming and makes a considerable mess in the kitchen and creates a lot of dishes to clean. If you have the time to make your own, I would recommend it. There is a feeling of pride and joy when you can make your own food with your own two hands, but if you don’t have the time or having an entire sink full of somewhat difficult to clean dishes, perhaps it’s better to go out and buy a loaf.