Along with writing, one of my lifelong interests has been baking. But I have come to find that, over the years, I’ve gotten into a rut, baking the same things over and over. Cakes? I’m your woman. Pies? I’ve got those down too. Brownies? I make a pretty mean brownie. And I’ve made pretty much every cookie there is. I love baking, find it relaxing and enjoyable, and am rather good at it too. And then came along a show called The Great British Baking Show (or The Great British Bake Off for all you UK folks out there). I know I’m a bit late to the table on this one, but I have become quite taken with it, consuming seasons within days. Ok, I’ve now finished every season on Netflix within the past two months. But through this show I started to realize how confined my baking has been. There were so many items on there I had never even heard of and many, after watching the contestants work through the challenges, had me thinking “I can do that!”
So, this year, I’ve decided to give myself the challenge of baking one new thing each Friday. One baked good, either sweet or savory, that I have never baked before. To connect it to my love of books, I have shelves of cookbooks, many of which I have barely cracked open. So, it was time to get cracking! I may have even purchased a couple more, baking specific cookbooks, for this very endeavor. And thus, the challenge began. To start it off, I decided to task myself with using something I’ve never baked with before. Yeast! I’ve made plenty of quick breads (no yeast necessary there), and have used a great recipe for beer bread (where the yeast for the bread is simply in the beer you add, no fuss required) many times. But for some reason, the mention of yeast in a recipe has always deterred me from attempt. I always felt it was too temperamental, an odd, finicky ingredient, and something I really didn’t want to bother with in the kitchen. So, why not start off this year-long enterprise by taking on this previously assumed foe?
Therefore, this past Friday, I stepped into my kitchen, whipped out my newly purchased packet of yeast, and got to work making my first ever loaf of bread. Crusty French Bread to be exact. And the experience was actually quite great. As with most of my baking in the past, I thoroughly enjoyed it. The recipe was fairly simple, a straightforward, minimal ingredient concoction I found online (here), and using the yeast was far less overwhelming than I had previously thought. I mixed together the first few things, waited for the yeast to foam (I’ve never really needed something to foam in my kitchen before, a bit odd), and then added, slowly, the flour. There were several moments of “I don’t know” and “Does this look like it’s supposed to” but, true to the recipe, I carried on. Mixed, proved, folded, waited, plopped it all in my Dutch oven, and baked. My house smelled great for hours and there was a finished product at the end.
Now, the bread didn’t turn out perfect, but it was a first attempt. And that’s what this year is about, right? (Refer to Jan 1 blog) Those little firsts with new and exciting things. The baby method! But it looked like bread and tasted like bread. A little under mixed and a little over baked, but definitely edible. And I’ll take that for a first off. And even if it wasn’t perfect, it fed my family (something I’m always proud to do with my culinary abilities) for Friday’s dinner and definitely made some tasty French Toast the next morning!
So, stay tuned for the next baking adventure and all the coming week’s new experiences in the world of writing and beyond.