Normally bread dough is allowed to rise and then kneaded for a while. Kneading develops the gluten - the sticky strands of protein that emerge from the dough, which forms the matrix in which the yeast-generated bubbles reside.
There is another way to develop the gluten other than getting messy and working out your arms and hands. That way is by waiting patiently and allowing the dough to develop it on its own. That takes about 18 hours.
So one evening earlier this week I mixed four cups of all purpose flour, a half teaspoon of yeast, one and a half teaspoons of salt and two and a quarter cups of flour in a bowl.
I then covered the bowl with plastic wrap and went on with the rest of my life.
After some television, and talking, and eating, and reading and sleeping, and working and coming home from work, I looked in the bowl and found that the volume had doubled and that a pleasant yeasty smell was wafting around by the bubbly dough. So I folded it a couple of times to drop it back down to size, and plopped it into a pot for another hour to rise a little more.
Then I plopped the pot with a lid on it into a 450 degree oven for 45 minutes. Baking it in a pot keeps the moisture in and allows for a nice crust.
It looked really nice when I took it out.
It smelled really nice too.
It was kind of rubbery when I cut it open.
It had the consistency of a rubber inner tube, and didn't taste very nice. I think I hadn't let it rise enough the second time.
So the night before last I mixed another batch up and did all those things until the 18 hours had elapsed that I had done before.
I let the dough rise for another 3 full hours after folding it and then put it into the oven on a baking sheet (no pot this time) for 45 minutes at 450 degrees.
I sat and waited.
I swirled in circles and played with my camera.
I waited and waited.
Then I pulled it out of the oven.
It looked good.
It smelled good.
It was crunchy on the outside but still a bit doughy on the inside. There wasn't enough salt either.
So while my two efforts were unsuccessful, they weren't completely unsuccessful. I am going to keep at it until I can bake bread. It may take another five or ten tries. But eventually I'll get it right.
Tim Smith of Jack Mountain Bushcraft writes a nice piece about the concept of mastery as it pertains to using a bow drill to get coals to make fire. He reminds us that you need to work at skills over and over again until you can be consistent and efficient.
0 to 25 Coals (or loaves of bread) - Beginner LevelIt may not take me 1000 tries to get perfect bread, but I know I won't be able to get it right the first few times.
26 to 100 Coals (or loaves of bread) - Student Level
101 to 999 Coals (or loaves of bread) - Journeyman Level
1000 or more Coals (or loaves of bread) - Master Level