I've been on kind of a bread-making kick lately. Sure, it takes time to let it rise, but I can usually do other things while that's happening.
I'll start with the bad: English Muffins. I don't blame the recipe, since I went off the grid and didn't use the flour that it called for. Sure, I thought, I'll use a combination of wheat and white flour! Wheat flour is high in gluten, the way bread flour is! What could go wrong?!
I knew when kneading them that this was off to a bad start. The dough was so tough I could barely knead it, and it didn't rise at all. But, being stubborn, I decided to proceed and bake them anyways, just to see what would happen. They weren't a total failure, just about 90%. They're really doughy and thick, not at all the light and fluffy English muffins I hoped for. But I'm willing to take responsibility, since I was too tired to bother getting more bread flour for them. Oh well.
I also made French-bread style rolls this week, and these were really good. My plan was to make a baguette to have with the corn and squash chowder, but that kind of fell through when it came time to roll the dough out, as we were busy making the chowder at the same time. So, to keep things simple, I just divided the dough into 8 rolls, and they turned out great! Like real French bread, they weren't as good the second day (which is why recipes like French toast and bread pudding exist), but they are still great if you slice them in half and toast them. I made myself little turkey sliders on them the next day for lunch, and the homemade bread makes a normal sandwich taste amazing.
French bread only needs to rise for 2 hours, so it's a lot less time-intensive. If you can remember to start them on time, then it's not too hard to add them to a weekend dinner. They also only have about 3 ingredients: flour, water, yeast.
I think it looks sort of like a whole chicken in this picture, with its wings tucked under.
And last but not least, wheat sandwich bread. This recipe is getting a lot easier to make. I've done it about 3 times, and each time it seems a little more straight forward. As you can see in the picture, I'm still having trouble getting it to relax and let the folds become less...sturdy when I shape it into a loaf for the pan.
After it's had a chance to cool, John usually slices it up, we put it in a gallon-sized ziplock bag in the freezer, to dole out over the week.
Just like the French bread rolls, this bread makes any sandwich taste better.
We don't make all of our bread, since it's still time consuming. But it's nice to have homemade bread for sandwiches every other week or so. The recipes for the rolls and the sandwich loaf each come from How to Cook Everything, by Mark Bittman.