Sunday, September 19, 2010

Cinnamon Swirl Bread

I've been trying my hand at bread-baking lately, and let me tell you, it's HARD! I've had my fair share of difficult dishes (temperamental Thanksgiving turkeys and deflating souffles come to mind), but making your own bread is on a whole different level.

I've been stalking food blogs and forums for tips and tricks on how to make different kinds of bread, and it's mind-boggling how many things you have to consider when you finally decide which one to make. I truly admire the hard work and dedication of the people out there whose experiences make mine a little easier. Even though I take what they say into consideration, it's still darn DIFFICULT!

There are so many factors that go into making a single loaf of bread: yeast, timing, temperature, risings, ovens, your hands'/mixer's kneading prowess, etc...and there are different steps to take for every kind of bread! Sourdough, brioche, ciabatta, focaccia, baguette, and even your basic sliced white bread require specific conditions and a whole lot of watching and waiting. It's enough to make me want to forget about it all and just drive to the nearest market and pick up a prepared loaf. Plus, my poor mixer is threatening to commit suicide if I make any more bread this week. Something about too much kneading.


There really is nothing like homemade bread. Nothing! Despite all the hardship you had to endure, during which you cursed yourself for messing up a single small step which caused the entire dough's demise, got even more angry when you realized that you just spent 5 hours on a failed project, or beat yourself up for even taking on the task in the first place...Making bread, to me, is like love.

You give it everything you've got, nurturing it and keeping it as warm as you can. It's emotional and dependent upon the amount of care you put into it. It definitely asks for a lot of your time and awareness, and if you neglect it, it will fail.

However, if you make the effort, remain patient, watch over it faithfully, and use your instincts correctly, then the end results are phenomenal.

And it will make you happy! The smell of freshly-baked bread will weave itself throughout your home and suddenly, things don't seem so bad after all and you will wonder why you don't do this more often. :)

For my latest forays into the world of bread, I've been using this recipe. It seemed like the most simple but impressive-looking recipe. Also, I already had all the ingredients on hand. I've made it 3 times, and each time, it got easier and looked/tasted better. I even made a loaf to give to the bf's family when I was invited over for dinner. It's been a hit with everyone who has tasted it, and, like the recipe states, is excellent for French toast. Next time, I'm going to add the optional raisins to the dough!

I wanted to share this with you, even though Sunday is almost over. Making bread is a weekend project that's totally worth your time. Recipes will say that the prep time may take 4-5 hours or even overnight, but a lot of that time is for the risings, which don't require you to do anything but monitor warm conditions and wait. You could watch a movie, spend time with loved ones, or get other errands done while the dough is rising. I would make a loaf on Saturday, and use the leftovers (if there are any!) for a French toast breakfast on Sunday.

Just don't be overzealous with the humidity as I was the first time or you will end up with this:

Overly-rapid yeast! This was after the first rising...haha. It only looked puffy, but once I touched it, it deflated to its original size. No good!

Bread-making is definitely trial and error, and possibly a lot of frustration and anxiety (at least for me!), but like any labor of love, the end result will have you coming back again ;)

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