This is my first post for Tuesdays with Dorie. I have been following TWD for a while now - since my husband showed me a magazine article about it - and am so excited to be part of the group. I paged through Baking with Julia when I bought the book a couple of months ago, and to be honest I'm excited but more than a little nervous. I'm a pretty decent baker, but I'm always much more focused on taste than appearance, and I'm more than a little bit worried about the decorating skills that might be required to make some of these recipes, especially the fancy cakes!
So, I was very glad that the first recipe was a relatively simple white bread. I've been baking bread for 5+ years now, with mixed results. My go-to cookbook for bread recipes is Secrets of a Jewish Baker. The instructions are clear, he always gives you the option of making the bread by hand, in a food processor, or with a stand mixer, and the recipes always work. Also, although the title sounds specific there are all kinds of recipes in there. I make the challah often, but I also love the cinnamon raisin bread, the cheese bread, the potatonik...More recently, I've also been making a lot of no-knead bread from Jim Lahey's book. I love that I can put it together on a Friday or Saturday night, and then - with almost no work - have a loaf of crusty bread for dinner the next night.
When I first started making bread I made some really awful loaves. I had a lot of problems activating the yeast and often my bread wouldn't rise at all. Now I'm much more careful with the water temperature, and always make sure that the yeast gets foamy before I start adding the flour. My breads are still very far from perfectly consistent - especially in the winter - but they are much improved. When I started this bread I fully intended to take photos of the entire process, but then soon forgot! My only photos are from before the first rise. Here's the foamy yeast in the stand mixer before I added the flour:
And here's the formed ball of dough ready for it's first rise:
After the bread cooled we were hungry for dinner so I started to cut some slices, and finally remembered that I was supposed to be taking pictures! So here's one of the finished bread.
I felt like this was a solid, basic bread recipe. The one thing I wasn't happy about - and I know this is my fault - is that when I sliced the bread there were visible swirls, and it didn't hold together perfectly. I need to work on my technique of shaping the bread for the second rise. Other than that, this bread got a nice rise and made good peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and toast. I rarely make plain bread like this, and it was nice to have around. I doubt I'll make this recipe again, though. For a very plain bread, I think I prefer the Jewish Baker's buttermilk white bread. It's still versatile, and I like the extra flavor that the buttermilk adds.
Laurie and Jules are hosting this week, so go here and here to see their posts (and the recipe) and here to see what everybody else thought of the bread!