A few months ago, I bought a loaf of Winter Wheat bread for $4.99.
I have this silly mindset where things just shouldn't cost that much more than they did when I was a kid. I don't know if it comes from a denial of my true age, ("These things were $0.78 five years ago when I was in 5th grade!") or from my inborne cheapskate tendencies ("I can get these 73% cheaper at Goodwill!"). But, one way or the other, I was offended at having to lay down five smackaroos for some flour and water.
So, I decided that we were going to eat homemade bread from now on. How hard could it be?
It started out easily enough -
Proof your yeast. Check. Add honey. Check. Add unbleached bread flour. Check. Add whole wheat flour. Check. Add seeds, cornmeal, oat bran. Check check check. Flour board. (I want this to be healthy bread, so I flour board with whole wheat. . .) Knead 10-15 minutes.
Wait, wasn't I supposed to add salt? Aye aye aye! Now how do I get the salt in there? It's all kneaded together.
Is it supposed to feel like a rump roast as you knead? Oh well, they say keep flouring the board until it won't accept any more flour. It's starting to seem like it won't accept any more kneading! But keep going for at least 10 minutes. You can breathe and stretch your tired arm muscles while it's rising.
Oil a large glass bowl. Place large hard ball into oiled bowl and roll around to coat. Cover. (What better to cover something with than plastic wrap?) Let rise until dough doubles in size, approximately 60-90 minutes.
Hmm. It's not getting bigger... I dunno... Maybe it is... No, not much.
Massage sore muscles.
Check dough again. Well, it's been 90 minutes, so it's time to start kneading again. Now it's supposed to start "talking to you". Mine's been talking to me, and has quite an attitude if I do say so myself.
Punch down. (I'm not sure why this step is needed, as it wasn't being that rude...) Pour onto floured surface and knead for an additional 5-10 minutes. How on earth do people do this; it's so tough I can hardly fold it over on itself! Eh, best to just follow directions...
Divide in half. Place in bread pans. Cover. Let rise another 30-50 minutes until doubled.
Oh my goodness - it's rising! I can see it through the saran wrap! Woohoo! I must be doing something right!
Preheat oven. Uncover dough.
Wait, what's happening? It just . . . deflated! Flat! Like less than flat, concave!
Maybe that's supposed to happen. I'm sure it'll rise again in the heat of the oven. Won't it?
No. No, it won't.
Bake 18-25 minutes until golded brown and hollow-sounding when tapped.
Yeah, hollow, right.
In 20 minutes, look in oven. Discover than you've just made . . . bricks. Brown, yes. Hollow, no.
Think maybe it'll still be delicious.
Try to serve it to husband.
Grab wallet, car keys, and try not to choke as you hand the cashier $5.29 for a loaf of Winter Wheat.