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RPL’s Big Bread-making Blog Post

Posted about 3 months ago by Jennifer Deuell
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Oddly enough, one of the unintended consequences of staying safe at home seems to be that people have discovered (or re-discovered) their love of bread-making.  Who knows why so many people have been drawn to the age-old process of baking bread?  Maybe it’s the fact that people have more time to dedicate to its preparation.  Or, perhaps the kneading of the dough brings a sense of calm.  On the other hand, maybe people just want to get back to a simpler time, and see bread-making as a means to do so.  Regardless of the reason, people across the country are finding joy in baking bread, and RPL staff are no exception.  I set out to learn a little bit more about the bread makers of RPL.  Here’s what I found out…

Patrick DeRoche:

1-Prior to the coronavirus, what was your experience level with baking?

I would have to say beginner. I’ve occasionally made bread before now, maybe once a year just for fun, but it didn’t typically turn out so great.

2-Since sheltering in place, how often have you been baking?

About once a week now, or whenever we finish off a loaf.

3-What do you feel is the most important tool for bread makers?

Definitely the stand mixer with the dough hook attachment. It makes it so much easier.

4-Yeast or yeast free?

Everything I’ve made so far has had yeast.

5-Bread machine or oven?

Oven!

6-What is your favorite type of bread to bake?

Rye is my favorite, though it always turns out a little more dense than I would like, but that’s probably because I have a five year old helping who insists on overworking the dough because she loves how it feels to squish it.

7-What has been your biggest baking disaster and/or success?

I haven’t had any particularly bad experiences with bread, though I tried to make sweet potato gnocchi from scratch once and I will never get over the shame of how bad they were. Lol

8-Do you have any words of wisdom for novice bakers who want to get started making bread?

It’s all about patience. Waiting for a starter to ferment, waiting for multiple rises, waiting to eat it….

Natalie Draper:

1-Prior to the coronavirus, what was your experience level with baking?

Rarely but sometimes cookies and banana bread, often pizza crust, and one “no knead” bread recipe my mom gave me that works every time, but I haven’t made in forever.

2-Since sheltering in place, how often have you been baking?

About the same amount–not much. But I have tried a couple of new recipes.

3-What do you feel is the most important tool for bread makers?

Patience.

4-Yeast or yeast free?

yeast!

5-Bread machine or oven?

Oven.

6-What is your favorite type of bread to bake?

crusty and simple

7-What has been your biggest baking disaster and/or success?

A pizza I carbonized once. I actually framed it and hung it on the wall. It looks like the food they found at Pompeii.

8-Do you have any words of wisdom for novice bakers who want to get started making bread?

The temperature of your kitchen is actually a key ingredient to the success of your bread.

Heather Hobgood:

1-Prior to the coronavirus, what was your experience level with baking?

Beginner! I had made bagels, muffins, the occasional loaf of white bread, and bread from our bread machine, and that’s about it!

2-Since sheltering in place, how often have you been baking?

Maybe once a week or so…just depends on my mood that day and what we have handy in the house.

3-What do you feel is the most important tool for bread makers?

I’m not sure that this is technically a tool, but being accurate with your measurements is important. I tend to be a little lazy when I measure (“oh that looks like about a cup”), but I can often see a difference in the end result depending on whether I’ve been a stickler for measurements that day or not!

4-Yeast or yeast free?

Yeast!

5-Bread machine or oven?

Oven! I’m still working on bread machine technique…my machine loaves always come out like bricks that are very challenging to slice. We had a bread machine when I was growing up though and we had very good bread, so I know it’s possible!

6-What is your favorite type of bread to bake?

Although they are the most time consuming, I enjoy making bagels the most!

7-What has been your biggest baking disaster and/or success?

Years ago, I tried to make Irish Soda Bread. The dough would not rise (I think I just didn’t have a warm/humid enough spot to leave it at the time) and I ended up with this very dense brick that was not even tasty. That may have been one of the first things I tried to bake.

8-Do you have any words of wisdom for novice bakers who want to get started making bread?

Hmmm…start with a simple recipe and build from there!

Jonah Butler:

1-Prior to the coronavirus, what was your experience level with baking?

Before Corona virus, I would say I was a casual baker.  When I wanted something sweet I would bake cookies or brownies and share them with coworkers.

2-Since sheltering in place, how often have you been baking?

At least once, sometimes twice a week.

3-What do you feel is the most important tool for bread makers?

A really big bowl to mix everything in.  I don’t have one so I have to use a stock pot!

4-Yeast or yeast free?

Yeast

5-Bread machine or oven?

Oven

6-What is your favorite type of bread to bake?

Focaccia bread with lots of olive oil and flaky sea salt. You literally can’t stop eating it.

7-What has been your biggest baking disaster and/or success?

One time I was baking a loaf cake and had adjusted the oven rack.  I didn’t put the rack in straight and it was higher on one side than the other. The cake came out really slanted, but it was still delicious.

8-Do you have any words of wisdom for novice bakers who want to get started making bread?

Read the recipe all the way through before starting.  It’s important to see what ingredients are added when and if there’s any time needed to rise or chill the dough.  There’s nothing worse than craving bread then having to wait a full day before it can be baked!

Robyn Webb:

1-Prior to the coronavirus, what was your experience level with baking?

Minimal. I enjoy baking but usually, before coronavirus, when I was in the kitchen it was about getting sustenance as fast as possible. I had one fairly successful attempt at baguettes years ago, but usually my baking consisted of cookies or a cake every so often.

2-Since sheltering in place, how often have you been baking?

Like so many, when yeast abandoned the grocery shelves, I turned to sourdough starter. (First there was a sad attempt at growing wild yeast from dried fruit, but my dreams were crushed when we had a sudden drop in temperature overnight.) Feeding the starter daily gives me lots and lots of leavening agent, so I usually bake something at least once weekly plus use the discard for pancakes, waffles, dutch babies, cookies etc. (I put it in everything honestly.)

3-What do you feel is the most important tool for bread makers?

A working oven! Other than that I don’t use anything fancy. (Don’t have a rolling pin? Use a wine bottle! Don’t have a good counter top for kneading/shaping? Use a wooden cutting board!)

4-Yeast or yeast free?

All about that sourdough now. (Yes, my whole life is currently planned around the hungry dough child trapped in a jar. It is a choice I have made.) There really isn’t a substitute for a good leavening agent if you want bread that isn’t a rock.

5-Bread machine or oven?

Oven all the way. I definitely love how easy a bread machine makes baking, but I don’t like having appliances with only one use and I think the texture for bread machine loaves are kinda uniform and dense. (Granted, I haven’t used one since I was a child.) Also, for me, my love of baking is the process. I like getting my hands in there and kneading the dough, being part of it. And since baking for me is a distraction from stress and what is going on in the world, I don’t want to throw ingredients into an appliance and then have no excuse to ignore my thoughts!

6-What is your favorite type of bread to bake?

Focaccia. Hands down. So good. (I’ve been using the King Arthur’s Flour recipe for sourdough focaccia if anyone is interested.)

7-What has been your biggest baking disaster and/or success?

The biggest disaster was the horrible little loaf of no-yeast bread I made when I couldn’t find yeast and before my sourdough journey. (I don’t think it can even be called a loaf. It was shaped like a loaf but by all other accounts it was not food.) Greatest success has been the focaccia I’ve made. It’s the most bread-like bread I’ve made. Has multiple steps including overnight rising so it makes me feel very accomplished. I love it

8-Do you have any words of wisdom for novice bakers who want to get started making bread?

Just go for it. People talk about baking being a science and that you have to do things perfectly but I mess up and tweak things and guesstimate all the time and it is still a wonderful experience with usually tasty treats on the other side.

P.S. Robyn writes, “All I’ve been thinking about other than work is bread basically ?.”  She also helped me put together this wonderful list of bread baking book recommendations.  Enjoy!

Nonfiction:

Bread Bread Bread: Recipes, Techniques and Shortcuts by Martin Johansson

Tartine Bread by Chad Robertson

Knead to Know: The Real Bread Starter by The Real Bread Campaign

Baking Sourdough Bread: Dozens of Recipes for Artisan Loaves, Crackers, and Sweet Breads by Göran Söderin and George Strachal

Flour Water Salt Yeast: The Fundamentals of Artisan Bread and Pizza by Ken Forkish

Fiction:

Sourdough: A Novel by Robin Sloan

Bread of the Dead by Ann Myers

Bread Alone by Judith R. Hendricks

Gingerbread by Helen Oyeyemi

 

 

 

 

Jennifer Deuell

Jenn Deuell is the Young Adult Coordinator with Richmond Public Library. She is a native of Fredericksburg, VA but has lived in Richmond for long enough that she now considers it home. She loves all things YA and can usually be found curled up at home with a good book (rainy day or not). Her other hobbies include traveling and spending time with family, including her three rescued pit bulls. For YA reading recommendations from Jenn, visit Bookologist.

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