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In which I complete my first bake and don't accidentally garrote myself with stray bread bag twi

I woke up feeling the pressure today; this was all completely self-manufactured pressure that had nothing to do with anything remotely important, obviously. However, I had to do five miles on the treadmill (which, since I walk, takes a loooooooooooong time) and complete the first bake of the baking challenge. And complete my regular work. And pick up our son from school, which takes FOREVER because of the pick-up line (amiright?).

As I completed my daily tasks, I thought about this bake. Will I suck at making regular bread? (Probably.) Should I use my iPhone or the big camera for pictures? (iPhone.) Do I even like to eat plain white bread, anymore? (I don't, really, which is why I decided upon the wholemeal option mentioned at the end of the recipe.) I was so distracted while on the treadmill that, when I stepped off briefly to grab a towel with which to mop my disgusting sweat-face, I grabbed the towel I usually use for Pledging the wood furniture. That's right--I finished my workout with lemon Pledge face. It wouldn't have been my first choice, but my face did smell delightfully citrus-y.

Fast-forward to post-homework, post-supper, pre-shower time for the kid, and I started the process of making Paul's Basic White Tin Bread, although, as I just mentioned, I chose to make a wholemeal (wheat) loaf, instead, using his suggested substitutions.

I started using King Arthur flours several years ago after doing some research on bleached and bromated flour and got completely grossed out. King Arthur doesn't bleach or bromate their flours, and they have a completely kick-ass recipe blog called Flourish that I LOVE. Thus, I am a loyal (not paid for my loyalty) customer.

I decided to use the mixer initially, even though he recommends using one's hands at first so that a person can learn how proper dough is supposed to feel during the mixing and kneading processes. He does mention in the notes at the beginning of the book that mixers are fine, though, so I dumped the ingredients in all at once, as directed, keeping the yeast and salt far away from each other, as directed, and used the paddle attachment first until the rough dough was formed. Then, I switched to the dough hook for kneading. And then things got weird. The dough hook wouldn't properly engage with the dough, so it was kind of whapping it around the bowl without really digging into it. That dough hook had commmitment issues and was telling the dough, not very thoughtfully, "It's not you, babe. It's me."

So, after a few minutes of that bizarre behavior, I dumped the dough out onto the counter, which I'd lightly oiled with olive oil, as directed, and kneaded the dough myself. And THAT was weird. It was rubbery and tough and fought the kneading. That dough was angry. It was taking its resentment towards dough hook out on me, even though I just wanted to love it. However, I kept at it and finally ended up with this. Underwhelming, ain't it?

I then covered it with a "clean tea towel" and left it to rise for an hour and a half. It looked so sad, like a reluctant Kindergartener being dropped off at school for the first day.

But never fear, my fine friends! Rise it did!

And, before I tipped it out onto the countertop, I did my favorite thing--I artfully flung the flour on to the countertop. Yes, I did take a picture of it. No, I'm not going to apologize for taking a picture of it.

Behold the beauty and the majesty!

I knocked the air out of it and shaped it to fit into the bread pan but still felt a little defeated because the dough still felt really odd to me--but maybe that's the nature of a wholemeal dough? What is happening to my life that I actually care? My 40s are turning out to be a super weird decade so far.

So into the pan it went for the second rise, which is really supposed to be called the proof or the final proof or the shaped proof. Call it whatever you want, is my stance, as long as you don't call it ugly because that might make it angry again after we just got it calmed down.

Next, I stuck it in a "clean plastic bag" to prove for an hour, and I'm happy to report that, by god, it worked. And how.

I had preheated the oven to 425 degrees, which seemed a little too high to me, but who am I to question Paul Hollywood? I sprinkled the top of the loaf with flour, slashed the top of it with a serrated knife right down the middle, and stuck it in the oven. I did skip the recommended roasting pan filled with water in the bottom of the oven, as I wasn't prepared for it--hadn't moved the racks or found a roasting pan, etc. However, bread doesn't HAVE to be exposed to steam while it bakes. It just helps to keep the crust soft, supposedly. I skipped it and, thus, made the rash decision to live dangerously. Did my recklessness pay off? Judge for yourself, yo.

It has a wee bit of an odd shape, but I thought it looked great! However, I don't actually give a hoot what bread looks like; I care only about how it tastes and feels on the inside. I was a little apprehensive about cutting into it (and I didn't wait the full 1-2 hours to let it fully cool, either--I don't care that the starch wasn't done, yet). The texture, though, was quite lovely inside, and, to my uneducated eye, it looks like it has a good crumb. I do wonder, though, if it needed 10-15 more minutes of proofing, as the texture looks almost a little too fine compared to the picture of the wholemeal loaf in the book (see above).

It tasted good, too, although it's a little too salty for my taste, and I typically prefer more salt over less salt in bread. When it comes to wheat bread, it turns out that I actually prefer the four-grain batter bread I've been making for several years. It has more character, more joie de vie. It also has more all-purpose flour than wheat flour, so maybe I don't care for bread made almost entirely of whole wheat flour. Who knew? This bread is very wheat-y, good but wheat-y.

The salt issue could very well come down to my measurement conversion, as my scale doesn't arrive until tomorrow. I used to think I was quite good at math until I had to convert measurements. There's a fair amount of uncertainty involved when different flours convert differently (due to volume or weight or something I can't recall at the moment) and different sugars convert differently, and what is caster sugar, anyway? These are the questions that torment my soul now.

Because I am a baker.

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