We all have our ways of stress busting, after a long tiresome week at the office. Some of us travel, or watch movies..or the weird few do extra rounds of exercise (never understood these fellows, no). My stress busters are the 2 Bs – books and baking. (I just made that up about the 2 Bs. What coincidence!)
Ever since the Kindle came into my life, there’s been a definite increase in the number of books I read every week/month. Likewise, ever since I figured out the convection mode in my microwave oven, baking sessions have increased manifold! Yes, I’m one of those schmucks who didn’t know about the convection mode in the oven for the first 6 years of owning the oven. But now that I HAVE figured it out – oh, what joy! For the husband too, mind you.
Now, I’ve baked enough cakes to feel moderately confident of the whole thing – I even baked some for the folks at work and it turned out ok. But bread? No sire, not yet. When my husband oohed and aahed on the cakes and called me a ‘baker’ I told him I won’t consider myself good at baking unless I can bake bread. That’s how big a deal it was to me.
The first bread I baked was a fiasco, so I no longer consider it my first bread. It was an attempt at baking a rosemary-garlic focaccia bread and it was disastrous (the bread was so hard I could’ve used it for a ping-pong bat). I like to think it was because of the bad quality of the yeast (and not because I didn’t follow the recipe to a T) and that’s how I learnt by first lesson in baking – make sure you have good ingredients. It makes all the difference in the world.
I got my current batch of yeast from my MIL who in turn had got it from the US, courtesy my bro-in-law.
This year's loot from the in-laws' place, courtesy mom-in-law
My second bread.. I mean, my first proper bread was a Rosemary Olive Oil bread, based on this recipe. It was a thing of beauty, if I may say so myself! It came out exactly how it was supposed to – the smell, the texture and the taste! That’s when I realized how utterly satisfying baking can be (the downside being how awfully disappointed one can get if the attempt bombs).
Rosemary Olive oil bread, in the oven!
Not bad, eh? So after that confidence booster of a loaf, I was bold enough to try something a wee bit more complicated (or so I’d like to imagine). A challah, or a Jewish egg bread. I’ve never had it before and the first time I even heard of it was 3-4 days back. Apparently, it’s a lot like a brioche (again, never tasted it but heard a lot about it on cookery shows on TV), but uses oil instead of the butter. This is probably a good time to mention that I only bake using recipes that do not involve butter. I have such an aversion to using butter in my cakes/bread! It probably stems from the fact that I’m not supposed to have any butter given my physical dynamics and dimensions. So rest assured, any cake or bread I bake will be butter free. Just like any pasta I make will be cheese-free (yeah, go figure).
So..on to the challah. I followed the very precise recipe given on Smitten Kitchen for an Apple and Honey challah. I didn’t have any apples or raisins, so I went with re-hydrated blueberries instead.
How did it turn out? How do you think – see for yourself!
Blueberry challah, fresh off the oven!
It tasted out of this world! The texture was soft and airy, the bread not too sweet and not too bland.. in short, perfection. My husband thinks I have a back-up profession in case I get sick and tired of software engineering. I tried telling him it’s just 2 breads, 1 batch of muffins and 9-10 cakes (2 of which were eaten off the oven floor) that I’ve baked till date, but you know what they say about love being blind, deaf and plain dumb.
The bread practically makes itself if you follow the recipe diligently. Given my bad experiences with the finicky yeast, I tend to be extra cautious in the measurements and try and stick to the recipe as much as I can. And it helps! So at least till I’m confident enough to try out more variations, the recipes will be my gospel.
Had the bread for last night’s dinner, with a Vodka cream pasta (recipe by Rachel Ray). Yummeh!
Now that I’ve slowly started logging back into WordPress to look after my poor little bloggies, expect more of my baking adventures on this space. The good ones and the bad ones.