This post is dedicated to my bestie, Tika. She asked that I chronicle my bread-making efforts last week, so that’s what this is all about!
Perhaps you read about my new high-elevation cookbook I purchased earlier this month. If not, here it is:
The Lemon Bundt Cake recipe was easy enough to follow with successful results, but the Rye Bread recipe was a whole nother beast.
I’ve never baked with yeast before, nor would I have known which type to buy had the book not specified. I purchased several packets of dry, active yeast and Organic Dark Rye Flour from Bob’s Red Mill. I arrived home, unloaded my groceries and got to work at 7:30 pm. This was my first mistake–beginning the meticulous baking process so late in the evening.
I learned all sorts of baking terminology throughout the process, such as “punching down” the dough, making it “stiff” and prepping for the “first and second rising”. It’s a lot of work, and I wasn’t prepared to dedicate so much time to the cause on a Friday night honestly. But once you get started, there’s no turning back.
The first challenging step was to knead the dough 250 times. I don’t even have a problem with how much kneading is required when you don’t own a KitchenAid; it’s how sticky the dough is that complicates the process. The first 20-30 kneading attempts felt so disgusting as the dough stuck to my hands; it was difficult to knead when I couldn’t separate the dough from my fingers initially. Not to mention, if you add too much flour to the dough, it can throw off the consistency. So you’re constantly trying to balance between making the dough a bit stiffer without adding too much flour.
Once I moved past this step, which took forever, I let the dough rise covered outside for an hour. The dough was supposed to rise in a warm environment between 80 and 85 degrees. Luckily it was 81 outside, so we were good on that.
Next, you bring the dough back in, punch it down and knead 100 more times. By this point, the dough isn’t sticky, and I’m kneading like a goddamn champ.
I then shaped the dough, leaving behind finger imprints and smudges that even my dog would’ve shied away from. Albeit ugly and misshapen, I remained optimistic that the taste and texture would shine through nonetheless.
After shaping the dough, I waited another 25 minutes for the second rising and finally put that bitch in the over for 15 minutes at 425 and another 30 at 350. I pulled the bread from the oven, and at first it felt hard as a rock.
I was heartbroken and irritated. In total, this process took about 4 hours to complete and for what? A pathetic looking loaf of rye bread? I tried a few slices and went to bed disappointed.
I woke up the next morning and tried the bread again. To my surprise, it taste much better once settled for some reason. I still wouldn’t share with friends or co-workers, however. I was proud of the Lemon Bundt Cake, but this rye bread was iffy at best.
The moral of the story? We have KitchenAids for a reason! Despite the woman’s sentiments on America’s Test Kitchen’s Youtube channel (“learn how to knead bread the way people have been doing so for centuries”) I don’t think I’ll ever do this again without a KitchenAid, which is sad, because I definitely can’t afford one. It was a disappointing process overall, but I may give it one more try to see if yeast rolls are any easier than rye bread.
Do you have any tips or tricks for making bread from scratch at a high elevation! I sure would love to hear your advice!