Baking bread was always something I intended to do on the boat. Lee likes rolls. I like sliced wheat. Between us we go through a lot of bread! It’s something I always need when we’re making grocery runs on our bikes to restock on perishables. A grocery store almost always comes along right when I need it, though, so I haven’t been forced to make my own bread. Yesterday I finally ran out of bread with a day or more left till we might be able to go shopping. Apprehensive but determined, I broke out a loaf pan and got to work!
First question: which recipe? I settled on one from The Country Kitchen with the appeal of simplicity and relative speed. It only calls for one rise, which the author admits won’t make the fluffiest loaf. There is a fair amount of kneading involved, which doesn’t bother me since I have nice, strong, sailor arms.
Second question: cold oven? Hot oven? I considered starting my bread in a cold oven, since a serious round-the-world sailing cook vouches for that technique in her books. However, I checked a few other cookbooks and decided it was wort the extra propane to preheat the oven. I also used my trusty oven thermometer, just in case!
My bread rose on the galley floor next to the engine compartment for a while, then in the back of a cupboard on the sunny side of the boat, where things often get really warm. We were just motoring down Long Island sound on a windless day so the conditions were perfect for baking. I discovered that standing part way down the ladder that goes below, with a cutting board on deck in front of me was a perfect place for kneading!
I followed the instructions precisely, using my new food scale, making sure the water was the proper temperature, and halving the recipe with precise calculations. I mixed, kneaded, shaped, waited patiently for the dough to rise, preheated the oven, and monitored the baking bread closely. In the end, my first ever loaf of basic bread wasn’t half bad! It didn’t rise as much as I would have liked but it’s hearty and it tastes wonderful. Sampling pieces of warm homemade bread cheered up the long day on the water.
From The Country Kitchen by Jocasta Ines
Makes two loaves (I made half the recipe for 1 loaf)
1 kg (2 lb) wholemeal flour
450 g (1 lb) strong white bread flour*
1 level tablespoon salt
25 g (1 oz) dried yeast
900 ml (1 1/2 pints) warm water
1 tablespoon sugar or honey
*I didn’t have bread flour so I used all-purpose flour plus 4 teaspoons vital wheat gluten (for 1 loaf).
Mix the flours and salt together in a large bowl and put to warm slightly (I left mine at room temp.)
Dissolve the honey or sugar in half the warm water and add the yeast.
Allow 10 minutes or so for the yeast to become frothy.
Add the yeast to the flour, mixing while adding the rest of the water a little at a time until the dough forms a lump and doesn’t stick to the sides of the bowl.
Knead on a floured board or table for at least 15 minutes.
Shape dough into two loaves and place in greased loaf pans or on a baking sheet.
Cover loaves with a towel or (or place in a bag, as the recipe suggests) and leave to rise for 45 minutes in a warm place or 2-3 hours at room temperature.
Preheat the oven to 425 F.
When the loaves have doubled in size put them in the oven for 10 minutes, then turn the oven temperature down to 375 F and cook for another 30 to 50 minutes.
Remove the loaves from their pans and allow them to cool before storing (this doesn’t mean you can’t slice yourself a piece while the bread it warm!).