I love baking (obviously), but something I’ve never quite been able to get right is bread. Everything always goes according to plan — flour, yeast, warm water, and a whirl with the bread hook in the Kitchen Aid mixer. But then after it bakes and teases me from the oven with that delicious gluten-filled fresh bread scent, I always end up with a loaf so crusty on top that there isn’t much more to it than, well, crust. For some reason, it’s always missing that soft, airy center that (let’s face it) makes bread worthwhile.
Last weekend, I decided to try a recipe that I saw on The Cooking Channel for Pain d’Epi, a baguette-like loaf of bread that’s artfully twisted into the shape of a wheat stalk. I did two things differently than I usually do: I kneaded the dough by hand for 10 minutes instead of using the Kitchen Aid, and I spritzed the inside of my heated oven with water before popping the bread in. Both of these steps were suggestions from the recipe, and they were both spot-on. I have a feeling that my previous attempts at bread may have been thwarted by over-kneading by the machine and perhaps a lack of moisture while the bread cooked. I was even surprised to find that kneading the dough by hand was nicely therapeutic!
The end result was a pretty impressive looking loaf of bread with the soft center I’d hoped for. A bonus of making bread in this “wheat” shape (which is SO easy to do, by the way) is that it’s pre-portioned for people to tear off a piece and enjoy!