Baking my first loaf of bread with The River Cottage Bread Handbook

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You're in the right place. I have not turned into a food blogger. Baking bread is very much a handmade activity so I'm sharing my experience baking my first loaf of bread. I only wish I had gotten a photo of my sticky fingers. 

The River Cottage Bread Handbook by Daniel Stevens was published in 2010 and I've owned it for almost a year. It's true I'm just now getting to baking bread from it's pages but the first weekend I owned the book I was fully engrossed and read it cover to cover as much as one can read a recipe book cover to cover. The book is a nice size and kind of feels like you're reading a loaf of bread. There is actually 70 pages of content before you even get to a recipe. 

Grinding hard red wheat berries in my Vitamix to make fresh flour.

Grinding hard red wheat berries in my Vitamix to make fresh flour.

The book is dense with information revealing the wonders of gluten, details of various ingredients, the differences between mass-produced bread vs. handmade bread (spoiler alert, the later is easier to digest), photos of step-by-step bread making, and tools including a section for making your own brick oven. You can get real deep with your bread making. So, you can see, conceptually I've known how to bake bread for a while. I didn't want to ruin the mystic that I could bake a nice loaf by actually, you know, baking a loaf of bread.

Keeping the book close at hand/Kneaded ball of dough.

Keeping the book close at hand/Kneaded ball of dough.

A week ago a friend gave me a sour dough starter that he harvested from the neighborhood air of Bernal Heights, San Francisco. Since I now have a pet yeast called Thing Dos, taken from it's originator named Mother Sues it was time for me to learn to bake bread. 

I decided to hold off on baking sourdough until my Thing Dos starter is a bit more mature. Perhaps when it's old enough to read R.L. Stine I'll bake sourdough. 

Bread dough after it's first rise. It didn't quite double in size OR I was too impatient to get to the baking of my first loaf of bread.

Bread dough after it's first rise. It didn't quite double in size OR I was too impatient to get to the baking of my first loaf of bread.

The basic bread recipe in the handbook includes the option to add some starter so I did include it along with dry active yeast. An important note about this book is that while The River Cottage is of British origin there is a U.S. printing of the book which has standard U.S. measurements and temperatures in Fahrenheit.

Bread after proofing and right before going into the oven.

Bread after proofing and right before going into the oven.

I'll be experimenting more with bread making. I'll be trying out the variations that can be made using the basic bread recipe, different flours, add-ins like nuts. Most importantly I'll be more patient. This first loaf I only allowed to rise once (twice including the proofing stage). I'd like to see the results of multiple rises. Rainy spring days will be perfect for this activity if California doesn't skip over them to full blown summer drought.

Looks like bread. Tastes like bread. Not the best bread I've tasted but not the worst. Definitely the bet bread I've ever made.

Looks like bread. Tastes like bread. Not the best bread I've tasted but not the worst. Definitely the bet bread I've ever made.

The book definitely instills the confidence that anyone can make bread. I may go slowly into this bread adventure but I know the handbook will be a guiding resource to successful bread making.