Most people are intimidated by the idea of cooking, let alone baking something as complicated as bread. Today, food has taken centre stage in entertainment and leisure activities, while cooking has evolved into something we watch but do not participate in. We have left baking in the hands of industrial food manufacturers, who intimidate us by describing the necessity to include unnecessary processes and ingredients, into something that until not too long ago was created in every home kitchen.
The truth is you do not have to be much of a cook to master the skill of baking. In fact, unlike cooking, baking is highly scientific in nature with precision, time and temperature making up its core. It helps to view baking as the anti climax to cooking, the one area in the kitchen that can be nurtured through time and patience, not skill and know-how. Baking is therapeutic in nature and can be beautifully woven into even the most hectic of schedules.
Depending upon what you want to prepare, the process of baking bread can take anywhere between thirty minutes to three days. Now I know three days sounds scary, but it makes for a highly superior loaf. Each resting period plays a significant role in developing the texture, flavour and final shelf-life of the loaf. Therefore, it helps to preplan and prepare in a manner that does not disturb or cut down the time taken. Unlike cooking, baking cannot be sped up by increasing the temperature, humidity or pressure.
Precision determines the quality of the end product. Especially when making small batches of dough, E.g.enough for one loaf / pizza, any discrepancy in the quantity of ingredients can change the entire flavour and texture of the dough. It helps to weigh everything out using a weighing scale, not cup or spoon measures as you are more likely to make mistakes with the latter. Invest in a good digital scale and always pre weigh all your ingredients before you begin.
Temperature and humidity play a huge role in how your final product turns out. In industrial kitchens we usually have temperature controlled rooms or provers to ensure the temperature stays constant but it’s quite simple to re create the same atmosphere at home with a little bit of planning. You can create one by taking a large cardboard box, perhaps the box your oven came in, or make room in a kitchen cabinet to place your bowl. The idea of the prover is to create an environment where the temperature and humidity is more or less constant.