Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Basic White Bread

Bread Alone (by Judith Ryan Hendricks) was a book that I had never heard of before. When the book club chose this book for November, I skimmed through the reviews on the net and decided, before I'd even read the first line in the book, that I wasn't going to like it.

31 year old Wyn, married to a upwardly mobile executive David, leads a life of leisure and luxury. Till the day when David announces that the seven year old marriage seems to cage him and wants out of it.

Stunned and devastated, Wyn moves to Seattle, where her best friend lives. As she fritters away most of her time at a nearby bakery - cafe, the aroma of freshly baked bread re-kindles her own love of bread baking. Many years ago, as a teenager, Wyn had spent a summer in Toulouse baking bread. The desire to pursue her passion is irresistible and for a paltry amount of $8 an hour, she starts working at the bakery and begins life anew in Seattle.

Somewhere down the road, she re-discovers herself and what she would like to do with her life and in the process, comes to terms with the people and other issues in her life.

Surprisingly, though, I rather enjoyed reading Bread Alone.

Yes, it is an out and out chic-lit. Yes, the plot is familiar and the ending is rather expected. And yes, sometimes, the story seems to simply drag its feet.

Yet, something worked for me and that something is the way Judith Hendricks has built the characters in the novel. More than anything else, I really liked her for coming up with a protagonist like Wyn. She wallows in self pity when her husband dumps her, clutches at the straws in the naive hope that he will come grovelling back to her, throws away her self respect when she tries to desperately seduce him, behaves petulantly when her mother decides to re-marry. In other words, here is a protagonist who is seriously flawed but has the courage to accept it and therefore, comes across as very real, as very human.

The other thing that I loved was the way bread was woven through the fabric of the story - the aroma of freshly baked bread literally wafted through the pages of the novel. No surprise then that I just had to bake a loaf!

I've just started baking bread; however, Wyn's method of halving the yeast and thereby doubling the rising time intrigued me. I followed the 'plain old bread' recipe from the novel, but halved it.


bread flour - 3.5 cups
warm water - 1 cup ( I used 1 cup and about 2 tbsps)
active dry yeast - 1.5 tsp
sugar - 2 tsps
salt - 1.5 tsp


Stir the yeast and the sugar in 3 bsps of water and let it sit for about 15-20 mins.
Put the flour in a large mixing bowl, make a well in the centre and pour in the water and the yeast mixture and begin kneading.
When it clumps together, turn it onto the kitchen counter and knead for a further 10 - 12 mins, adding some flour if needed.

Finally, add in the salt ("because salt strengthens the gluten and makes the dough fight you") and knead for a few minutes more.

Oil a large (glass) bowl, turn the dough over in the oil so that the entire surface is oiled, cover it with a damp tea cloth and leave it to rise.

I left my dough out for 2 hours and then put it in the fridge overnight. Next morning, I let it rise for about 4 hrs after which I turned it on the kitchen counter and punched out all the air and kneaded it for a few minutes. Shaped it into a loaf, put it into the tin and left it to rise.

After about 3 hrs ( I lost track of time here), lightly glaze the top with some water and bake it at 200 deg C for about 30 mins or till the top is browned and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped from below.

The bread was awesome - it smelt heavenly, there was no trace of any yeast scent. If you've never baked before, go ahead now and bake a loaf, this is truly worth the effort!


  1. Good synopsis and a great bread!

  2. Right away want to eat it with jam.....

  3. Nice post..Bread looks sooo yummy and fresh

  4. I agree - bread baking is always worth the effort. Great loaf!

  5. Perfect...Bread looks soooo soft and spongy.

  6. Great loaf indeed. Makes me want to do away with my white flour fixation.

  7. Great review..makes me mish i had made bread instead of the cake...

  8. Bread looks prefect, soft and to have with nutella spread..

  9. this is a perfect recipe for beginners like me to try..will try this weekend itself..

  10. Wow.. Those bread loaves are just inviting me!! Looks too good!
    Thanks for dropping by, you sure have a wonderful space here! Will be back often :)

  11. If we know the ending of the story before there will be no supense or thrill! Nice review and the bread is well baked!

  12. Yes, it is a nice book. It seem mediocre at first but catches a bit later on. Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl was a similar read for me, started off a bit slow but really picked up later on. If you like books with a foodie backdrop you will love this one.

    bread looks nice btw!

  13. Thanks a lot for visiting my blog and for your lovely comment.
    I liked your blog very much. As I have become your follower so I will be visiting your blog hereafter.
    I appreciate for your wonderful presentation. Bread looks yummy and healthy.

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  15. Nicely reviewed.And a good looking bread :D

  16. I'd love to read that book! Available in local libraries?

    And I've never tried plain simple white bread. I crave for some with fresh butter? :)

  17. Loved the aromas of fresh bread and if you say they literally wafted through the pages, I believe you.
    This time I did not have the time to read the book, but all the reviews are making me wanna not only read the book but bake a bread as well. If I get to read it in the next few days and post a review, you will not be the last one in the group. :)

  18. i could smell from here your freshly baked bread!! awesome!!

  19. :0
    I Cant just Close my mouth.. TWO Big Ships are sailing in it...
    Mumm Am hungryyy...

  20. Perfect Bread and Good review.I too loved the book and am intrigued by the half the yeast trick.I will be trying the same shortly esp now that I have seen your plain old bread.Love the bread
    Sorry for being late in coming here.I was a bit busy

  21. Bread loks very professional. Perfectly baked.

  22. First time visiting your blog lovely recipes you have.


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