A little while ago, a friend of mine from college started baking a loaf of bread a week. He tweets about his tasty triumphs and makes me crave more bread than I should have, tagging it with #theyearofmagicalbaking–a deliciously clever pun on Joan Didion’s “The Year of Magical Thinking,” if you ask me. Unlike Didion’s memoir about coping with and adding loss to life’s repertoire, Jeff’s “Year of Magical Baking” is at the other end of the emotional spectrum.
A successful attempt at baking a loaf of bread is one of the most satisfying small endeavors. It isn’t quite as easy as it sounds, nor is it as difficult as you think it might be. Baking really is a science. One where precision is better measured by decimal points on a kitchen scale rather than by two shakes of a measuring cup. But not everyone is intense enough to measure flour’s weight in grams. I am definitely not one of those people–yet. I’m still in my early stages of breadification (yes that was a pun on edification, sue me). For example, I still haven’t quite figured out why yeast and whole wheat flour seem to hate working together under my supervision–no matter how much I read about it and experiment, I always end up with a dense mound of something I don’t want to eat. Any suggestions are welcome!
This time around, I wanted to try my hand at making one of my favorite loaves: a walnut cranberry round. They sell them at Whole Foods for more than I can afford, though of course, I often do reckless things when I crave good bread. I found this basic recipe from King Arthur Flour for a white whole wheat walnut bread and decided to give it a go. Since this was my first run, I used regular all-purpose flour to make sure I got a good rise out of the dough. I also added dried cranberries to mine–feel free to substitute for any other dry fruit, or none at all, if that’s what you fancy!
Oh yeah, did I mention my apartment smelled like a bakery and I did not want it to stop?