|Start out with the basic white loaves and work your way up to ciabatta.|
I think this is why I've started baking bread this month. Lots of bread. And The Toad is no baker. I'm a sloppy cook, the kind who throws in extra ingredients and eyeballs measurements. That might be fine for a stew or a soup, where improvisation doesn't ruin anything major, but baking is chemistry, with exact ingredients and procedures. So what could go wrong?
If you're using Rose Levy Birenbaum's book The Bread Bible, absolutely nothing. This baking legend has written the easiest to follow bread baking book I've ever seen. Sure, the recipes look intimidating at first. They're long, with separate ingredients lists for sponge and dough, and very specific steps. But there's a wonderful rhythm to them, and if you make more than one recipe, you discover the innate simplicity of the process. Plus, there's actually not that much work involved; mostly, bread baking involves unsupervised rising time, which is very easy to do on a rainy Sunday.
And then there's the bread. Wow. Mr. Crab was rhapsodic about the white loaves I made. The cheese version was even better. I'm planning to branch out to hearth breads soon (a little whole wheat is good for the body), and might even attempt sourdough. Plus, there's something magical about producing this dough that's alive and growing. I'm always tempted to name the thing as it's rising, since it usually has more personality than a lot of people I've met over the years.
Give The Bread Bible to a good friend (preferably one who has a Kitchen Aid mixer to help with the heavy kneading). It's the ideal gift to get her through the slowest month. At Amazon.