I am not what anyone would call a gifted baker.
Competent, perhaps. Inconsistent? Absolutely. For whatever reason, I seem to lack the knack for it; all the practice in the world—and there has been much practice over all these years—does nothing to improve this condition.
And yet, I love to bake. Fortunately, I am blessed with children who can't get enough of bread, rolls, and muffins, and will eat just about any baked goods I put in front of them, so only the worst of my failures go uneaten.
So I keep trying.
Two weeks after Christmas—the second time I tried my new favorite sandwich bread recipe (the first try was so disastrous that even the children wouldn't eat it)—I baked the most perfect loaf of bread I've ever seen: perfectly risen, with a golden, crispy crust and soft crumb. I wish I'd thought to take a picture. The weeks that have followed have brought a series of not-so-picture-perfect loaves that have nonetheless been perfectly serviceable. (And then there is yesterday's loaf...I was distracted and forgot to set the timer. I have no idea how long it was in the oven before I remembered it was in there. It turned out fine, although a bit crispier and browner of crust than we usually prefer, and the children are happy to eat it.)
Every Monday we bake a fresh loaf that keeps us in sandwiches and toast through the end of the week; sometimes, if I'm feeling particularly ambitious, we bake twice in a week. (Sometimes I think it would be more efficient to bake two loaves on Monday and freeze one, but I don't care for bread that has been frozen.) My recipe comes from King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking, which my mother gave me for Christmas; it uses traditional whole wheat flour, with a little orange juice to temper the bitterness, and potato flakes, and we love it.
Do you bake? I'd love to hear about some new recipes I might try...