Our goal of not buying bread on a regular basis and of making it ourselves is still going strong. I can only think of one instance since Autumn that I've broken down and purchased some and if I remember correctly, it was because we were all sick.
So when my sister asked for the recipe and I had a look at what I had written all those months ago, I realised that the recipe needed some revamping.
If I've said it once, I've say it a thousand times: making bread is more of an art than it is a science. Once you become practised, the exact measurements become less important than the texture of the dough when you've added just the right amount of flour; the way the starter and dough look when they've just risen enough (though it does help to know what it looks like when it has risen too long - then you'll know what to avoid!); or the colour of the bread once it has baked for the perfect amount of time.
I have tried to add some notes where I can; things that were left out in the original recipe but that I've discovered are paramount to creating a delicious and airy loaf of bread. That being said; home-made breads are (in my experience, at least!) more dense than their commercial counterparts. It takes a little getting used to, but now I dislike how "squishy" store-bought bread is.
When we last bought bread (and I bought a fresh loaf from the Foodland bakery, hoping for an improvement over the packaged commercial kind) we had such a hard time cutting it and we ended up with flattened slices of toast!
Because home-made bread is a little heavier, smaller loaves are perfect. The smaller slices are just as filling as a slice from the store!
One thing I do want to mention is what happens when you either let your starter or your dough rise to long:
An over-risen starter is easier to fix; simply add a few tablespoons more of flour (and water, if necessary), mix, and let stand a little longer until it has risen up again.
If your dough has over-risen and fallen, there is not much you can do. Continue to form the loaves or, if the loaves are what have fallen, just bake as usual. Just be prepared for bread that is crunchy and not as soft. Do not despair though: this bread if cubed and mixed with a little salt, olive oil, and seasoning makes great croutons. Bake the cubes at 300 F until golden brown and enjoy on Caesar salad!
Here is the link to the bread tutorial, and I encourage you all to give it a try! It is well worth the effort, and after a few successes, you'll be hard pressed to find a loaf that tastes as great, uses as simple ingredients, or keeps as well as this one!