Monday, December 30, 2013

Bread in a box

The facts
  •  A few weeks ago, I noticed a stack of bread kits for sale in a Midwest grocery store. I had never heard either of the item or of the company before but I was immediately curious
  • I snapped a picture with my phone and started asking questions
  • Floyd Mann, the selfless soul and passionate amateur baker behind The Fresh Loaf, directed me to his review of the product
  • I purchased the Cook's Edition kit for one of my sons who had never baked bread before but had expressed an interest
  • A firm believer in beginner's luck, he decided to try and make the bread for Christmas Eve dinner
  • So he mixed the dough on the 23rd in the afternoon and let it proof at room temperature for eighteen hours. He baked it around noon on the 24th
  • He used his convection/microwave oven because a turkey was occupying the conventional oven
  • The rule was that I would document the process but offer no help, so that he would be in a real average Joe's situation. I couldn't hold my peace however when I saw him:
    - Draw ice water from the fridge to dissolve the yeast
    - Pet the dough like you would a puppy instead of developing the gluten by pulling and folding
    - "Shape" the proofed dough by patting it gently on the head for a few minutes
  • Also the instructions that came in the box were written for the complete kit which includes a special pot in which the shaped loaf is supposed to proof and bake. Although they do suggest baking the loaf in a Dutch oven in case you didn't purchase the pot, they also recommend pre-heating said Dutch oven which precludes using it to proof the bread. Stumped, my son asked me what to do. I suggested he line a colander with a floured linen and use it as a makeshift proofing basket
  • Such was the extent of my intervention
  • And now...
The story
The verdict
  • The bread came out really well and was received with a rousing chorus of oohs and aahs, soon to be followed by much merry dipping when a small bowl of olive oil was put on the table
  • A longer fermentation (the instructions suggest up to twenty-four hours) would have made it more flavorful but it needed to be ready for dinner
  • As explained in the booklet, the baker may need to use additional water at the mixing stage so that all of the flour is completely hydrated. My son added one tablespoon
  • The lid is taken off at half-bake for better browning. We thought the bread would turn out darker than it did. It might mean that convection isn't the way to go when using a Dutch oven or that the oven isn't properly calibrated
  • The kit yields three loaves total. Although refills can easily be procured, my hope is that after the third one, the baker will no longer need to bake from a box
  • That would make the method an excellent introduction to making real bread at home for would-be bakers who have no patience for bread blogs... 


  1. What a beautiful loaf ! I always see those boxes at specialty food stores, and I--admittedly--scoff a little bit. I'm always skeptical of these "kits," opting instead to go the old-fashioned route.

    But this little journey certainly provides me with a healthy rebuff . . . what a lovely looking loaf ! Though I must wonder whether the applause should be reserved for the bread or for the baker. Great write-up !

  2. Hi MC,
    I had to smile at your description of you son's handling of the dough….I admire your hands off ability. It is one of the challenges of motherhood that I have yet to master. I do think about it and I do strive to keep my mouth shut but, alas, I continue to fall prey to my own mothering controlling ways…My children are tolerant so we can at least laugh about my behavior….a work in progress.

    I love the clever ways people keep coming up with to make baking bread at home a less daunting 'task'. This kit sounds delightfully simple and your son's loaf looks really nice for his first bake!

    It still amazes me that something as basic as bread is now considered a challenge to bake. How on earth did we loose such a vital task in such a short period of time? I know the answer - we let someone else do it because it was easier - life got faster and busier…still scares me though that something so important to staying alive can be lost in such a short period of time.

    I love it that people like you and Floyd are out there informing the public in such a way to get us baking our own bread.

    Thanks for sharing a peek into your son's life. A brave man to let you into his kitchen with your camera :)



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