Yesterday, we were actually able to eat the bread I made! After 4 failed attempts, I finally conquered the beast (I mean, the yeast). It was a proud and glorious moment. My dad beamed with joy. I think I saw my mother cry. At long last their days of feeding on semi-baked dough are over. Saved by Carol.
The secret in breadmaking lies in the kneading. The more you stretch the dough, the further the gluten develops, resulting in light, fluffy bread. But we all know that kneading dough by hand is hard work. Carol's method doesn't require extensive kneading. Rather, it involves flinging and folding the dough on the counter top, like 200 times. Imagine you're executing the judo-throw to a loathesome client or vile colleague. It's a great stress relief!
Once I've mastered Bread Kungfu, the rest of the breadmaking process is quite easy. I fired up the oven to 60 degrees C, then switched it off. The dough is then shaped in a boule fashion and left inside the oven to proof until it doubled in size (about an hour). I divided it into 9 equal portions, filled each with canned chestnut spread, formed each into boule again and left to proof one more time. In his book The Bread Baker's Apprentice, Peter Reinhart tells us that "the whole exercise of giving loaves this (boule) shape is based on creating a tight surface tension to allow the loaf to rise up and not just out; the tight skin causes the dough to retain its cylindrical shape rather than spreading and flattening."
There's much room for improvement, of course.