Baking Bread

Store-bought bread here in Panama leaves a lot to be desired. In fact, it pretty much sucks! So, I’ve been online the last couple of weeks digging up bread recipes. So far my efforts are about on a par with the quality of store-bought bread. It sucks.

I’ve tried regular recipes and kneaded the dough but that’s no fun as far as I’m concerned. And it’s messy as hell, too. Flour everywhere that has to be cleaned up. I even went into David last week and bought a HUGE bowl and tried kneading the bread in it. Not much better.

Years ago I used to make a great, no-knead bread from a recipe passed down to my mom by her great aunt, Laura. It called for shredded wheat and molasses. Delicious, easy to make and it came out perfect every time. Problem here is 1) I’ve only found ONE store that stocks molasses and 2) NOBODY stocks shredded wheat!

There are a ton of “no knead” bread recipes online. They’re almost universally the same. Three (or six) cups of flour, some salt, some yeast and a cup and a half of water. So I’ve tried it. Followed the recipe to the LETTER. Let it rise and at the end of that time the dough was like soup!

So, I slowly added the water a little at a time until the dough looked “shaggy” as per the recipe instructions. At the end of the required rising time (anywhere from 4 to 20 hours) the dough was STILL like soup!

On Saturday I saw THIS recipe on line.

WOW, looked good. I LOVE baguettes! Especially the ones I used to buy in France. It’s a well-known fact that in France no baguette makes it home with the ends intact. Don’t those look delish? The promise is…

The promise

So last night I mixed up the ingredients. This morning, after rising for nearly 10 hours, I took off the cover and found that the dough had more than doubled into a nice SOUP!!!

I followed the rest of the instructions except the dough didn’t form into the promised. It was impossible to “delicately shape each half into a long rod. I do this by gently squeezing, not pulling. Plop them on a cookie sheet (don’t worry, doesn’t need to be nonstick). The loaves will look kinda flat, but they’ll rise in the oven.”


Look “kinda flat?”


“They’ll rise in the oven”


This is the reality:


Bottoms scorched. Maybe a quarter of an inch thick in the center. A complete waste of time, flour, and stove gas!


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5 responses to “Baking Bread

  1. Haha! That made me laugh 🙂 I think you at least deserve 100 points for trying! I wonder if the humidity has something to do with why the dough turns soupy? Maybe the yeast is dying before it gets a chance to do its thing.

    It’s definitely not the yeast that’s the problem. It makes the mixture rise like crazy.

  2. indacampo


    I also am not a fan of the bread in Panama and so taught myself (after several disasters) to bake GOOD bread. This is the recipe that I’ve discovered that works the best for me:

    A few of hints:

    Because we are close to sea level I up the yeast a bit, I use two tablespoons. (There is a brand in Panama that comes in a blue and silver packet that works perfectly fine. I can’t remember the name and I’m in Canada right now so can’t look.) It sounds like your yeast is working o.k. though;

    You also need to add more flour or put less liquid into the mix to avoid the soup. We are so humid, even where I live and that is what is causing your soupy mess. Even though the recipes say it should be moist you have to find the right balance. Not quite as dry as what mom used to make but still a bit sticky. Don’t forget that when you get ready to bake the bread after rising and refrigeration that you need to add more flour again, enough so it isn’t sticking to your fingers;

    You don’t need a pizza peel or pizza stone to cook the bread on. An upturned cookie sheet will work just fine, I use a little parchment and just put my loaves on the sheet to rest and for the last few minutes of final rise before baking. This way you can cook more than one on the sheet if you want and freeze the loaves. You can also put this recipe into a loaf pan but I like the round loaves or I shape it into two large french loaves and bake them longer;

    If you eat a lot of bread and want it fresh every day the dough keeps well in the fridge, in fact the longer you store it the more fermented/sourdoughy it tastes. I use the largest bowl of the $5.00 bowl set to store and rise the dough in (you know the blue and white ones that DoIt always has and everyone in Panama owns) it works perfect for this purpose; and

    Once you’ve perfected your bread making (don’t give up!) follow the links and information on the website to make herb bread (use the .45¢ La Donna mixed herb mix or fresh if you have them), cinnamon rolls, pizza crust, onion rolls or naan from the dough. You won’t regret it. One of the bakeries in our town sells this same loaf for about $3.50 a for a pound loaf and you can make it at home for pennies.

    Good luck, you can do it!

    A gringa friend from Potrerillos Arriba sent me a recipe for Scarborough Fair herb bread. I tried it yesterday and it came out pretty good though couldn’t really tell there were herbs in it. But it made FANTASTIC French Toast this morning!

    The yeast you’re thinking of is saf-instant. Actually made in Mexico. It’s NEVER been a problem with the yeast getting things to rise. Sort of Viagra for flour.

  3. Hi there! Author of the recipe in question here… sorry it didn’t work out! Not sure why… One variable that is hard to control for is the difference in flour… what kind of flour is available in Panama?

    The recipe has been really robust for me, so I hope you can find a version that works out for you!

    Best wishes,

    There are several, including Gold Medal. I have never seen “Bread Flour,” however.

  4. RIVS

    I know that recipe by heart, use it once a week and it NEVER fails. This is the weirdest thing.

    Well, I tried it several times and varied the amount of water always with the same results.

    • RIVS

      Very curious. On my copy of the recipe, I have noted that 1 1/2 cups of water is sufficient but even 1/4 cup extra water should have given you something ciabatta shaped rather than pancake. I wonder what the gluten content of your flour is? In other news, I am entertained by the “delicately shape each half into a long rod” portion of the recipe. I know the author of that blog and the thought that he might do some “delicately” is just hilarious.