If, in dorm cooking, one is going for simplicity, it is hard to get simpler than bread. In essence it consists of four ingredients, and uses one utensil and an oven. Likewise, it requires surprisingly little time and effort, so it’s actually not hard to bake high quality bread at Wesleyan, or any other college for that matter.
Flour, water, yeast, and salt will get you a basic “French” bread (such as shown above). This type of bread, however, takes a lot of practice to do well, and for satisfying results, special equipment. They require very wet, hard to handle dough and lots of finesse when it comes to crust formation.
For dorm cooking, the easiest are “enriched” and “loaf pan” breads. An “enriched” bread consists of the basic formula “enriched” with sugar, oils, and eggs. Challah and Brioche are good examples. Because of their tight, uniform crumb (the inside of the loaf, as opposed to the crust) they are easy to handle and can be made in about 2 hours. Recipes for these are all over the place and are easy to follow and almost always pretty good. All you need is a loaf pan or baking sheet to bake the bread. A basic enriched and loaf bread recipe is usually structured like this:
1. Knead dough for about ten minutes
2. Let dough rise for about an hour (called “bulk proofing”)
3. Form loafs (in a pan or on a baking sheet)
4. Let dough rise again (“bench proofing”)
If you follow this formula well with a reputable recipe you can’t go wrong. Just remember to put salt in your bread. Bread with no salt tastes like drywall!