The weather has turned and I've been bitten by the baking bug again. I picked a new recipe to try, restocked the pantry, cleaned the counters and started to gather the ingredients. I put the first one, 2oz of butter, on my scale and it read 3/4 oz. I know it wasn't a full 4oz stick but that sounded a bit light to me. So I pull out the next, untouched 4oz stick, and weigh it. The display read 1 7/8 oz, which is way too light. Great, my scale seems to be broken. Maybe I'm lucky and it's simply a weak battery. Maybe it was dropped or something when I wasn't around and no longer reads true. Either way it halts my plans for the day.

Being frugal I'll try a new battery first. If that doesn't work I'll be in the market for a new scale. I've a few requirements for my next scale that my old one didn't have. Mainly higher capacity and a more stable base. This one can't weigh enough for some of the recipes I want to make and isn't very stable due to it's small center column that connects the plate to the control unit on the bottom.

The geek inside of me says I should spring for a balance scale and some accurate weights but as cool as it would be it's overkill for baking.

You might think I bake bread for fun, and I certainly do, but I have a goal. [livejournal.com profile] hollyqueen really likes a German sourdough Rye bread called Roggenbrot. I do too, but it's expensive to import. So the broad goal is to make my own German style breads that match or exceed the taste and quality of what we can import. My own Roggenbrot is the bull's eye that guides my baking.

Last night I used our new Kitchen Aid Pro 600 to bake my standard white sandwich bread. The difference is this time I took note of the temperature and humidity, the ingredients and the times for the different parts of the process. I'll add notes about the finished product so I can start to track what did and didn't work when baking. Expect these notes and updates in this space.

For example, the loaf from last night was still "damp" in the center. Since I've been having some trouble with the oven I used a probe thermometer to pull the loaf out when the center was 190F. I wonder if the thermometer wasn't inserted properly or I removed the loaf from the pan too soon. I think it could have been done a little longer. Time for another experiment!

Last night I attended the Rustic Breadbaking class at Cook's World. The class was taught by George de Pasquale one of the founders of The Essential Baking Company. It was an excellent class with a lot, and I mean a lot, of good information. I came home with dough covered hands and many pages of notes.

I recommend the class if you want to learn more about baking rustic and artesian style bread. Though I wouldn't recommend it for someone who doesn't bake bread now. For those people I would recommend the Baking 101 class first.

Tonight was the last session of the Baking 101 class I've been taking at Cook's World. We covered pies and tarts and during class made an apple pie, strawberry pie and fresh fruit tarts. There were three different kinds of crust involved and I feel a lot more confident about making pie crust. In fact I am going to bake a series of pies to practice all the different pie crusts and determine which ones I like the best. The question now is what kind of pie to make... Nothing too complicated as I want to focus on the crust instead of the filling. Apple perhaps...

After taking Baking 101 I would recommend it for anyone who would like to bake but doesn't feel very confident in the kitchen. I learned quite a bit in the class and the hands on aspect was a great help to get the techniques down.

Yesterday was the third of four sessions for the Baking 101 class I’m taking at Cook’s World. We covered yeast breads and in class we made Parker House Rolls, Rosemary Focaccia, Bagels and Cinnamon Rolls with a Lemon Glaze. The rolls and focaccia were very tasty. The bagels were ok but nothing spectacular. The cinnamon rolls were very good! I have never had them with a lemon glaze and it was very interesting and tasty. Next week is the final session and we’re going to cover pies and tarts.

During a break in class I signed up for two more classes. Rustic Breadbaking and Home Cheesemaking. There are several classes at Cook’s World I want to take but money being what it is I’ll have to save for them.

Oh, and yesterday there was a little game you might have heard about. Now that I’ve seen the whole thing I can stop hiding from the internet. I didn’t think the New Orleans Saints would win but I was rooting for them and I’m glad they won. The commercials were mostly lame this year. “Play Nice” and “The Griswalds” were my favorites.

Last night was the first session of the Baking 101 class I’m taking at Cook’s World. We covered cakes and during the class we made Vanilla Cupcakes with Orange Frosting, Cornbread Muffins, Lime Herb Poundcake and Apfel Streusel. They were all very tasty though the poundcake was my favorite.

The class is, as titled, very basic. I didn't learn anything new this time but I think that future sessions will have some new information for me. A few of my classmates learned quite a bit from the class as they didn’t have much, or any, experience baking. It is a hands-on class and the instructor had a few “volunteers” come up and help prepare each recipe. By the end of the class everyone had helped make one of the recipes.

Now to figure out which recipe I’m going to make this week for my homework. I'm thinking the streusel as it is another favorite of mine and transports easily so I don’t end up eating the entire thing.

I’ve just registered for the Baking Basics 101 course offered through the ASUW Experimental College. I know a fair bit about baking already but nothing beats hands-on training for me. I learn best by doing and this class is four weeks of doing. The class will cover:

  1. Quick Breads, Cupcakes, Muffins
  2. Biscuits, Scones, Fruit Cobblers
  3. Yeast: bagels, cinnamon buns, focaccia, dinner rolls
  4. Pies, Tarts

I hope you folks like baked goods. I enjoy baking too much and shouldn’t eat all the results.

According to [livejournal.com profile] seatlejo it’s when you've baked the first thing in the oven. So I guess this is our home now. Today I made Pâte à Choux using Michael Ruhlman’s ratio recipe. For the first attempt I just made the basic recipe without any modifications. They turned out well and I'm looking forward to experimenting with them and making Pets de Nonne (Nun’s Farts).

Ruhlman's book Ratio is going to be a great addition to my collection.

I subscribe to The Baking Sheet from King Arthur Flour and just received the latest edition. The first recipe I notice is for char siu hum bao, aka baked hum bao. The next one is for Chili Gingersnaps. The editors have my number for this edition. So many other tasty things to make.

I've moved everything over to the new place. Tomorrow I'll finish up cleaning the old place. Then I'll unpack and arrange my baking gear. Next week? BAKING!

Do you consider yourself vegan? If so, is yeast acceptable?

Your baking friend is curious.

While [livejournal.com profile] hollyqueen and I were off celebrating our marriage I brought my copy of Peter Reinhart's book The Bread Baker's Apprentice. I can see why so many people recommend this book. I'm only seventy pages into the book and what I've read so far is going to improve my bread making skills. Somehow I don't think I'll have a shortage of volunteers to help eat my experiments.

Speaking of baking I'm planning at baking some bread, Springerles and other cookies weekend. Yes, I have a fondness for anise flavored cookies. Hmmm... Now to go make a shopping list...

Not having any plans I decided that today was a day of baking and cooking. So I made some applesauce and baked a loaf of white bread. Today the bread really rose and I looked forward to a great loaf when it I put it in the oven. Fifteen minutes into baking things were looking good as I put some foil on the top. However, during the last few minutes of baking the top fell and instead of a nice rounded loaf I ended up with a valley in the middle. [livejournal.com profile] jerichobrown, [livejournal.com profile] cheesentoast and [livejournal.com profile] hollyqueen all said the bread was wonderful, and I agree that it tasted great but I still wish the loaf looked better.

I now have several baking books. (Thanks [livejournal.com profile] ragnorokt for my lastest, Baking with Julia.) I still would like to find a baking class as I learn best using hands-on methods and if I can get the feel of how to make a basic loaf of bread the rest will fall into place.

The bad thing today was I watched an episode of Food Network Challenge where they made haunted gingerbread houses. I do not need another hobby... No, no, no... Does making gingerbread houses fall under baking? That's not a new hobby then is it?

hollyking: (ahead full)

Cooling Period
Originally uploaded by hollyking
My second bread adventure. This is the same recipe as last time with more pictures. You can see the whole set at my flickr.

Here are my notes from the bread I made last weekend. It had been a long time since I’ve baked bread so I wanted to start with something simple and small. Why not King Arthur Flour’s White Sandwich Bread? The recipe looked simple and it only makes one loaf so there would be less waste if it didn’t turn out.

As I don’t have a stand mixer or food processor I did a bit of research on manual ways of mixing and kneading bread. [livejournal.com profile] some_other_word pointed me to the Fountain Method and it sounds very promising. I didn’t use it this time as the quantity of dough fit nicely in my work bowl with plenty of room to mix things around. When I make more than one loaf I’ll use the Fountain Method because I will have a very full work bowl.

I have, and highly recommend, Alton Brown’s book “I’m Just Here for More Food: Food x Mixing + Heat = Baking”. One of the things I love about Alton is he explains the reason behind his directions. Knowing why I’m stirring the dough only 10 times and then walking away was a big help when I made muffins. So I read his chapter on bread the night before which gave tips like using filtered or bottled water to keep chlorine out of the dough. Alton also recommends letting the dough rest for 30 minutes between mixing and kneading. This phase, known as autolyse, allows the flour to absorb the liquid and the gluten time to develop. I used to think I would have problem with the dough rising because of the cooler temperatures. I read in Alton’s book, and other places, about a slow cool rise giving the dough more chances to develop flavor.

After reading my books and some baking websites it was off to buy the ingredients. I didn’t know it at the time but that was when I made my major “mistake” for this whole adventure. I was supposed to buy Unbleached All Purpose Flour and instead I picked up White Whole Wheat Flour. Also, the store didn’t have the instant yeast I wanted but “active dry” yeast just needs a bit of blooming before use so it wasn’t a problem.

To start I weighed out the flour and measured the other dry ingredients into my work bowl. Yes, I weighed the flour. Alton Brown has convinced me that flour should always be weighed. Depending on how packed it is the quantity of flour in one cup can vary greatly. Weighing is the only way to be accurate. Next I bloomed the yeast and when it was ready mixed it all together. Covering the bowl with a towel I let it sit for 30 minutes.

The next step was the kneading and the one I had the least confidence about. Using the guidelines in AB’s book I kneaded until the dough was smooth and sprang back from a light poke. I’d still like to take a bread baking class to get some more experience and skill with knowing how much kneading is needed. I kneaded it enough based on the end result.

The first rise was supposed to take one to two hours. Although both AB and the King Arthur recipe say the important thing is to wait until the dough doubles in size. So I actually gave the dough three hours and it was nice and puffy. Instead of “punching” the dough I followed Alton’s directions and gently flattened it and folded it on itself three times. Then I molded the dough into a loaf shape and placed it in the pan.

Time to wait again. This rise was supposed to take an hour but after two the bread was cresting the top of the pan. I just couldn’t wait any longer and so sent it off to the oven to bake. It was supposed to bake for 35 minutes and that was my second mistake of the night. You see when I placed the pan in the oven I burned my hand on the side of it. (Note to self, move the racks in the oven.) In the hopping around and looking for something cool to put on my hand I forgot to start the timer. So the bread probably baked longer than it needed too.

After the bread cooled on the rack I sliced a few pieces for [livejournal.com profile] hollyqueen and I to try. At this point I discovered my first mistake. The bread was darker than I expected. Half-way between white and whole wheat. Very tasty though. Oh very tasty. In the pictures the loaf looks heavy and dense, but it really isn’t. It has more body than white but it’s light and tasty. Takes butter with ease and has been a good bit of my breakfast the past few days.

Next time I’ll keep these things in mind. First, start earlier in the day. “Room temperature” here is cooler than most places so it will take longer for the dough to rise. Buy the right kind of flour for your recipe. This is a happy accident I’ll make again, but this isn’t white bread. Use a timer and watch the sides of the oven so I don’t burn the bread or my hand. Bribe someone with fresh bread to take pictures and document the process. I took a few pictures with my mobile phone, but I wish I had more pictures with better quality.

I consider this baking adventure a great success. As I was once told “Any landing you can walk away from is a good landing,” I think that any baking that results in a fresh loaf of tasty bread is a good baking.

Sliced

Apr. 26th, 2009 09:33 pm

Sliced
Originally uploaded by hollyking
All of my reading paid off. Today I made a loaf of bread for the first time in a very long time and it was great success. Just as much fun as I remembered and the end result is tasty fresh bread. No mixers were harmed in the making of this loaf. ;)

Zweiback

Apr. 22nd, 2009 12:51 pm

I shouldn’t read the King Arthur Flour blog at work. Thanks to this post I’m sitting at work craving Zwieback and wondering how to get my hands on some. They were decent enough to provide a recipe. So it’s something I can fix eventually. In fact I think I will fix it. This is just too tasty to not make and eat.

One thing I need to figure out is how to mix bread dough without using a stand mixer. I don’t own one or have room for one. All of the information I read about bread making assumes you will be using one. Looks like time for a new research project.

And does anyone have an empty 1lb can? I have a few recipes that are baked in one and don't drink the stuff myself. I'll take them off your hands and keep them out of a landfill.

The Cake is not a lie!
Originally uploaded by hollyking
Although it will soon be gone.

By popular request there will be pie at the Superbowl Open House. One Shaker Lemon Pie and another pie to be named later. Any requests?
Tonight for Crafty Night I baked a custard pie because [livejournal.com profile] some_other_word requested one. It was a hit and I was asked for the recipe so here it is for everyone.

4 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1 dash salt
2 cups milk
1/2 tsp nutmeg
Single pie crust

Line a 9" pie pan with the unbaked crust. Beat the eggs then add the milk, sugar, salt and nutmeg. Mix well and pour into the pie crust. Sprinkle the top with nutmeg. Bake at 350F for 50 minutes or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow to cool.

Enjoy!

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