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. 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 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.
Now that I've successfully baked bread I need something to spread on a slice. This article from Slate has a comparison about making versus buying pantry staples. Except for crackers I think that make beats buy every time, but then again I bake for pleasure not to save money. I'm going to have to try some of those recipes though.
I am working up a longer post about the bread I made yesterday. I want to document what I did and keep track of the planned accident that was so very tasty. I say planned accident because I used a basic white bread recipe from King Arthur Flour modified by some tips from Alton Brown and accidentally buying the wrong kind of flour. The end result was fantastic though and I'll have to make that bread again.
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.
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.
Here is the recipe for the pie I made for Thanksgiving dinner. I like it a lot because it is tasty and isn’t the standard lemon meringue that you see all the time. The recipe is pretty simple. The only thing you have to plan ahead is the time for the lemons to steep in the sugar.
Shaker Lemon Pie
- 1 batch double crust pastry
- 3 medium lemons
- 1 ¾ cups Sugar
- 4 beaten eggs
- 1 beaten egg yolk
- 1 tbsp water
- Peel lemons; half lengthwise and thinly slice. Stir sugar into lemon slices. Cover and refrigerate 8 hours or over night, stirring occasionally.
- Divide pastry in half. Roll each half into a 12” circle. Use one pastry to line a 9” pie plate; trim to ½” beyond edge. Stir beaten whole eggs into lemons. Mix well and turn into pastry lined pie plate, arranging lemon slices evenly.
- Cut the remaining pastry circle into 10 strips. Lay ½ of the pastry strips in one direction across the filling. Lay the other half of the strips in the other direction. Turn under edge and flute with the tines of a fork.
- Combine beaten egg yolk with 1 tbsp of water. Brush lattice with egg yolk mixture. Cover edge with foil. Bake in 375°F oven 25 minutes. Remove foil and back another 20 to 25 minutes or until pastry is golden and a knife inserted near center comes out clean. Cool 1 to 2 hours on a wire rack. Refrigerate within 2 hours. Cover for longer storage.
I was reading an article in Spiegel about a movie being made about Clemens Wilmenrod who was Germany’s first television chef. What I found remarkable was not that his show appeared a good decade before Julia Child. No, it was that the vague culinary nightmare of my dreams, Toast Hawaii, actually existed and was created by Clemens. I hadn’t repressed the memory of Toast Hawaii far enough and it kept popping up in my nightmares. Rumtopf on the other hand sounds quite tasty and I might have to make some later this year.
I like baking and while I don't get to do it often enough I want to make some cookies again this year. I really like making German styles of cookies, but all my recipes, save one*, call for nuts. hollyqueen is allergic so I'm trying to find some new recipes to try that aren't filled with nuts.
Any suggestions? Peanuts are acceptable, because they are a legume.
* hollyqueen doesn't care for the flavor of anise so the Springerles are out too.