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Archive for the ‘Bread’ Category

I’ve recently become enamored with a new recipe for hamburger/sandwich buns. The taste is great, they are incredibly soft and have a nice open crumb, and they freeze and thaw really well. I’ve made them twice now, and they’ve been easy and a success both times. Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients
15 oz. flour
8 oz. water
1 large egg
4T softened butter
2T honey
1/4 c. dry milk
1/4 c. mashed potato
1-1/2 tsp salt
2-1/4 tsp instant yeast

Directions
Mix everything but flour together, then added the flour gradually–you may use all 15 ounces, and you may not. You want the dough a bit “shaggy” and it should be fairly sticky at this point. Once it’s mixed pretty well, cover it with a damp towel and let it rest 25 minutes. Then come back and knead a bit to develop the gluten matrix. Again, it may be more sticky than you’re used to, but avoid adding too much flour because that will make the dough more dense and tough. Put back in the bowl and cover.

Let the bulk rise go about 1-1/2 to 2 hours, stretching and folding it once or twice during that time. It should double in size. Then, divide into 3-ounce balls and place on a cookie sheet that is either lightly oiled or covered with baking parchment. Let rise until they are the nearly the size you want them. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Humidify the oven by pouring water into a broiler pan or brownie pan in the bottom of the oven. Bake for 20 minutes or until browned nicely. Remove and brush with softened butter.

Yield: about 10 3-ounce rolls

If you try this recipe, let me know!

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New Bread Success

I’m a big fan of fresh-baked bread, as should be no secret to any regular reader of this blog. I like fresh bread with dinner, and bread still warm from the oven is so much better than bread that’s been sitting around for days. Some of my friends follow the advice of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day which is a great book that advocates keeping live bread dough in the refrigerator, than pulling out a hunk and quickly shaping it into a loaf. After 30 minutes of resting time and 30 in the oven, you have fresh bread.

That is actually great advice, but the dough bowl takes up a lot of refrigerator space, and we don’t have that many dinners per week that suggest a bread side, so I was looking for another shortcut. Enter the brown and serve dinner loaf.

The loaves above were made with my Italian bread recipe, but instead of making two big 2-lb loaves and baking them for 50 minutes at 400 degrees, I made small 8 ounce loaves and baked them for an hour at 275. The result is bread that is fully baked but not browned. I then wrapped the loaves and put them in the freezer.

Tonight, to accompany a lovely white cheddar pasta bake that Melissa made, I pulled one loaf out of the deep freeze, let it thaw briefly on the counter, then popped it into a 375 degree over for 15 minutes, It turned out soft and delicious, and you couldn’t tell that it wasn’t baked fresh on the spot. The 8-oz size was perfect for a family meal with neither leftovers nor indulging too much.

I look forward to the rest of the loaves waiting in the freezer…

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Several people have asked me for the recipe for my basic sandwich loaf, so I’m going to post it here. This is the bread that I’ve baked every week for my family for over a year. The girls enjoy it–Ellie especially want the heels because she likes the crust–and I think it’s great for toast and grilled sandwiches because it’s robust enough to get crispy in the skillet and it really holds in the melted cheese and fillings.

This isn’t an artisan loaf or a the product of some complicated process. It doesn’t require expensive ingredients or specialized equipment. After the first two times you’ll make it, you’ll stop needing to refer to the recipe. I’ve tried a lot of other breads, but I keep coming back to this one. Give it a try, especially if you’re just breaking into the world of bread.
Ingredients:
3 cups water
6-1/2 cups flour
1-1/2 T instant yeast
1-1/2 T salt
Optional: 3 T flaxmeal
Directions:
Throw the flour, yeast, salt (and maybe flaxmeal) into a big mixing bowl and stir it around a bit. Let the tap water run until it’s a little warmer than body temperature (about 100 degrees) and add it into the bowl. Mix it up well. If you have a stand mixer, you can use that; if you don’t (like me) stir it until it forms a big ball and then knead it around a bit to mix all the ingredients. Shape it into a ball and put it in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover the bowl with a damp dishtowel or plastic wrap. Let it sit and rise anywhere between 90 minutes and 5 hours, preferably in a warm place.
Come back and divide the dough in half (a digital scale helps here, but it’s not critical). Spray some oil in your bread pans and then shape each half of the dough into a log that will fit into the pan. Move the dough into the pans and cover with a damp towel. Let this rise about an hour or so, depending on how it looks. You can slash the tops or brush them with butter or milk or something, but I don’t do either. It rises plenty and has a great crust without it.
Warm the oven to 350 degrees and put both loaves in the oven for 50 minutes. I check for done-ness and make sure it’s at least 180 degrees inside. Turn them out of the bread pans onto wire racks to cool.
Yield: 2 loaves
That’s it. It’s a really forgiving recipe, and it has FOUR (maybe five) ingredients. If you want to remember the recipe (and be able to scale it and impress your friends), remember the 6-3-3-13 rule: 6 c. water, 3 T yeast, 3 T salt, 13 c. flour. That makes four loaves. The dough, by the way, will keep in the refrigerator for up to two weeks, after the initial rising time.
Anyway, if you try this out and like it, let me know. If you try and don’t like it, whisper it quietly down a well somewhere.

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Eureka

I think I’ve found the recipe for 100% whole wheat sandwich bread:

1 c. warm water
1/3 c. sugar
2 1/2 t. instant yeast

2 T canola oil
1 1/2 t. lemon juice
3 c (12 3/4 oz) whole wheat flour
3/4 t. salt

Combine the water, sugar and yeast; stir and let it sit a bit until it becomes foamy. Mix the dry ingredients and add the yeast mixture. Stir until dough is formed then knead a fair amount: about 15 minutes or more. The dough should be slightly tacky, but not overly sticky, and shouldn’t tear easily when you stretch it. Form it into a boule and place in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with a wet cloth or oiled plastic wrap and let rise 90 min to 2 hrs. To develop the flavor a bit more, you can place the dough in the refrigerator. This will make the rise time longer, perhaps 3 hrs, but will deepen the flavor.

Gently transfer from bowl to shaping surface, and shape a batard loaf, then gently place in an oiled baking pan. Let rise again for an hour or so, until the top of the dough peaks somewhat over the rim of the pan. Just before baking, brush the top with butter and slash in your preferred design.

Bake in a preheated 350-deg over for 40-50 min, or until the internal temperature of the bread reaches 190-200 degrees.

Here’s what my loaf looked like:


I have to say, this is one of the best sandwich loafs I’ve ever made. It is incredibly soft–even more soft than my regular white sandwich bread–and so tasty you can eat a slice without any adornment. The flavor of the whole wheat is wonderful: warm and nutty and delicious.

I’m a happy boy, especially if I can reproduce this loaf week after week.

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So, my 50# bag of wheat arrived this morning–timely because we are nearly out of sandwich bread.

So after work I set up the grinder and got started. The grinder itself works great: took a little less than 15 minutes to grind the 6-1/2 cups of flour I needed. Probably would have gone faster normally, but the girls wanted to help. I decided that since I had no idea if the flour was fine enough, or what would happen with 100% whole wheat flour, now was not the time to try a new recipe.

I chose my standard 4-ingredient sandwich bread recipe, because I have that one completely down. Any aberration in the result would show the difference between white bread flour and whole wheat. A-a-a-nd, like I guessed, I got whole wheat doorstops. Well, not really (I’ve certainly baked worse) but they didn’t rise much and so were overly dense. My standard recipe wasn’t intended for this kind of flour.

Next, I’m trying a 100% whole wheat recipe from KAF (King Arthur Flour). These guys are the ones who mill most of the flour that artisan breadmakers use, so I trust them. The dough includes honey, oil, and dry milk, and it had a really odd consistency. It rose, though, though not quite as much as my white bread flour, and I’m interested to try it.

It’s in the oven now…

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Breadmaking 101

So, I’ve started baking all of our family’s bread.

I used to bake a great deal when Melissa and I were first married, but I stopped somewhere along the way. A few years ago, I tried bread a couple of times with dismal results–I had lost “the touch.”

Then I read a cookbook written by the people that operate Panera Bread Company. It went into depth about the science of bread, and explained in great detail what each of the four ingredients (flour, water, yeast, and salt) do and how they interact. I tried their Country White recipe, and meticulously followed their instructions. The ingredients turned into dough, rose nicely, and baked into really tasty loaves. I was hooked again.

So far, I’ve also tried their Honey Wheat and classic Sourdough (using a made-from scratch starter–which reminds me: I need to feed it). My latest loaf was a Honey Buttermilk recipe, taken from an artisan breadmaking website:


Not bad, and it tasted great, but I need to improve my dough handling skills. I’m still not stretching the gluten enough to get a really light, airy crumb. Same problem trumped my first sourdough attempt. After 25 hours of fermentation (really!) I had a beautiful gluten matrix in the bowl, and the subsequent loaves proofed up nicely, but I proofed them on the counter rather than the baking sheet, and transferring them deflated them somewhat. An amateur mistake.

My girls love the homemade bread, but I know I have a lot left to learn. Maybe that’s why bakers used to be guilded craftsmen…

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After reading the book In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan, our family has decided to eat whole foods. No, we’re not deciding to exclusively shop at high-end yuppie supermarkets–we are following Pollan’s simple dietary rules: 1) Eat food, 2) Not too much, 3) Mostly plants. What do I mean by “food?” Anything your great-grandmother would recognize, not what the American food system tries to force-feed us (Go-Gurt? Velveeta? Vitamin C-enriched Froot Loops?). A few corollaries guide us as well: a) if it lists health claims, it’s probably not healthy, b) if it has ingredients you can’t pronounce or can’t find in your cupboards, it’s probably not healthy, c) always eat at a table, preferably with others, d) no, your desk is not a table.

For the complete (and very convincing) details and research supporting this philosophy, you should you read the book yourself. Here’s a few of the ways our lifestyle has changed in the last month:

  • We’re really cutting down on processed foods and cooking from scratch with real ingredients, including making things like tomato sauces, soup, and the occasional batch of French fries.
  • I now bake all of our family’s bread. Have you seen what they put in an average supermarket loaf, including the “whole wheat” varieties? Many more posts will be devoted to this, as it is quickly becoming something of a hobby for me.
  • We have joined a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). many of these supply fresh vegetables, but we will go to any number of farmer’s markets for that. This CSA supplies us with a monthly share of chicken, lamb, beef, and pork. All the animals are grass-fed and finished (meaning no feed lots) and are humanely cared for without growth hormones or antibiotics.
  • We are greatly expanding our garden from last year. Many more blog entries will be devoted to our efforts in this area, too.

Our switch (which happened in late January) has had at least one additional effect: I’ve lost 4 1/2 pounds! Cutting out most soda and mindless snacks has probably been the reason, but that also ties in with Pollan’s sociocultural principles of responsible eating as well. And have I been hungry? No way! I’m eating homemade sourdough bread, lots more fresh vegetables, drinking whole milk, etc., etc.

I’m loving this.

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