Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Adventures in Baking

On Sunday I made my first steps into the world of yeast. It wasn't a totally successful expedition, but it wasn't a total failure either. I had been thinking about trying a bread recipe for awhile, but then when it was announced that the theme for this month's Waiter There's Something In My... event would be bread, I figured it was the perfect opportunity to take the plunge. When I was growing up my mom never had any luck baking with yeast. I remember her many failed attempts and the resulting frustration. So, I was a bit nervous to say the least. But I tried to be as prepared as I could be- I had my instant read thermometer, I turned the thermostat up since it was kind of cold in the apartment, and I preheated the oven far in advance to heat up my tiny kitchen. I was going to take a crack at a Whole Wheat Cinnamon Raisin Bread I saw on bakingsheet, now Baking Bites. Well, the first time round did not go so well. I guess it's kind of hard to know what each step is supposed to look like when you've never done it before. I'm not sure I got enough reaction out of my yeast, then I started mixing things, but it never really seemed to come together. I used the larger of the flour measurements, but it still had the consistency of runny oatmeal. I made an attempt to knead it, but that was just unbelievably messy. I scrapped the dough, and decided to take a crack at another recipe. I noticed a recipe on the back of the flour package that seemed easy. The steps were different than the Cinnamon Raisin bread, so I thought I'd give it a shot. I decided to add cinnamon to the Whole Wheat Walnut Bread recipe, but that was the only part of the recipe that I changed, initially. This time around I decided to use my stand mixer, instead of my arm and a wooden spoon. I measured out and mixed all the ingredients. As it mixed I had something along the same consistency of the last bread dough. I called my mom, who had little advice for me. I called Stephanie who didn't answer because she was at Edgefest. And I just decided to start chucking in more flour. I also decided to proof my yeast, to see if that was somehow the problem. So, between adding flour I measured out some warm water and sugar. But before I was able to add the yeast my mixer started making a funny noise. It was working hard to mix my dough because it was actually the consistency of dough! I whipped the mixer off, floured my work surface and quickly went to work kneading, lest things progress downhill in any moment I wasted. I worked my dough, with relative ease, and once I'd finished I put it back in the bowl, on top of the oven for warmth, and covered. I let it rest for a bit over and hour and it had actually risen! I was so surprised that it had worked. Mistake #1 occurs here- I probably should have let is risen even more. I removed it from the bowl, molded it into the loaf shape and put it in the pan. I let it rise again on the oven. Mistake #2- should have let it rise more again. Popped it in the oven and 40 minutes later a lovely looking loaf emerged. It did look lovely, but it didn't look that big. And when I cut into it yesterday it was very dense. So, next time I think letting my dough rise much more at each stage will help. Please correct me if I'm wrong though. I'm not unhappy with the way the loaf turned out. I set out to make a loaf of bread, and that was the end result. I think it could definitely be better, but since I had serious doubts that I could even get something remotely resembling bread I would say it was overall a success. However, I'm going to take another crack at working with yeast this weekend, because I would like a better WTSIM entry. But, for those who are interested, you can click the link above for the recipe. The addition of cinnamon was nice, but I should have added more sugar to help balance it.


Stephanie said...

Hi there, I just made my first homemade bread loaves 2 weeks ago. I went with the Amish White Bread recipe on allrecipes.com because it had so many good reviews AND helpful hints in the reviews.

I added cinnamon sugar to the 2nd loaf and both turned out awesome, also I use Splenda because I am sugar sensitive.

This was what I did: I used rapid rise yeast and a kitchen aid mixer, I did proof the yeast a bit in the mixer just to make sure it was working before adding the flour a cup at a time with a dough hook. I let 1.5 hours for the first rise, and an hour in the loaf. I was also quite fearful of over kneading, as I also seem afraid to over-mix anything everyone seems to always warn against that!

AND our house is usually cool, and it was a cold day, so I let the loaves rise in the oven. I turned it to warm/250 degrees for 20 seconds (should barely feel warm in there, any hotter and it will kill yeast), then OFF and let them rise in there, seemed to work perfectly! (make sure to remove loaves before you preheat oven to bake of course)

The loaves looked so good I was terrifed to cut into them, but they were like wonder bread, I was thrilled!

I plan on making some brown bread, and oats, multigrain, wheat, etc. soon, but was glad to get a basic recipe down. Also if you (anyone) tries that recipe, it's very sweet bread, I just like it toasted with butter. So use less sugar if you want more sandwich type bread. Sooo yummy!

One last tip is that the Joy of Cooking cookbook has REALLY good illustrations of bread making, from what the dough should look like after rising, to kneading, and shaping. I must've looked at those pages a thousand times! Yeast scares me too!

Good luck with future attempts, glad you eat least had a decent 2nd loaf! Love your blog!

Jessica said...

Wow Stephanie, thanks for all the tips and the lovely compliment! I haven't chosen my second recipe yet, but I'm definitely not backing down from yeast till I've conquered it!

Kelly said...

wow you guys are brave. bread scares the bee-gibees out of my. I totally cheat and just use the bread maker, unless it's bananna bread... that i can do.

Jenny said...

I first started with basic whole wheat bread and it has so few ingredients that you really can't screw it up too much. It makes 4 loaves but can easily be halved and works best in the mixer. What I learned was to start super basic and then once you have the confidence to move up to stuff with more ingredients etc.

Susie’s Whole Wheat Bread

4 cups hot water
1 Tblsp salt
2 Tblsp yeast
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup oil
2 Tbslp gluten flour

I start adding wheat flour and mixing until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl. I think I use at least 8 cups of flour and maybe 10. I never measure. I let it rise once till double in size then shape into loaves. I let it rise one more time and bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

You could cut it in half if your mixer can't handle this much bread dough.

Jamie Oliver and Nigella Lawson (her book 'How to be a domestic Goddess') have really good bread ideas. Nigella uses instant yeast and lets it sit in the frige overnight. I tried it and I couldn't believe how easy it was.

Jenny said...

OH YEAH. and if you flick or thump the bottom of the loaf and it doesn't sound hollow, it's not done.

Lindsey said...

I make the same recipe as Jenny. It's really, really good.

That's the only thing I can make.

I bought some fresh, compressed yeast that I want to try. It expires today, so I better get on it.

Yeast is so hard.

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