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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Date with My Inner Baker

Who's been paying attention enough to know how late this blog post is- by a show of hands? Oh, what's that? No one? good then I don't have to feel guilty about it! I saved it thinking I would do all these wonderful editing things to it to make it amazing...but I didn't. So here you go! Enjoy!

Okay I have finally decided to do it. Bake my first and hopefully not my last loaf of bread! This mixer, flour, yeast and etc? Yeah. We went on a date today. It all started several months ago, really. I was searching recipes for various things through all-encompassing Google, when I kept coming across all these amazing food blogs. Just one such blog was A Year In Bread- amazing stuff really. I had been toying around with the idea of making my own bread and cheese (heavily influenced by my recent readings of "Animal Vegetable Miracle" by Barbara Kingsolver, and Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer. Being somewhat of a flower child that grew up in the northwest it was like a refresher for things I was better versed at in middle/high school. What I loved most, though was the idea of making EVERYTHING from scratch. Cheese, Bread, Pasta Sauce. Am I showing how much the city has influenced me over the years? I feel like I'm not supposed to be so amazed at this concept, but I blame the supermarket and those behind it all pulling the strings- let me just cut myself off from this tangent- Anywho, I was on A Year in Bread,  (and Wild Yeast, The Yumarama Bread Blog and etc subsequently) and I got the yearning to be in my kitchen making sandwiches from scratch with fresh loaves and just pulled cheese.... Yes I am very domestic. 

So while at the grocery store picking up eggs this week I saw the yeast just sitting there calling my name. And I answered! I threw it and the Red Mill's Unbromated Organic Unbleached Flour (perfect for baking bread by hand or machine!) along with some sugar and left feeling very satisfied with myself. Then the panic set in. What am I thinking? I don't even have the perfect Chicago pans that are recommended? I don't own any tea towels! ETC ETC OMG! 

But I already had it all arranged so neatly on my I woke up this morning and popped right over to AYIB and saw Susan's Farmhouse White, perfect for beginner's. "It was meant to be!" I gasped to myself.

Here's the basic Recipe lifted but edited to include my commentary from AYIB: her pictures are omitted in place of my notes and adjustments and also my own pics. To see Susan's pics and helpful background history/info etc click the link above!

Susan's Farmhouse White Sandwich Bread Moni's 1st attempt
Makes 3 loaves, approximately 1-1/2 pounds each

Ingredient US volume Metric Volume US weight Metric
organic all-purpose flour
4 cups - 940 ml - 1 lb, 4 ounces - 566 grams
instant yeast**
2 Tablespoons - 30 ml - 22 grams
granulated sugar
2 Tablespoons - 30 ml - 28 grams
canola oil
2 Tablespoons - 30 ml - 30 grams
warm milk (or water)
4 cups - 940 ml - 2 lbs - 908 grams
organic bread flour
(approximately) 6 cups - 1,410 ml - 1 lb, 13-1/8 ounces - 825 grams
1½ Tablespoons - 22 ml - 3/4 ounce - 22 grams

Wet/Dry Mix
Flour, Sugar, Buttermilk
 I mixed 4 cups of all purpose flour,  and sugar together, then had a moment of panic when I realized I had grabbed Active Dry Yeast as opposed to Instant or rapid rise (curse my propensity to take anything that proves to be longer. I have a natural distrust for anything instant) and hopped on the web to try and figure out what i needed to do to adjust Susan's recipe. I ended up, after several nail biting minutes, mixing two packets of my ADY in 1/2 cup warm water and then adding sugar =-because who doesn't want to watch yeast rise and go bubbly? I added my proofed active dry yeast and mixed them all together. I was worried about adding my wet yeast mix since Susan's directions mixed wet all together then dry but it looked fine. 

Warm Milk
Then in went my canola blend oil my little well (not the good kind, but hey on a budget you have to cut where you can).The first major change I did to the recipe was substitute the equivalent of 1 cup of buttermilk (in the form of dry buttermilk which I added with the     flour/ sugar) and used just 3 cups of  warm milk.

A Shaggy Mess
I only had all purpose flour but it said it was great for bread baking so where I was supposed to begin incorporating one cup of bread flour at a time, I just continued using my APF. Man Did this require some elbow grease! I ended up using just five cups of flower, and on the fifth between my flimsy pink spatula and its top popping off  at this point, I gave up and threw it into my mixer for the last cup of flour My dough was soft and sticky, I just guessed at the texture and decided it was "slightly sticky." like the recipe stated :)

When I turned my dough out to knead I sort of pulled and folded as my technique. Rather than the hold with right hand, pull out gently with left and fold turning a quarter turn each time. (I also set a timer for six minutes (to make up for my inexperience with knowing when it was right).
In doing this step, I ended up using the last cup of flour as I kept the dough, my countertop, and my hands floured.I was going to reuse my mixer bowl since its the largest bowl I have but the leftover dough got ahold of it and I really had to soak it. So I had  Chaley hand me down a bowl from the top shelf and used that. It was glass and it really didn't want to let the flour stick to the sides so I sprinkled a little extra on top and around the sides.

My Bamboo Pillowcase
Okay so Susan's recipe calls for draping the bowl with a damp tea towel... I used a clean bamboo pillow sheet. It was the closest thing I had to a tea towel! I am the MacGyver of the kitchen! It worked fine and I was happy with my rise!
In order to help with my rise I turned my oven to 350 F and left the oven door open- its way too cold here now with a draft and I was worried about my dough getting warm enough. Worked really well. 

Susan says,
"Set the dough somewhere that is preferably between 70°F and 75°F until it has doubled in size, about 60 to 75 minutes. Ideally, the dough should also be between 70°F and 75°F. It's fine if your dough is cooler; it'll just take longer to rise and will end up even tastier.
When the dough is ready to be shaped, you should be able to push a floured finger deep into it and leave an indentation that doesn't spring back. Unless your dough is rising in a straight-sided container, it can be difficult to judge whether it has "doubled in size" which is the guideline most recipes use. I find the finger poking method to be more reliable, though lately I've been letting all my doughs rise in plastic containers."

I put two fingers in mine to be sure! I was really nervous about the rising and the shaping and the kneading-well you get my point. I poured it back onto the counter and gave it a few light punches and some more knuckle action before flattening it so I could cut it into threes.

My pan (yup solo. I really do need to go get some more kitchen day!) was 9 5. x 2.75 inches compared to Susan's 8-1/2 x 4-1/2 x less than 3 inches. So mine didn't get that pretty round top. I wanted to go a more fancy route in shaping but I felt overwhelmed by the first suggestion so I went with the jelly roll technique. It was great and they were so cute going in one by one lol. Before they hit the oven they went back under my pillowcase(!) for another hour.

I baked at 375 for 35 minutes and it was perfect. The crumb on these was amazing.  I even waited the 40 minutes before testing/tasting. Go me!

Susan's last bit of advice: "Remove immediately from pans and let cool on a wire rack. Try to wait at least 40 minutes before cutting into a loaf. Store at room temperature or freeze in zipper freezer bags. Make sure loaves are completely cooled before sealing in bags."

These were heavenly! I know Susan made my first bread baking a success! I can't wait to try some more of AYIB's recipes!  
I know it's a lot of pictures but this is only half of the pics I took! I have been harassing Chaley to make me a little slideshow so I can show everything step by step, but it's hard to rush the tech :) I also could have done a better job explaining the recipe but I really wanted to show the steps as I feel like more images would have helped me- I had to watch a lot of little you tubes to grasp some of the techniques. But as always, I hope you enjoy and definitely pop over to A Year in Bread, they have fantastic amazingness that should not be missed.

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