Sunday, December 2, 2012

Bread - Number Three

Bread – Number Three: Using Some Regular Flour
“Master Recipe” from the Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day book

Dedicated to the idea of a bigger bowl; size matters when dough rises and expands.

Purchases thus far:
Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day $16
Old-fashioned kitchen scale, which I haven’t used yet $21
Breadtime – purchased at a used book store – $7

In the name of giving credit where credit is due, many of the ideas below are from the book Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day book, with details below the recipe. Sometime in the next couple of breads, I am going to move beyond this book.

7 cups whole wheat or white whole wheat flour
1 ½ tablespoons yeast
¼ cup vital wheat gluten
4 cups lukewarm water (or longer rise if cold)

Instructions previously mentioned
The steps are the same as in the breads one and two in terms of mixing of ingredients and preparation and baking. The only big difference is there are no fats – no oils, no butter, nothing. The bread purists would approve, though it could be I have already committed all sorts of sacrilege that they cannot forgive. So here goes.

One major advantage is that this dough is supposed to last in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. I was excited that perhaps this dough would be lighter.

Beware of bread with weird karma
So, I got up real early on a work morning, anticipating the results from a new yeast jar. My goal is to make the regular master recipe from the Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day book and see how it compares with the entirely whole wheat bread. Not sure this is a good controlled experiment. In spite of the new yeast, this bread has its own special karma.

First, mixing the bread takes about a half hour, including cleaning time and taking moments to jot down notes that will jog my memory when I write about making the dough. Jotting down notes, not even full-scale writing, is a big delay. Now Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day means 35 divided by seven, rather than an actual five minutes each day. I had counted on 15 minutes. As the minutes wore on it became clear that I would have to rush to get out of the house on time and that major parts of the morning routine (exercise, shower) had gone out the window.

Not only that, but the top kept coming off the spatula; I was afraid it would get buried under the dough. Also felt the mixing would never be complete; so I took off my rings and, as the authors suggested, put my hands right in to mix the last of the dry flour at the bottom of the bowl. Hands covered in wet, sticky batter (forgetting to wet my hands first), I wondered who had the brilliant idea of jumping out of bed in the still-dark early morning to make dough, especially when the plan is to not bake it until the end of the weekend. I could just as easily have prepared the dough after work. I wanted aged dough, the more complex flavor, so I jumped out of bed, but not quite early enough, seduced as I was by warm blankets and listening to just one more story on NPR.

It gets better, or, actually the story gets better, but the bread did not.

[Pacific coast in California.]

Attack of the glob
Also used a somewhat smaller bowl, a regular-sized large bowl, instead of the giant metal bowl. Well, returned home from work and the dough had risen right over the sides and onto the back of the stove – and some globs had hardened. Nice.

Felt at one with Lucy Ricardo in the Vita-veta-vegimin episode – without being drunk.

Not sure what to do, put all the goop back in the bowl, including the hardened globs, replaced the goop- covered plastic wrap and put the bowl in the fridge as if nothing untoward had happened. Thinking, will be lucky if a half-way decent bread comes out of this batch; if not, Ian either not count it or count it as a not-quite-spectacular effort.  Indeed, with a nice big number like 108, there is a luxury of some failures.

And so we hearken back to a previously mentioned rule – that I am the sole arbiter of what constitutes another bread in the series. Might be a do-over on this one.

Three days later
Have a suspicion that when this bread is made, will be quite glad that it was not Bread Number One. Depression would have set in and I might never have made it to number two, let alone 108. Right at this moment, it is baking in the oven. Not optimistic. The second rise finished with the dough looking a little thicker than a lumpy pancake. It went from nice, boule shaped to pancake like pretty quickly. Convinced that something in that first rise in a two-small bowl and trapped in plastic all contributed to what is likely to be a debacle. On other hand, if only smashing successes, will not be learning much. Also want a few good breads out of this. Even 50 successful breads would be a bit much. Rationalizing totally.

Also apologies to the authors of the Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day book. Except for the initial dough preparation, the other stuff takes two minutes at most. So, a half hour a week, plus a couple of minutes any other day is about as minimal as one can expect and still have home-baked bread.

Also apologies for what seems to be a truly awful attempt at their master recipe healthy bread. Did not rise; it is a bit higher than a flat board bread, though more lumpy. Would taste it, but am already full and as the description suggests, this bread’s appearance is not a selling point.

About to take the bread out of the oven and am ready to throw out the rest of this batch of dough.

[Storefront in London.]

Next day – a taste test
Hesitated repeatedly and now bracing myself for the taste test. Surprising. First, the crust is wonderful – hard and crunchy. There are tons of air holes inside. Fantastic. Tastes light, but too spongy, especially considering the pathetic rise. I will do a do over and hope it actually rises next time.

My husband commented on a funny taste, which, am pretty sure, is the high yeast amount in this bread as compared with my usual whole wheat. Might try one of the very low-yeast suggestions, which only requires a longer first rise, something I am doing anyway.

Seeing some future possibilities
P.S. Reading the new book, which is a whole different philosophy of bread making, very concentrated on a variety of whole grains. Has wonderful descriptions of grain properties and must-have baking tools. Already starting a list.

P.P.S. Due to the positive aspects of the Bread Number Three dough, decided to check out the extensive troubleshooting chapter of Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day. This chapter builds upon the very helpful baking-for-dummies approach to the book, which helps tremendously. They do not use such terms as proofing or doubling in size of dough, specialized concepts (at least to me) that are difficult to execute in the real world of inexperienced people.

So, the suggestion for a wet dough that does not rise well is to mix in more flour. Makes sense, especially with the additional advice of adding time to the second, or pre-baking, rise. Also, since this is a do-over of sorts, am using flour on the pizza peel to slide the dough directly onto the baking stone, eschewing my parchment paper, to which I am very addicted.

Three hours later:

A personal triumph, if you consider the possibility that a triumph can be relative, and yes, if a triumph can be declared before tasting the bread.

So, followed the instructions in the book, adding the recommended amount of flour, then allowing the dough to sit out for longer than the standard time of 90 minutes so that the added flour, mixed with the dough, would have sufficient time to ferment. Ferment, scherment, whatever. The dough was as wet, as spread out, as the first attempt with this batch.

Channeled the inner Sarah Palin, went rogue, so to speak, relying on my experience with bread-machine-produced dough, and just added a bunch more flour, maybe another quarter cup, and manipulated the dough with my hands more than the book advises. Slid that puppy onto the baker’s stone in the 450-degree oven, poured the large cup of ice into the pan on the bottom rack – and waited – until the timer alarm shouted out 30 minutes – before I looked. I am nothing if not superstitious. Not one peek until the loud bleeping. Deep breath, donned the oven mitts, and opened the door. There it was, beautiful as all get out, and risen way, way, way beyond the lumpy blob of the first batch. It looked like a nice, small loaf of real bread, albeit not as shapely as one would expect an artisan bread. Who cares. A weird shape makes it unmistakably homemade.

Will taste with dinner.

After dinner:
High praise from the spouse that bread is as good as any artisanal stuff we’ve bought. Still, finding it a bit spongy. Needed better first rise, more time in oven, weird result of the vital wheat gluten? Confused.

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