Bread Diaries

I’ve been trying to learn to bake bread.  Real bread, with yeast in it (quick breads, like banana breads, are much easier – I do those all the time).  It has been hit and miss so far.

Here’s my base recipe:

2 cups all-purpose enriched unbleached flour
1 cup bread flour (or all-purpose flour, if you do not have bread flour)
1 teaspoon yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 cup sugar
1 cup warm milk
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 – 1/2 cup lukewarm water

(Taken from here.)

Directions:

1. Mix ingredients and knead for about 7-10 min.

2. Put in an oiled bowl and let it rise for 90 minutes.

3. Punch down and form loaf.  Let it rise another hour or so.

4. Put a pan of water in the bottom of the oven to create a crispy crust.  Bake at 350 for 40-45 min. until the bottom sounds hollow when you tap it.

Attempt 1: Whole Wheat Bread

I used only whole wheat flour.  I also used molasses instead of sugar.  The first rise was 90 minutes, the second was 60.

The bread came out very dense.  I should have used more yeast to compensate for the whole wheat flour.  Also, I didn’t punch it down enough and I let it rise too long on the second time, so it was pretty much done rising before it went into the oven – bad news.

Verdict: I liked the flavor, B thought it was too dense.  Eventually made good French toast.

Attempt 2: The Cheese Bread

Having learned my lessons, I used 2.5 c. white flour and 1/2 c. whole wheat.  I increased the yeast to 2 tsp. and used brown sugar instead of molasses or white sugar.  I also used buttermilk because I was out of plain.  The first rise was 90 min.  When I punched it down, I rolled it out and put cheese (shredded sharp cheddar) on the middle third, then folded the two sides over.  Then I put a little more cheese on and rolled it up.  The second rise was 45 minutes.

Verdict: Airy and awesome, with just enough bite to the crust.  If I had one complaint, it would be that the cheese wasn’t randomly distributed throughout the bread enough (should add some in during the flour mixing stage).

Attempt 3: Cinnamon Bread

Oh boy, just when I thought I had this nailed…

I again split the flour 2.5/.5, but I sprinkled the bread with whole wheat instead of white when I kneaded it (last week I used white).  Two tsp yeast, brown sugar, and plain milk instead of buttermilk.  I also put some cinnamon, cloves, and pumpkin pie spice in the flour.  Then after it was rising, I checked out another post that said that cinnamon retards the yeast, so you should use more when making a cinnamon bread!  Oops.  That said, I’m not sure I would have known the difference if I hadn’t read that.

After the first rise, I rolled it out and moistened the top with water.  Then I sprinkled on a mixture of cinnamon and white sugar (maybe 2 T. and 3/8 c.?).  I rolled it up, then decided it was too long and thin and flattened it and rolled it up again.  I think that was a mistake.  When I baked it, the sugar melted and a lot came out on the baking sheet because I didn’t adequately tuck the ends.  Also, the bread was too tall and there was an undercooked spot in the middle.  I’m not worried because it has no eggs, but it seemed unprofessional.

Verdict: B thought it was great.  I am slightly less pleased than I was last week…but I have to admit it is tasty bread, with a nice crumb and enough cinnamon to be noticeable.  I will have to come up with a better technique for rolling it.

Well, back to the drawing board.

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