Thursday, March 11, 2010

Shake and bake

So, what have I been up to lately, now that school is over? Not much, really. One thing that I have been getting back into is baking bread. For some reason, cookies and cakes have never held my interest, but I love to bake breads and pies. Last year at some point, I bought this book:

and I've been very happy with it. If you read the reviews, they talk about how it's really a cursory look at breads, and professionals or people who really want to get into the nitty-gritty of bread baking might not like it. Well, that's fine for me; I want to be able to bake lots of tasty breads from scratch (no bread machine), but I also don't want to invest a tremendous amount of time and money in techniques and equipment.

What have I made so far? Lots of stuff. I made two different types of wheat breads, two types of French bread (one which turned out beautifully and of course I have no pictures of), a light and buttery white bread that was really excellent, an orange-cinnamon bread, hamburger buns, and English muffins.

Although most of my breads have turned out pretty well, I have learned a few things that make a difference. 1) Room temperature ingredients make a big difference. If you start with cold eggs and butter, the batter doesn't come together right and your bread won't rise as well. 2) For a good rising place, turn the oven on warm for 1 minute, and then leave the bread in there, covered by a damp towel. Works every time. 3) One I'm still working on: I think my oven runs a little hot, especially if I allow it to fully pre-heat. The English muffins that I made yesterday came out a little dark. Not burnt, but dark enough that if you want to toast them once they're halved, the toaster might burn them. This is not the first time I've had this experience; some of my other breads have either come out dark or I pulled them out a little early.

I have a picture of the English muffins that I would like to post, but unfortunately, my camera batteries died. I think I need to get some new ones, as it seems these rechargeables are no longer holding a charge (they are 3 or 4 years old, after all). So instead, I will leave you with some pics of my other breads.

Molasses-wheat bread. I liked it, but it wasn't my fav.

Hamburger buns. Oh my gosh, they were awesome. I will never buy those soft mushy things from the store again.


craftosaurus said...

The orange-cinnamon bread intrigues me. Was it any good?

L said...

It was really good. It was kind of like a cinnamon roll, but not quite so sweet. The topping was an orange flavored icing, which made it sweeter.

Lynn said...

Wow, I said I was going to bake a lot of bread this winter, but it never happened. I guess I still have a few months of snud (snow&mud&crud) left to give it a try.

L said...

Lynn, go for it! It's one of the things that is bringing me solace when I'm reading "Oh my gosh, it's spring!" on everybody's Facebook status.

Matt said...

I definitely love baking bread, but don't seem to find as much time to do so as I'd like. Maybe after I'm done with school I can devote more time to such pursuits.

Tangentially related, have you read The One-Straw Revolution? I've had it recommended by several people, and the gist of Mr. Fukuoka's approach to growing grains sounds admirable. I think I have an Amazon gift card on the way. I'll have to see if it's worth the hype I've been hearing.

The only thing that stifles my love of baking (and consuming) bread, if only slightly, is that it takes so much space and so many resources to grow the grains to make the flour.

I've also uncovered some shade-grown grains, which could add an interesting twist the the whole problem. I'll just have to research more...