Fun with Bread

Following a power outage in our building, the routers are a bit screwy. This gives me a few free minutes to write about a hobby I’ve recently taken up: Bread. I’ve never baked my own bread before a few weeks ago (in fact I have never used yeast before). While there are a lot of great references out there, I decided to follow Julia Child’s french bread recipe in The Way to Cook, at least in part because I trust this book, and in part because Julia advises the cook to use a food processor (which I have) rather than a stand mixer (which I don’t have). After mixing, resting, hand kneading, first rise (40 minutes) and second rise (two hours) I got to shape the dough, and this is the most interesting part. The technique needed to create the long thin baguettes seemed a little complex for my taste, so I elected to divide the dough in half and create two round loaves. The trick here is to create a “gluten cloak”– a tightly pulled web of long gluten strands– on the smooth side of the round (this will ultimately be the top of the round). Then the dough rises again in its shaped form; the last step before baking in a 450° oven on a stone is “slashing” the dough with a razor blade– this allows some of steam to escape and looks nice in the final product. Here’s one loaf from my first batch:



I also made Julia Child’s recipe for hamburger buns, which is a lot of work (sadly, no pictures). The results were very nice, however, and they looked especially great painted with some egg wash and dusted with sesame seeds. A few weeks later I made another batch of french loaves:




Most recently I tried the America’s Test Kitchen sandwich bread recipe. This is a
nice quick recipe: if you are well organized you could execute it start to finish in just over
two hours. The bread includes milk, butter, and honey, which makes for a soft, slightly sweet, slightly yellow bread which I found to be better than anything available at the supermarket:



Once the hot weather breaks I hope to do some more experiments: I think the french
bread could be better– it’s a little dense and the little air pockets in the bread are a
bit too fine and too uniform, I think…

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