Monday, January 17, 2011

Bread Baking Recap

You want to know something that I have been loving lately?
Cottage cheese!
As a child, I thought of cottage cheese as something my aunt made us eat when we came over to her house. It was questionably lumpy, sour, and yet, still liquidy. I never really ate it much in my childhood for that reason. My mom eats it almost every morning sprinkled with savory seasonings. Probably around a year ago I thought I wanted to give cottage cheese another shot, so I bought myself a container. Yeah, still was not a fan. Then, randomly this week I decided "Hey, I want to try cottage cheese again!". I got some of the small curd low fat variety, knowing that it would probably go to waste, but for some reason I really wanted to give it another go.
Now I can't get enough of the stuff, I've been craving it every morning! So far I have only tried it in sweet applications as opposed to savory and since I'm loving the sweet way so much I don't really want to use any up any other way!
So far I have eaten it with crushed pineapple (leftover from the carrot cake)-
With canned mandarin orange wedges-
And with lemon curd & blueberries (the classic combo)-
 MMM! I've had cottage cheese every morning since I got this stuff, it may be the new greek yogurt for me:P
Of course my, by far, favorite combination was the lemon curd and blueberries but that's just because lemon curd and blueberries would taste good on a pile of cow patties.
I have been baking up a storm lately, making bread left and right. I did have some flops, for sure, but for the most part I have made some really good loaves that have been demolished by my family! All of these loafs were in the course of a week, to give you a time frame.
Sandwich bread!
I used the same recipe that I linked to in this post. When I first made this bread I noticed that the interior was very soft and fluffy and that the crust was very light and not very hard. These sounded like perfect characteristics for fluffy sandwich bread! The only thing I did differently from the first time was use more whole wheat flour and less white bread flour (I used a total of 1/2 cup bread flour). I love this dough because it rises so beautifully!
Check it out when I put it in the pan-
That small piece of dough turned into this-
Having had problems with (not)rising bread before, this was already a big feat for me.
Out of the oven, and lookin' fabulous-
I had to tent it with foil because it was starting to get too brown.
The loaf looked good as is but my mom suggested I rub a little bit of butter on there to give it some extra shine. I wanted to keep the crust soft, too, so I thought that rubbing it with a little butter would be a great idea.
Could it look any less perfect?! I couldn't wait to get a couple slices and make a sandwich out of but I knew I had to wait to let it cool completely...putting it in the refrigerator isn't cheating, right? Good.
After I cut a piece, I examined my work.
Mmm...perfect. Just what I was looking for: fluffy and soft.
I made a chicken salad sandwich that had chicken (duh), green onions, spicy mustard, sweet pickle relish, toasted almonds, and a little vegan non fat mayo to hold it together.
Topped off with tomato slices and romaine lettuce!
I was really happy with this sandwich bread. My family was scarfing it up so I decided I should probably just slice it into sandwich slices and put it in the freezer before it disappears (good idea). Sadly, my slicing skills aren't up to par so the slices were a little haphazard, but oh well!

Second loaf I made was from the same recipe except I used the 2 pound version, which I hadn't used before. The proportion of applesauce to egg is slightly different in the 2 pound version, and I think that actually had an impact on how well (or not so well) it raised. My plan was to make one free form loaf and one sub roll. I could tell they weren't rising as well as my sandwich bread so I let them go a little longer. A little too long. I shook the board to see if they could move (so they can slide onto the pizza stone in the oven) but instead of moving, they gave out a big sigh and deflated!! ARG!
I pounded out all the air that was left and set them to rise again. They rose, but just not as well. I figured it was either now or never for me to put them into the oven. I slashed my free form loaf and it ended up deflating a bunch. At this point I had the "screw it" mentality and was just going to put the dough into the oven regardless.
Here's the loaf after it was all done-
Pretty! I washed it with a little egg yolk wash to give it that nice shine and to harden the crust a little. I was still concerned that it was going to be super dense but just put it in the freezer to save it for a later date.
And the sub role?

Not so pretty... I ended up cutting this in half and it looked a tad dense in the middle.. oh well. I put it in the freezer so I can use one of the halves to make myself a sub like you get at subway :P

The next loaf I ended up making was a whole wheat sourdough bread. It required a sour that had to sit out on the counter for a couple days, and then you had to use some of that sour to make a starter that would sit out for 12-16 hours depending on how sour you want your sourdough. Then you knead together the starter with some additional flour and yeast along with salt.
Let's just say I had problems. All was going well until there was the kneading step. Let me get this straight, I can't knead! For some weird reason I can never get my dough to work when I try making it sans machine. Also, I didn't realize the dough was supposed to be a very lax, sticky dough so I probably added an additional cup or more of flour while kneading just so the dough would stop sticking to everything! Yeah, that definitely messed it up. The dough ending up not rising that much; so much that I refused to bake it. We ended up eating the bread I made earlier in the week instead(shown above). With this meal prepared by my mom-
steak, zucchini, my bread
On a side note- that bread that I thought was going to be too dense (in the photo)? Yeah, it was perfect! My sis thought it was store bought. :D
Back to the sourdough-I was so frustrated that I spent so much time making this dough and that it was just such a failure. My dad finally got me to my senses. He told me "You've gotten so far along, why stop now when all you have to do is put it in the oven?". Exactly, why stop now?? Even though I was baking them, I didn't really attempt for them to look pretty. I did no egg wash or even slash them. In fact, I let em cook at 450 degrees with no steam method! I never decreased the temperature and just put a temperature reader into one of them, closed the door, and let it cook till the temperature reader beeped that it had reached 200 degrees. Talk about not caring! I removed the loaves from the oven and called it a night.
Curiosity got the best of me. I just had to see what they looked like in the inside. So I cut a piece and,man, was it dense! But really, it wasn't inedibley dense, just a good dense. I took a bite and wow! It actually tastes good! It tastes really good! Sorry, but I never took a picture of the loaves because they were awfully ugly.

I wasn't going to give up without a fight, so I attempted to make the sourdough again the very next day. This time, I was going to use the dough blade on my food processor to knead instead of by hand. Oh, and use the proper amount of flour. It rose more than attempt #1 but still not as much as I would like. I applied an egg wash, slashed it, and baked it with care.
And out came this lovely!
Well actually, it made two loaves but by the time I got around to taking pictures, the other one was eaten! This bread was perfect. I've never had a whole wheat sourdough and the taste was like nothing else..usually I like to eat bread with butter, a spread, or seasonings, but this one I loved just plain. I decided to do a side by side comparison of my fail loaf and the good loaf-
Good loaf on the left, fail(ish) on the right.
You can tell the structure is much better on attempt #2 and the crust is golden and soft compared to grey and rock hard. We had my sourdough along with a beef strew (stoup?) that my mom made-
Look at that texture!
Whole wheat sourdough = favorite so far
I'd love to share the recipe but I followed one from The Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book. It was a very long and laborious process, though, I'll tell you that!

My next loaf was French bread!
I wanted to make homemade garlic bread for a chicken piccata dish I was planning on making for dinner. I searched in my breadbook and came across a whole wheat french bread that fit the bill perfectly. This bread dough is very delicate, as it can not get above 70 degrees at any time (except for when baking, of course)! Apparently, if it goes above 70 the flavor will become very bland. This made it hard for me, since I was using a food processor, which can increase the temperature of the dough by quite a lot out of shear friction. I think I may have gotten it over 70 accidentally, but I made sure to add only ice water while mixing to keep the temperature down. Since the temperature must be kept so low, it has very long rises (first one takes 3 hours!). It was all worth it, because after everything was said and done, I got a very pretty loaf that rose nicely!

So cute!!

Crusty on the outside, fluffy on the inside.
To make this "garlic bread" I cut the loaf in half lengthwise, and put a mixture of butter,salt, garlic powder, minced fresh garlic, dried oregano, and fresh parsley on both sides of the halves. I then put the halves under the broiler for a little bit to toast it up. Put the halves together again and viola! I like making my own garlic bread because the ones at the store seem to have way too much butter..this way I can decide how much (and use my beloved Brummel & Brown!).
For the chicken piccata, I pounded chicken breast thin, cut them into smaller pieces, and seasoned them with salt and pepper. Then they were dredged lightly in flour and cooked in a little oil in a pan. In that same pan I made the sauce which included lemon zest, lemon juice, chicken stock, garlic, capers, a bit of brummel and brown, and a bit of flour to thicken it up.
Garnished with parsley!
I make a mean chicken piccata, if I do say so myself :P
And my bread, of course!
All served with some perfectly steamed green beans, compliments of costco.
I loved this french bread! It had the best texture out of all the other breads so far (but I still think the winner of best taste goes to the sourdough) and a great crust.
 Loved it!
Although it takes a combined total of 6 hours to rise, it creates magic. Next time I think I will make the loaf longer and thinner so I can get more of that amazing crust!

That's all my bread baking (for now) and I think the lesson learned is that it's always going to take a long time but in the end its worth it. If it doesn't work out, don't worry! Flour is cheap, and if it's completely inedible then there's always the "make into bread crumbs" route. And if it's anywhere near edible, then it will be gobbled up, no time, in this house.

Goodnight! <3

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