Sunday, April 26, 2009

More Cinnamon Raisin Bread


I made this cinnamon raisin bread today. The recipe was fairly simple and straightforward, again from The Bread Baker's Apprentice The final bread was very soft, packed with raisins and walnuts giving it great texture and wonderful flavor. However, I think that I like my cinnamon raisin bread recipe that I previously posted about a bit better. Its sweeter and the wheat flour and raisin combination is just the right texture for my tongue.
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Big Rock Sourdough


I know, I know, no one has ever heard of Big Rock Sourdough. It certainly won't be sweeping the nation like San Francisco Sourdough, but it was a tasty creation in my kitchen this weekend. The crust was crusty, the inside was nice and chewy. The crumb was tight. The sour flavor was a bit light if you are one who really enjoys sour sourdough but perfect for me. I have to admit, I am so excited about this bread. About 6 months ago I tried making a barm of wild yeast and I thought I was successful. However, once I made my bread, it did not raise and was extremely dense. I developed a bit of a fear of sourdough then. I mean, it takes days to build a barm and then more days to develop your dough. The thought of so much time and so many ingredients wasted for a terrible bread I had to throw away anyway. At least when I bake a cake and it fails, I know within a few hours. But, I talked myself into trying it again. All these months of making other successful breads, all the while knowing that sourdough had gotten the better of me. I received Peter Reinhart's A Bread Baker's Apprentice and Crust and Crumb for Christmas, and it has really kicked my bread baking up a notch. I followed his instructions for a wild yeast starter and consequently used his recipe for a basic sourdough and it turned out fabulous. However, I have to confess, I did end up spiking the final dough with a bit of yeast only because on the day everything came together, I did not have four hours to wait for it to raise. I needed it to raise within a couple of hours and the additional yeast did just that. Next time though, I will make it on a weekend and really try and let my wild yeast do their thing for even more flavor. I think this baby was enough of a success that I am going to submit it to Susan at Wild Yeast for this week's YeastSpotting

Sourdough Bread
adapted from The Bread Baker's Apprentice

Starter
4 oz (2/3 cup) barm (room temperature)
4-5 oz (1 cup) bread flour
1-2 oz (1/8 -1/4 cup) water

Dough
20.25 oz (4 1/2 cups) bread flour
.5 oz (2 tsp) salt
14 oz (1 3/4 cup) lukewarm water (you may use a little less or more)
1 tsp instant yeast (sorry, I didn't weigh this one, it was a last minute thought)
Directions:Mix together the barm and the flour. Then add only enough water to make it form a firm ball. Allow to ferment at room temperature until doubled. For my dough this took about 6 hours. If your home is a bit warmer or colder than mine it will take more or less time. Stick the starter in the fridge overnight.

When you are ready to make your final dough, be sure to take your starter out of the fridge at least an hour ahead of time. Mix together the salt, flour, water, and chunks of the starter until everything comes together.

Knead the dough either by hand or with a mixer until it is fully developed. Allow bread to raise until double. If you used instant yeast, this will take about 2 hours. If you are counting on your wild yeast, this step will take longer.

Shape dough as desired. At this point you can bench proof your bread or you can put in the refrigerator overnight. I put mine in the refrigerator overnight and it worked wonderfully.

If refrigerating, be sure to take it out at least an hour before baking (if using instant yeast, longer if you are only using wild yeast). Score as desired.

Bake at 500 degrees for 10 minutes and then turn down the heat to 450 degrees and bake until done.


Sunday, April 19, 2009

Hawaiian Bread





My uncle emailed me this recipe after a church dinner where my husband went to town on some King's Hawaiian Bread. This recipe is from cdkitchen.com and is supposed to taste just like King's Hawaiian Bread. I have to admit, it tastes pretty dang good. It was light and fluffy. It reminded me of white bread but with a hint of sweetness from the pineapple juice. I was eating it all day yesterday, not even taking the time to butter it, but just pulling it apart in chunks and enjoying it plain. I don't know if I would go so far as to say that it tastes just like the stuff you would get at the store, but it is worth making. However, after reading the reviews of this recipe it seemed like it was going to be a difficult bread to bake. Now, generally speaking, I was never one to read reviews. I just didn't; it took to much time. However, my husband is a big review reader. Until meeting him, I would just show up at the movie theater and watch whatever movie was playing at the time I was there. This is not the case with D. Reviews have to be read to help make an informed opinion on things whether its movies, books, or the latest piece of woodworking equipment. To be perfectly honest, since meeting him, I watch better movies. Now he's got me doing it and the reviews on the website for this bread are a little scary. Perhaps the directions were confusing to people, so I will try and explain some of the things that it seems people ran into trouble with.

Hawaiian Bread
makes three round loaves
7 cups flour (I used bread flour)
3 eggs
1 cup pineapple juice
1 cup water
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp ginger
1 tsp vanilla
2 packages yeast (I used 4 1/2 tsp instant yeast)
1 stick melted margarine

Mix the ingredients together in a large bowl. Because of the large amount of flour, it will be tricky to just use a spoon. I have a stand mixer, so once it became too difficult to stir with the spoon, I used my dough hook to help finish. Let raise until double. Turn out on a floured surface and knead 10 times (see note number 4). Divide dough and shape as desired. I made two round loves and five rolls. Allow to raise until double. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes.

Notes
1. The original recipe called for 6 cups of flour. I found that that made a very wet dough so I went ahead and added another cup. It's still more of a wet dough then I am used to for a white bread, but very workable. I don't believe that the extra flour weighed it down too much and it didn't dry it out, so I think that it was a worthwhile addition.

2. The recipe does not indicate what kind of yeast you are supposed to have two packages of. In reading the directions, it does not tell you to proof the yeast so my immediate opinion was that you should use instant yeast because it does not need to be proofed. I used instant yeast and it rose wonderfully. I used 4 1/2 tsp of instant yeast and D. commented that it tasted a little yeasty so you may be able to cut the yeast back a bit. Instant yeast has more live yeast cells than active dry yeast, so you tend to need less of it. The lack of detail seemed to confuse people, so if you use instant yeast, you do not need to proof it. If you use active dry yeast, you should proof it in about 1/4 cup of warm (110 degrees Fahrenheit) water. Remember that if you proof your yeast in water, then take that amount of water from the amount that you put in (your total water should equal 1 cup).

3.) There were several comments from people about changes that they made that I do not think probably make a huge difference in the success or failure of the bread, so you probably do not need to stress about making these minor changes. The recipe calls for plain flour (I assume they mean all-purpose). I used bread flour and it worked fine. Use whichever you have. Some people said they used butter instead of margarine. In this case, I do not think that it matters that much. Possibly the taste will be a bit different and your salt content will change, depending on whether or not you use salted or unsalted butter. Some people also said they used more pineapple juice and less water. Again, that doesn't really matter much. As long as your liquid is around 2 cups, you should be fine. If you add more pineapple juice, it will taste more pineapplely, but the finished product should look about the same.

4.) Telling you to knead 10 times is weird to me. It never made any sense. Actually, I was never sure how long you were supposed to knead bread dough until I read Peter Reinhart's book Crust and Crumb. He recommends using the windowpane test to see if your bread is fully developed. What you do is take a small piece of dough and stretch is between your two hands trying to create a thin piece of dough. If you are able to stretch it and get it so thin that you can see through it, you have fully developed dough. If you stretch it and it breaks before it becomes translucent, then you need to knead a bit longer. This trick has really worked great for me, my bread had been prettier and tastier ever since.

Hopefully these tips help relieve some of the confusion. It is so tough sometimes to look at a recipe and a short list of directions and be able to create something wonderful.
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Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Brown Sugar Bear



A few years ago, as a part of a wedding shower gift, I received a Brown Sugar Bear. It was a small gift given to me by my sister. We both knew the meaning: no more lumpy brown sugar! Even my mom was excited for me over this small token gift. Growing up in northern Illinois, we had the most humid summers. My mom's brown sugar was always hard and lumpy. My sister and I always struggled to measure the appropriate amounts of the sugar because of the stiff chunks that would not pack. While one of us was stirring vigorously to remove the lumps, the other would steal them from the bag and pop them in her mouth for a sweet treat while baking.

Sure enough, the Brown Sugar Bear did its job. My brown sugar has no more lumps. Soft and fluffy, it always packs into the measuring cup. There was no more guesses as to how much brown sugar was still needed. Consequently, no more snitching brown sugar lumps. I never knew that I would miss those little sweet pebbles until today, for some reason my Brown Sugar Bear was left out of the bag and my brown sugar was a solid lump. I worked and worked to get out the 1/2 cup I needed to bake some peanut butter cookies. When I threw it into the mix, my batter was then full of lumps. I beat and crushed until there was no remaining lumps.

As I was putting the brown sugar away, I fished out a lump and put it in my mouth. Nostalgia waved over me. Memories of baking cookies with my mom and sister. Of learning fractions with measuring spoons and arguing over who got to stir. Memories of Christmas cookie baking parties and snitches of dough. I bake because it relaxes me, but it just really sunk in today, the reason it relaxes me is because I had so many amazing experiences in the past that involved baking. It always makes me sad when people say they never baked with anyone growing up because I was lucky enough to bake with everyone growing up. French toast with one grandma, cookies and cakes with the other. My aunt taught me to make the most amazing fudge. But it was my mom who taught me the most, with whom I have the most baking memories. I am lucky in this sense, because even though I bake alone in my own kitchen, I still have all of their happy feelings and it soothes me.

So, dear Brown Sugar Bear, thank you for making my brown sugar soft, but once in awhile its nice to remember the sweetness of lumpy brown sugar.
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