Bread Baking Breakdown

Try saying that title five times fast. Yesterday was a slow and lazy day. It was one of those nights when I woke up way too early and lay awake for a long time before getting back to sleep. That's never very conducive to an energetic day. I got my hair cut fairly early. After all the whining I've done about my hair, I have to say that I'm really happy with the new stylist I started seeing back in August. Yesterday, I think she may have given me the haircut of my dreams. It's cut in a wedge. Hair stylists always put too much goop on my hair, and so I washed it after I got home. Then, I crossed my fingers hoping that, with my hair dyslexia, I could still style it the way she did. And I did it! I've yet to get a very good picture of it, but if I continue to be happy, I might post one soon. For now, I want to see if it's only a dream I had in my sleepy haze.

Mike was off doing other things, but when he came home, he made each of us a Spanish coffee. It's a tradition on winter days. We were celebrating the Winter Solstice.

That was enough to cause me to snuggle up under a quilt with Sadie and take a long winter's nap.

When I woke up, I was in a mood to try some more bread-baking. I'm still planning to make my way through the Bread Baker's Apprentice, but if I follow the formulas in alphabetical order, as they are listed in the book, the next one up is bagels. I didn't bake these, although I hope to bake some like these some day, minus the sesame seeds and poppy seeds, of course. We just say "no" to seeds of all kinds here at the Three Cats Ranch.

So, if one can circle quilts in anticipation of their difficulty, one can also circle bread dough. That's where I am with the bagels right now...circling. Never have I made a bagel. Never have I seen one made. I know that boiling is involved. Now, leave me in peace while I gird up my loins.

Instead, I decided to try something else. On the bread baking Facebook groups I've been following, folks are making the most beautiful no-knead breads. They are baked in cast iron Dutch ovens. After making the Crusty Cranberry Walnut Bread several years back (and again recently), I purchased this book:

Yesterday, I decided to try his basic loaf. It was made from 3 cups of bread flour, 1 1/4 teaspoons of salt, 1/4 teaspoon of instant yeast, and 1 1/3 cups of water. When that was all mixed up, it looked like this.

A few Christmas's ago, Erik and Mae gave me a proofing box from Brod & Taylor. (You can read about it right here.) In our cold climate, it creates a little warm sanctuary for bread to rise. I can't always use it because the container I'm using to proof the bread sometimes doesn't fit (for example, a rimmed baking sheet is too large). Generally, I'm using my large Pyrex bowl or else a loaf pan when I'm using the proofing box. This particular dough was supposed to proof for 18 hours...through the night when the furnace is turned down low. Definitely, this was a job for the proofing box. 

Well, the dough was stiff and hard to mix, and there was barely enough water to moisten 3 cups of bread flour. When I got up and checked it this morning, it looked like this:

You might be saying to yourself, "That looks exactly like the 'before' picture." And you would be right...it IS the same picture. Ha! You guys are too smart. I can't fool you. Anyway...it wouldn't have mattered. Even if I'd taken an actual "after" picture, the result would have been the same. The only difference was that now, there were dry lumps of flour poking through the skin that had formed on the dough. There was no way I was going to put that lump of dried up play-dough in the oven.

Undaunted, I decided to try again. After perusing some of the other recipes in the book, I decided to use the same amount of flour, but twice as much yeast, and a little more water. This morning's mixture looks better distributed. Also, I put it in a large glass pyrex measuring cup so that I could measure whether it had risen. 

Now, I'm back to giving it another 18-24 hours to rise. According to the book's author, the fermentation time is everything for this bread, and provides it with its flavor. We'll see. If it fails again, I might donate the book on my next Goodwill run.

So there you have it. A relaxing day of nothing accomplished...although I did get my hair cut, so that's something. Today promises to be much of the same. I'll get a head start on our family dinner for Saturday. A few things can be done ahead. Otherwise, it's going to be a day much like yesterday...very little accomplished other than a healthy dose of relaxation.

12 comments from clever and witty friends:

Marei said...

This recipe works every time...3 c ap flour, 1.75 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp yeast (rapid rise works great) and 1.5 c water. Try that. Just mix..it'll be kind is shaggy. Left covered with plastic for 12-18 he's and bake off in a bit...450*...oven for 45 minutes. First 30 with lid on...last 15 uncovered.

Debbie said...

Oh, um.....I've had a few of those happen too. Ghastly isn't it? Much prefer the old tried and true recipes. I have about 4 variations that I use over and over. Rosemary with Sea Salt crust is our favorite.....just a basic herb bread that I add fresh rosemary to, spritz with olive oil and top with sea salt and bit of rosemary.

Vroomans' Quilts said...

And this is why I would rather go support my local bakery (she's so much better at it than me). The relaxation part of the day - got that down pat and plan to keep up with the plan. I am doing a roast in the crockpot for Christmas - no muss, no fuss and anyone who comes is 'suppose' to bring something for the meal. My Mom has the 'orange' box of scalloped potatoes.

claudia said...

Bread Baking Breakdown Yep. I tried to say that one time fast and failed! And I tried it before I read your first sentence. Then, I kept looking at the "two" pictures of the bread dough. Um...they ARE the same! Just like you said, AFTER I compared the two. You got me. Or is it the lack of sleep here at my ranch!
I got nothing much done today. Oh wait! I did start cutting and sewing another quilt top. I'll post pictures one of these days, when I have something purtier to post.
Oh yes...I lost 5.4 pounds! That makes 11 pounds all together for three weeks. I have to brag, I am so excited!!!

Brown Family said...

Good luck on the bread. At least you have no qualms of tossing it all and starting over.

Charlotte M. said...

Do not be afraid of bagels Barbara. I watched my daughter make them and the boiling part is pretty easy actually. I know you can do it. Merry Christmas.

Doreen Auger said...

I much prefer working with a starter/pre-ferment. I have done the cast iron Dutch oven baking and it turns out well. I've always baked our bread but really got into it many years ago when I discovered "Artisan Bread in 5". I was still working and having the dough all mixed and ready to bake when needed was a HUGE advantage!!!!!! Their website is full of baking ideas. The challah recipe is "to die for"!!!!

Wendy Tuma said...

Well, I'm glad you have found a hair stylist to your liking. I'm also like you in that I hate all that gunk in my hair! Looking forward to seeing a pic! I haven't made bread for awhile, but I sure do know the frustration when things don't do what they're supposed to. Add in the cooler season we're in, and the challenge just increases! Merry Christmas -- enjoy your time with family! Wendy at piecefulthoughts@gmail.com

Nita said...

I have a no-knead recipe that I make now and again. It takes 24 hours & is really sticky before baking. I bake it in a dutch oven and it comes out beautiful every time. I haven't made it in over a year now. When I get home after Christmas I'll send you the recipe.

Susan said...

Ahh, relaxation. Just what we need this time of year. I am enjoying reading about and seeing your bread baking journey. Have a wonderful holiday with your family.

quiltzyx said...

Hope the no-knead bread part deux behaves as it should. That's something I will leave to you. ;)

Kate said...

Sounds like you and Mike have gotten a good start on your relaxing holiday.