Before I could get started with the baking, however, I had to read about 100 pages learning about bread-baking in general. It was interesting reading through all of that, and I learned a lot, but my impatience to start baking grew every time I turned a page. In the meantime, I drooled over some of the breads in this book.
Then, the other day I saw this new book online, and of course, I needed it instantly. Gotta love Amazon "Buy with One-Click" to keep your bank account always in arrears.
While we were camping last weekend, I went through each page in the book, salivating over the many selections.
And don't even get me started on the yummy recipes in this book, already in my collection:
Oh yes, and don't forget this one. In fact, I blame King Arthur Flour for this whole thing, what with their selection of specialty flours and then opening a baking school in Washington.
Those are just the cookbooks. Then there are the bread-baking groups online and the Breadtopia website. So what's a consummate baker to do but get baking?
Here's the thing: Baking is just like quilting. There are simply too many breads to be baked and not nearly enough years left in my life to bake all of them. And all of that to say that I'm abandoning my original goal of baking every loaf in the Bread Baker's Apprentice book simply because all of those books and websites and groups I just mentioned have presented too many shiny objects for me to continue plodding through breads I'm not really interested in. I'm just going to bake whatever and whenever the mood strikes...which will be often. So there. I've said it. I'm a quitter, but it's for a good cause; namely, more bread.
The other thing I've realized about bread baking is that most of these breads have little to no fat or sugar, and so baking bread satisfies my urge to bake something without adding a lot of calories to our diet. After all, we'd be eating bread regardless. With that in mind, you might already know that I started yesterday trying again on the Artisan Sourdough No-Knead Bread that failed several weeks back. Since then I've figured out that over proofing was my problem. Also since then, the starter has matured and become tantalizingly vigorous. I showed you this picture yesterday:
I left the house shortly after that, but had the presence of mind to set it on a salad plate. It was a good thing because in the intervening three hours, it overflowed the jar and made quite a mess...all contained on the salad plate, fortunately. It's the first time that's happened to me, although I've seen it happen to others online. Obviously, this is the most vigorous starter I've worked with to date.
So, when I got home, I mixed up the bread dough and started it rising.
It was supposed to take 10-14 hours (even as much as 18 hours) to rise. It was nearly 4:30 p.m. when I got it mixed up, and (keeping in mind the over proofing issue) I put it in the refrigerator after 5 1/2 hours to be started again this morning. After just a couple of hours this morning, it had risen nicely and was getting bubbly on top.
I decided to call it quits and move on to step 2, which was folding and resting for 15 minutes (not looking so spunky now, is it?)
and then shaping and placing it in a banneton for a second rise.
The second rise was supposed to take 1 1/2 hours. I checked it after one hour and it hadn't done much, so I ended up giving it an extra hour. By the time the oven had preheated, it had risen for 2 1/2 hours. (The banneton is a nice guide. I simply count how many rings are showing to see how much it's risen.)
Then I tried something new for getting it into the pot. Several sources, including America's Test Kitchens, have convinced me that it's safe to bake in the Dutch oven using parchment. In the past, I've dumped the dough directly into the hot Dutch oven for baking, but it tends to fall sideways and then it isn't as pretty as it might have been. This time, I prepared a sheet of parchment by sprinkling it with cornmeal just as I would the Dutch oven, and then dumping the bread onto the parchment. (It didn't have as far to fall, and the parchment wasn't hot!)
Then, I scored it...I've had varying degrees of success with this, but it doesn't matter that much.
And then I baked it! The recipe says to bake at 500° for 30 minutes, but that's too hot in my oven. I preheat to 500°, and then turn the oven down to 450° as soon as I put it in. It baked for 30 minutes with the lid on, and another 10 minutes with the lid off. When it came out of the oven....bee-utiful!
Using parchment also made it a whole lot easier to get the loaf out of the hot Dutch oven.
Now I can't wait to cut into it, but that will have to wait for a full hour. (Commences drumming of fingers.)
It's a pretty day here at the Three Cats Ranch. We're above the clouds, which always makes us feel very smug. All those valley-dwellers are shrouded in thick cloud cover. Of course, they don't have snow on the ground.
When I left home for my pedicure yesterday, the sun was shining, and it was relatively warm. Somewhere in the 40's, I'd guess. Three hours later, as I drove home, it first started raining, then hailing, then snow and hail, and finally...at the top of our hill, snowing hard. The temperature was dropping like a stone. By the time I got home (scary driving), it was 33° with an inch of accumulation.
It's coming, my friends. The daffodils are growing, so there's no stopping it now.
As I've been baking this morning, I've been fitting in housework. This afternoon, I'm going to get to work sewing together the Bee Lovely quilt. It's the only other thing I wanted to finish before the end of the month. It's doubtful I'll finish it by next week, but starting on it is the first step.