April 11, 2013

Let There Be Work, Bread, Water and Salt For All

So saith Nelson Mandela.  I am picky about my bread - it must be super-fresh and squishy, it must be delicious and it should also be somewhat healthful.  I guess this makes me a bread snob.  I am also cheap.  I don't want to pay $5 for a loaf of bread and I certainly do not want to pay $8 for a loaf of quinoa honey at the local organic bakery.  I have decided to begin baking my own bread, and as I have recently sold the much-touted "BMW of bread machines" on Kijiji, I will be making it like a peasant woman - using my hands and a wooden spoon.

My mil gifted the bread machine to me about ten years ago. I only used it three or four times.  The first time I attempted to use it, the bread was decent.  Not great, but good.  I didn't like that I had to yank out a plastic stake of some sort which had been baked into the loaf.  The hole it left was unsightly.    I also didn't like that the loaf was square; it looked sort of fake and machine-made, which it most definitely was.  I wouldn't be fooling anyone with this loaf.  I also wasn't fond of the super-crusty exterior.  The breadmaker was not for me.  I like handmade loaves, loaves that are imperfect and rustic.

The second time I used the breadmaker was on a Christmas Day.  I baked a brick; my yeast must have expired.  We tossed the loaf around the kitchen like a football.

The third time using the machine was not the charm.  I baked bread.  I consumed bread. I wasn't impressed with bread.  I decided that the bread machine and I should break up.  Our relationship was stale; I kneaded something new, nyuk, nyuk.  I haven't baked much bread since.

On the weekend, I ate at a restaurant cum bakery and was impressed with my roasted turkey, alfafa, lettuce and tomato sandwich on buckwheat.  The bread was fresh, dark and delicious and I decided that I was going to make my own bread THAT EVENING, as I certainly wasn't about to fork out $7 for a loaf to go.

Last night, I attempted to recreate the quinoa honey bread that we sampled at the bakery.  Their version is gluten-free and since I am not going GF, EVER, I used regular whole wheat and unbleached white flour.

Here it is, fresh from the oven:




Dudnit look good?  Can you smell it?  Friends, that loaf looked delectable.  The crack was incredible... but would it be edible?

I love me some rhymes.

I let it cool in the pan for 15 minutes and I turned it out (and it actually came out intact!!~!!).  I cut into the bread, smeared on lots of butter and took a bite ---

I was amazed.  Had I really made this?  Yum!!  I turned the loaf cut side down on the cutting board and went to bed, excited to try some toast with butter and sour cherry jam in the morning.  Note:  I read somewhere online that if you want to keep your bread fresh, just place the loaf facedown on a wooden board.  It actually works!  Try it.

8 hours later - 6:45am.  I went into the kitchen and asked RB if he liked his toast.

"It's raw inside".

"WHAT?"

"Sorry, honey. It's raw".

**&^$%!

He was right.  I knew that we should have let the bread cool completely before cutting into it.  I also rather stupidly took the bread out of the oven 10 minutes early because it "looked" done.  Duh.  Oh well, 1/3 of the loaf was edible (the ends) and that tasted terrific and so I've learned a lesson - the hard way - DOH!

I mean, DOUGH!

Today, I am going to attempt to bake bread in my Le Creuset, recipe courtesy of the Pioneer Woman.  Here's her picture of the "Pastor's Bread", which is full of fresh herbs:


Doesn't that look delish? I am going to leave out the herbs because I don't want the kids to see green flecks and scream.

I'm off to grocery for some yeast, pronto!

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Just finished mixing and kneading and now the bread is rising under a damp tea towel.  I was somewhat addled by the instruction to knead until the bread "windowpanes" but I think I eventually got there.  Windowpane:  pull off a small chunk of dough and stretch gently to see whether it's translucent; this should be done without the dough breaking.  Who knew?

Here's what it looked like shortly before it "windowpaned":

The word this picture makes me think of is "gluey"


It isn't very pretty; I'm not a food stylist.  Next step - let it rise for 1-4 hrs.  I've set the timer for 2.

*******************

Here it is after rising and in the pot:

Not as pretty as Pioneer Woman's, but still looking respectable.  See the X in it?

One hour later and this is what appeared in my pot:



Now that is a crusty loaf.

This is how much butter I put on my bread.  I'm gonna give the Heart and Stroke people cardiac arrest!

Butter it up, baby!

Okay, so the moment of truth... I would give this bread 8.3 out of 10.  It was fresh and tasty, looked fantastic but the crust was a bit on the crunchy side, truth be told.  Don't get me wrong, it's better than anything Wonder or Dempster's makes, and it could probably be sold in a bakery and people would be happy, but I am going to try something new in a couple of days.  This is not the loaf for me.  I do like the idea of cooking it in the Dutch oven, perhaps I'll try this recipe in a loaf pan.

I feel like I'm ending on a downer note.  This is a great "starter" loaf, but I am looking for something more complex.  Stay tuned for more adventures in bread.

Right now my husband is telling me to "go put the children away" (his words) because he's "up to his arms in wet".  Doesn't he sound sweet?  We had a minor water issue in our basement this evening which is ANNOYING.  I guess I will put the kids to bread.  G'night.

Pioneer Woman's Bread Recipe