Posts from April 2008

  • Yes, More With The Bread

    Well, I just keep refining this bread recipe. The second time, Lenore thought she could detect a strange aftertaste in the bread. It wasn’t clear if it was a lingering alcohol smell, or a by-product of stale whole wheat flour, and so I decided to run a couple experiments. Both turned out frickin’ fantastic, if I do say so myself.

    Test Loave Test Loaves Cut

    Both of these breads were made using a white flour poolish made as follows:

    • 10 tbsp white flour
    • 10 tbsp water
    • 1/4 tsp yeast.

    Now, if you’ve read any of my other posts, you’ll know this mixture is a little different. First, there’s more flour. This is mainly because the white flour absorbs less liquid, and so the poolish can tolerate more. You’ll also note there’s less yeast. I was worried that the first poolish got a little alcohol-y, generating the off flavour Lenore noticed, and so I decreased the amount of yeast in the poolish, and conversely increased the yeast content in the main bread. Interestingly, this poolish formula generated much greater gluten development. As in, the blend went from batter-like when I mixed it, to an almost stretchy, rubbery texture. It was pretty remarkable, actually, and possibly a consequence of the decreased yeast (if flour ferments too long/much, the gluten can actually begin to break down, a phenomenon known as over-proofing).

    As for technique, I dialed back the bake time to thirty minutes, and made use of a thermometer to test for doneness (they need to hit 200F at the center). In addition, as you can see, I scored the tops of the loaves prior to baking, partly because it helps jack up the oven spring by breaking tension in the top of the loaf, and partly because I think it just looks nice. :)

    Other than that, these loaves are essentially the same as attempt number two. The loaf on the left is straight white bread, a test to see if the wheat flour was the cause of the flavour Lenore detected. The loaf on the right is probably 40% WW (I forgot to jack up the WW in the main recipe to compensate for the white flour poolish, but… so it goes).

    As for impressions, as you can see, the crumb is pleasantly tighter and more even than my second loaf, a result, I suspect, of the higher gluten development thanks to the poolish. The bread is much more moist and soft, almost the texture of a store-bought french bread. In conclusion: hands down, my best attempts yet.

    Oh, and the funky taste? No sign of it! Must’ve been the funky flour after all.

  • Back On The Horse

    So a while back, I made my first couple attempts at making bread. It suffices to say, it didn’t go terribly well… mostly because I’m ridiculously impatient, and so I never really let the loaves complete their second rise before popping them in the oven. End result: bricks. Soft bricks, granted, but bricks all the same.

    Well, I took the day off, today, and figured, hey, it’s time to jump back on the horse, darnit! Well, that and I was anticipating lunch, and there wasn’t much else to eat. So, maybe four hours later, voila, I have this:

    The First Real Loaf The Loaf Sliced

    Turned out pretty well, eh? Nice crumb, relatively light, and tasty! I ended up using the following recipe (from here, though it’s originally from here):

    Amish Bread

    • 2 3/4 cups bread flour
    • 1/4 cup canola oil
    • 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
    • 1/4 cup white sugar
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 3/4 cup+ 2T warm water

    Just combine the water, sugar, and yeast, and let it stand for around five minutes to activate. Meanwhile, whisk the flour and salt together, then when the yeast is ready, throw the whole thing together and kneed like crazy (8-10 minutes is good). Then, rise to double, shape it like so, then let it rise a second time (I let it rise until it basically filled the bread pan… though I probably should’ve let it go a bit longer). Then, 20 mintues at 350, and voila! Bread!

    Now, a couple notes. First, I actually made mine with 50% whole wheat and 50% white bread flours. You could try 100% WW, but given I wanted to avoid another doughy slab, I stayed on the cautious side. Second, this bread is sweet. Far sweeter than I’d expected (though, if I’d read the comments on the Allrecipes page, I would’ve known this). The next time I make this, I’m gonna dial down the sugar significantly (one commenter suggested just a tablespoon).

    Incidentally, the original submitter of the recipe does this up in a breadmaker, and apparently it works quite nicely. Of course, I just did mine by hand (and really by hand, ie no mixer, either), but if you have a breadmaker, go nuts!


    When I pulled the loaf out of the oven, I initially didn’t believe it was fully cooked. But the crust was nice and brown, and the loaf seemed to make a nice, hollow sound when tapped, so I figured it was fine. Turns out I was wrong.

    Now, this may be a by-product of the way I make dough. Rather than working in a bowl, I tend to place the dry ingredients on the counter with a well in the center, where I pour in the liquid ingredients. Then, I gradually incorporate wet into dry, keeping the well walls intact, until the dough comes together. The nice thing about this technique is that it’s really easy to control the amount of flour that’s included in the dough. ie, if I want to leave some out, I just don’t work it in, something much more difficult to do in a bowl, it being a more confined space. And this is particularly handy in low-humidity climates like Alberta because really dry flour will absorb more moisture, and so I find I generally need less flour than is called for in a given recipe.

    Now, this does mean my doughs tend to be fairly moist, which actually works out really well for bread, as steam is what generates oven spring (the final rise that occurs during the first part of the baking process). However, that does mean that the bread can take a little longer to bake. Apparently I forgot about that. End result: undercooked bread. Doheth!

    Oh well, looks like I’ll be taking a second crack at this recipe sooner than I thought!