Sunday, July 22, 2012

Return of the Blob...errr, Lean White Wheat Bread, take 2!

So here we are, the following week (shhh! Stop looking at the date and realizing that it's only minutes after I posted the last one!  Suspend your disbelief and pretend I posted these entries within a day or two of them actually occurring... k?  Okay!), and I've done the math.  Yes, the dreaded, horrible, awful, no good, very bad math!  Well, yes, that is a bit melodramatic, but it was fun.  And I hate math.  I'm really not good at it, even with a calculator.  But sometimes it's necessary.  For example, when I'm trying to figure out how much of my ingredients to use when cutting down (or doubling, as the case may be) a recipe.  Last week, I tried to make the bread dough straight out of the book, and it failed utterly and miserably.  Today I've cut it down to 2 possibilities:  1/2 the size, or 1/4 the size.

I ended up going with 1/4, broke out the food scale and got to work.  Right away, I was cautiously optimistic.  No weird noises came from my mixer, and the ingredients seemed a bit more harmonious this time.  After just a couple of minutes, I squealed with delight and jumped up and down, giggling.  That image is probably made funnier when you realize that my fiance and I had 4 of our friends over for an impromptu night of board games.  Here's why I squealed.

To the left, the mixer is still on.  To the right, the mixer has been turned off.  In both, I managed to get the dough to the clean up stage!  I really was very excited by this.  After last week's complete and utter failure, just making it beyond where I gave up was a huge coup for me.  So I followed the rest of the directions, let the dough rest on a lightly floured surface until it was about double in size.  Then I very gently folded it over a few times.  This part confused me, because I'm used to the aggressive kneading that has to be done for like 10 minutes without stopping in order to get the right level of elasticity and all that.

Not this dough.  This dough wanted to be treated gently.  I folded it over and then folded again.  I covered it back over and let it rest again.  I folded it and then separated it into two small rounds.  The book gave some ambiguous instructions that would probably make a lot of sense with pictures or actual instruction on how to get them shaped right.  There's a lot of pulling and folding and tucking.  I basically did this:

1. Cut the dough into two equivalent sections.
2. Gently stretch to get an oblong rather than roundish piece.
3. Place long edge parallel to counter's edge.
4. Pull the ends around toward each other and have them meet as close to midway as possible.
5. Turn the "ball" so that the end seam is toward the counter.
6. Cup hands around "ball" and move in a wide circle over counter's surface.
7. When skin on dough is tight, smooth and even, put on parchment lined tray.
8. Repeat for all balls of dough until you've done them all.

I don't know if I did what they wanted me to do, but I did this anyway.  Then I coated both balls with egg wash (just take one egg and beat it in a bowl, then brush it over the surface of the dough.)

This is what they looked like after I threw in a little funky scoring.  The top is obviously an X, but the bottom looks... weird.  It's supposed to be a stylistic tree, but the center spread so far that it didn't hold shape.  No worries.  :)  I was just happy to get to this point.  Next up, the baking.  There wasn't a recipe to just bake this dough as it was.  All the other recipes incorporated this dough into something else.  So I took the average of their bake times (between 25-30 minutes) and set my timer for 25 minutes.  My fiance and my friends very quickly started to comment on how wonderful the bread smelled as it baked.  They all seemed very excited to try it.  It took a little longer before I would let myself get excited, but eventually I did.

The timer went off, and I managed to not run the 5 feet from the table to the oven.  I'm really not sure how, but I managed it all the same.  When I opened the oven door, I got something I didn't expect.

The bread turned out beautifully.  yes, I realize this picture is sideways, but I think it still looks gorgeous.  It had to cool for a few minutes on a wire rack before it was able to be cut into.  At least, that's what the book said, so that's what I did.

Finally, I just couldn't wait.  I got out the butter, the strawberry preserves, and the peach preserves.  I set out plates and knives, and then ... Then came the true test.  The moment of truth.  I sliced through the first round and heard the telltale crackle of a good crust.  *cue music*

 The first piece fell away and steam rose from inside the bread.  It was a glorious moment, but nothing was quite so glorious as that first bite.  Soft and chewy, crust that was just hard enough to crackle, but not so hard that it hurts your mouth... I was in heaven.  The bread was a bit denser than I expected, but not detrimentally so.  As for what my friends thought of it?  Well most of them each had two pieces, and both rounds were gone by the time they left.  I'm guessing they enjoyed it.

All in all, I'm really glad that I tried it again.  It gave me a bit more confidence, especially when it comes to trying harder recipes, and interpreting things that I'm not used to seeing.  Things for which there isn't a clear explanation in the book.  There's an index and a glossary, but I'm starting to understand that this book was really meant to be used in conjunction with a teacher.  I am not daunted, though.  I will learn!  And some day, someday that mouse will get his cookie.

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