Tag: Bread

Adventures in Baking No. 24: Baguette!

Adventures in Baking No. 24: Baguette!

On Thursday I made another foray into the world of bread-making when I baked the baguette recipe from How to Bake Everything!

Baguette is one of my favorite breads. If I’m honest, I could probably devour an entire baguette by myself – I just love the soft crumb and the crunchy crust. So I really wanted this bake to taste good, because nothing is better than a great loaf of bread.

First, I combined my yeast, salt, flour, and water to make the dough before letting the mixture rise. After a three-hour-long first prove, I shaped the dough into two baguettes, slashed them, and formed a makeshift couche for the baguettes to rest upon.

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My dough as it proved

(Couche is a French word that means “bed”. In baking, it refers to a cloth that’s shaped in such a way that allows baguettes to hold their long, skinny shape as they prove.)

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My shaped and slashed baguettes rising inside my makeshift couche (also known as an apron!)

Forty minutes later, I preheated my oven to 465 (!!!) degrees Fahrenheit. (Why the exclamation points? Because 465 degrees is unusually and extremely hot for an oven!) Then I carefully transferred my baguettes onto a pan and baked them (with steam, of course) for 20 minutes.

When I took the baguettes out, they were a beautiful golden brown color, but the color on the bottom was a bit pale. The thermometer, however, declared them finished when it read their internal temperature as 200 degrees Fahrenheit, and after letting them cool, I tried a piece.

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My baked baguettes, fresh out of the oven. The stick inside the far baguette is my thermometer 🙂

The bread was wonderfully soft inside, with a strong, crunchy crust. There were beautiful air holes and a good crumb structure. The only problem was the taste – for me, it was a bit too bland (I think I didn’t add enough salt). I made an herb butter to go with it, which made the baguette taste sublime, but I really wish I’d added dried rosemary or basil into the bread itself. I will definitely make baguettes again, though, so next time I’ll experiment with flavors!

Baking Chronicle No. 19: Orange and White Chocolate Golden Bread Buns!

Baking Chronicle No. 19: Orange and White Chocolate Golden Bread Buns!

First, that’s way too long of a name for a dressed-up bread roll. I’ll come up with something better if I make it again.

Second, I made these yesterday because…I felt like it! The best reason to bake anything!

Basically, I remembered that people had paired orange and white chocolate together on The Great British Baking Show (specifically, I recalled Ruby’s peacock from Bread Week in Series 2), and I decided that I’d make an orange and white chocolate bread! Then, because I wanted to make smaller portions, I made rolls!

To begin, I made the Rich Golden Bread recipe from How to Bake Everything (with the added orange flavor guesstimated by yours truly) – I combined my flour, yeast, salt, sugar, eggs, orange zest, orange extract, cold butter, and warm milk to make a cohesive dough. Then I kneaded it for about 2 or 3 minutes, until it came together, and let it prove for 3 hours (two of which my dough spent in the refrigerator).

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My dough before the first prove

Next, I divided the dough into twelve roughly equal balls and let rise for another twenty minutes. In the twenty-minute gap, I melted my white chocolate and refrigerated it until it was cold but still in liquid form.

To finish shaping, I rolled my balls out into circles, dolloped some white chocolate in the middle, and folded the edges to the center and pinched the seam to form a roll!

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My shaped rolls

Finally, my bread moved onto its second prove (I let it rise for about 75 minutes, until it held my fingerprint when I poked it) and then I baked it after brushing each roll with an egg-white wash!

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My rolls just before I popped them in the oven!

(I used egg whites because I had leftover egg whites in my refrigerator and I really didn’t feel like making meringues.)

I baked them for approximately 25 minutes, until the crust was golden brown and the internal temperature of the rolls reached 210 degrees Fahrenheit (as specified by the recipe).

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The baked rolls

Then I free-styled an orange glaze using orange extract, milk, powdered sugar, and meringue powder; I spread it onto my rolls after they’d cooled for approximately 10 minutes.

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My orange glaze! Which, miraculously, dried into a hard-crack glaze – thanks, meringue powder!

At long last, I could try a roll! I tore one open and saw a beautiful crumb with flecks of orange and a large space where the white chocolate had melted into the bread. I didn’t mind, though – the white chocolate taste was still apparent, and so was the orange! The two flavors were subtle and mild, but delicious, and I definitely enjoyed eating my rolls!

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I tore open a roll and felt extremely pleased with the bake!
Adventures in Baking No. 18: Rye Rustic French Bread!

Adventures in Baking No. 18: Rye Rustic French Bread!

On Monday I decided to make the Rustic French Bread recipe from How to Bake Everything again, except this time I substituted 1/4 of the flour for dark rye flour, just to see what happened. I also accidentally added too much water and created a really sticky dough.

Basically, I mixed all of my ingredients together – flour, yeast, salt, and water – to form a ball. Then I kneaded it a bit by hand and let it prove for 3 hours and 30 minutes.

Next, I shaped my dough into a boule (can’t even begin to tell you how hard that was – my hands ended up covered in sticky dough scraps) and let it rise for another 40 minutes inside a colander (to keep its shape).

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My poor facsimile of a boule

After its rise, I attempted to slash the dough with a knife. However, that’s way harder than it sounds when the dough is sticking to the knife and preventing it from actually cutting the bread. I managed, though, to create three messy-looking lines in the top of my dough.

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My terrible slashes

Finally, I baked it for 40 minutes – except this time I used 2 cups of hot water to create the steam in my oven, which worked so much better than 1 cup that I’m never going back, regardless of what the recipe directs me to do. Suffice to say, the extra cup of water created a substantial amount of real steam, while using 1 cup created very little steam.

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My final product – the awesome bread!

When my bread emerged, it was beautiful. I mean, the outside wasn’t much of a looker, but the inside was magnificent – light and fluffy and rich and moist, with a pretty crumb and a wonderful color. The best part: it tasted heavenly. I loved it and I think I might make it weekly.

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Look at all the air holes! If only my English muffins could look like this!

I know my family agreed – my sister rated it an eleven out of ten!

Adventures in Baking No.14: English Muffins, Take 4

Adventures in Baking No.14: English Muffins, Take 4

So after reading the extremely helpful article suggested by user Adrienne B (thank you SO, SO MUCH Adrienne!), I decided that I should try proving my muffins over night, as traditionally done by English-muffin-bakers in the early 1900’s. This was done, of course, in the hunt for the perfect English muffin with beautiful nooks and crannies.

Again I combined my flours, salt, yeast, sugar, oil, and milk, kneading the dough a little until it was “smooth”. Then I left it to prove over night, which turned out to be just under 12 hours.

Next, I pulled the dough (literally; it was quite sticky) out of the bowl and shaped it into 15 muffins before letting the mixture prove for another 40 minutes.

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The muffins after being shaped

After the second rise, I pan-cooked the muffins in the same manner I used the last three times I made them – except that I followed the instructions this time (a miracle!) and cooked them on a medium-low heat for about 14 minutes total.

However, when I cut into my muffins, there were STILL no nooks and crannies. (Of course, they still tasted fine, especially when smothered in strawberry jam.)

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My tasty yet nooks-and-crannies-less English muffins

My current hypothesis is that I need to increase the dough’s hydration (add more liquid) and prove for even LONGER to achieve the right air holes. I might also try kneading for 10 minutes in combination with those two factors, in the hope that stronger gluten proteins will hold more air. Fingers crossed that English Muffins, Take 5 will actually work!


Baking Chronicle No. 13: Rustic French Bread

Baking Chronicle No. 13: Rustic French Bread

Yesterday I decided to try making a crusty bread – one of those amazing loafs with a crunchy crust and a moist, airy inside. I ended up using the Rustic French Bread recipe from Mark Bittman’s How to Bake Everything and I shaped my dough into one loaf, or boule (also known as a roundish ball).

First, I made my dough, which was ridiculously easy. There were literally only four ingredients: bread flour, yeast, salt, and water. So into the bowl I dumped my salt, yeast, and bread flour before pouring in my water and mixing the dough as much as I could with a wooden spoon. When the mixture became too thick to stir, I combined everything using my hands, adding a little more water to make the dough come together more. Once I had a cohesive ball of dough, I popped it into the bowl to prove for 3 hours.

After the first prove, I took the dough out of the bowl and shaped it into a boule. This action mainly consists of rolling your dough into a ball and pulling dough from the sides onto the bottom so that the top of your ball is taut. Then you pinch your bottom seam to prevent the dough from spreading during the second prove, and then…you let it prove! Which is exactly what I did.

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My dough proving in a colander. I did this to ensure that the boule kept its shape.

Another forty-five minutes passed before I transferred my dough from its well-floured kitchen towel to the oiled baking sheet. Then I slashed the top of my bread with a paring knife.

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My slashed bread

Wait, seriously? you may think to yourself. You cut holes in your bread?

Yes, in fact. It turns out that in bread-making, if your loaf is a more traditional bread (i.e., not enriched with milk, butter, or eggs), you generally slash the top to control where the steam exits the bread. Otherwise, the steam will just punch its way out of your bread and ruin the shape. This is especially important if your bread has a high hydration, or contains a lot of water (because more water produces more steam).

So after slashing my boule, I put it into the oven at 450 degrees Fahrenheit for 45 minutes and slid a pan with some water in it into the bottom rack of my oven.

(Cool and interesting factoid about the water in the oven: this was done to create steam in the oven, because steam gives bread a nice crunchy crust.)

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After my bread was done baking, I tapped the bottom to see if it sounded hollow. I also measured the temperature, and since it reached 200 degrees Fahrenheit, I knew that my bread was cooked inside! I let the loaf cool for two hours before cutting into it, and it was totally worth the wait. The resulting bread was moist, springy, perfectly baked, and had a beautifully crunchy crust, despite the dark color on top.

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Despite the dark color on top, the bread was amazing!

I enjoyed a wonderful slice of the bread with my dinner, and I definitely plan to make another loaf like this again!

Adventures in Baking No. 12: English Muffins, Take 3

Adventures in Baking No. 12: English Muffins, Take 3

I have resolved that I will not be defeated by an English muffin. My English homework, maybe, but absolutely, positively not a muffin.

I am referring to the lack of “nooks and crannies”, also known as air holes, in my muffin’s crumb structure. I have no idea why my muffins lack the signature English muffin texture; all I know is that I will find out the reason behind this mystery and fix the problem.

(The real question is whether I discover this reason using Google or trial-and-error.)

With that in mind, I utterly failed to alleviate the air-hole-issue when I made the recipe for the third time. I made the same recipe as in Take 2 (with the added whole wheat flour) and kneaded the dough for way longer. I think I kneaded that dough for 10 minutes in the hope that a stronger gluten structure would enable the texture I was looking for to form. I was also going to prove the dough for 3 hours instead of 2, but the dough doubled in size at 40 minutes, and showed no change in size from the 40-minute mark to the 2-hour mark, so I just shaped the muffins and let them rise for another 40 minutes.

I also changed how I shaped the muffins, in the hope that I would knock less air out of the dough and hence, by preserving the air, create a more open crumb. Instead of rolling out my bread, I pressed it into a rectangle with my hands (which also resulted in thicker muffins) before cutting out circles.

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My slightly-too-thick muffins

Finally, I cooked the muffins in the same fashion as in Take 2: on high heat with no oil until the muffins were practically black on each side (because I really wanted them to be cooked in the middle, and the outsides were darkening quickly).

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Me cooking my muffins on high heat

Then I read the directions, which told me to cook the muffins on low heat.

This might be why I’m not getting the signature English muffin crumb structure. Next time I will definitely cook the muffins on low heat; I’ll also be sure to prove the dough for 3 hours and knead for longer than 10 minutes. Hopefully I’ll get a better texture next time!

Adventures in Baking No. 10: English Muffins, Take 2

Adventures in Baking No. 10: English Muffins, Take 2

My family and I enjoyed the last batch of homemade English muffins so much that I made them again today so we could have them during the week!

However, I made some changes to the recipe: this time I used…whole wheat flour! (Cue the fireworks and sound effects!)

I’ve never used whole wheat flour before, but Mark Bittman’s How to Bake Everything explains the difference between normal all-purpose flour and whole wheat flour in the book’s lovely and extraordinarily informational Ingredients section at the beginning of the book. Basically, whole wheat flour absorbs more liquid, possesses a higher protein content, and has a higher fiber content. This is because the wheat grains are whole (hence the name) or still have the grain shell. As a rule of thumb, you should never substitute more than half of a recipe’s flour for whole wheat flour because the different fiber and protein contents change the texture of baked goods.

On this adventure, I used 1 1/2 cups of whole wheat flour and 2 cups of all-purpose flour, and I also heated the milk on the stove instead of in the microwave (I know, I’m getting fancy here). Then I combined the flours and the milk with the yeast, sugar, oil, and salt before kneading the dough until smooth and tacky. Thankfully, I got to the smooth and tacky stage way faster than last time, which was probably because of the absorbency of the whole wheat flour (it helped the dough come together into one mass).

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The dough after the first prove

I proved the dough for just under two hours before gently rolling it into a rough rectangle and cutting out 13 muffins. Then I let the dough rise for another 40 minutes before baking (grilling?) the muffins in a pan on my stove.

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Me cooking the muffins on the stove top

This time, the dough took a shorter time to cook (yay!) and the resulting muffins were heavenly. I mean, they were perfectly fabulous, especially with raspberry jam and peanut butter. However, they were lacking the signature “nooks and crannies” that one finds in store-bought muffins. Why?

I have absolutely no idea. Seriously. I handled the muffins carefully this time and let them prove until they held my fingerprint when I poked the dough. I can’t explain it. They just had no air holes. Maybe next time I’ll let the dough prove for longer than two hours?

Other than that mystery, the muffins were fantastic and I will definitely make them in the future (hopefully every week, as making English muffins is fun)!