Monday, March 14, 2011

Confession of a Baking Disaster

Just when I thought I knew what I was doing, I was totally humbled by a loaf of bread. Last week, I got a new cookbook, King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking. I was determined to start baking from it. Unlike most cookbooks that contain a recipe with all the directions included in the recipe, King Arther begins the chapter with information on each stage of bread baking (for yeast breads at least) and then the recipes contain minimal directions.

I did learn some things from the introduction, like:

  • You are supposed to let the dough rest in between mixing ingredients together and the first round of kneading. Matter of fact, you are supposed to let it rest for 45 minutes. This makes bread baking an even longer process (which I didn't think was possible).
  • King Arthur must have a contract with bread machine companies because he repeatedly pointed out all the ways in which bread machine bread was far superior than anything else. I am dead set against getting a bread machine so this did not make me happy. 
  • Orange juice offsets the bitterness of whole grains. 
So I happily set forth on a recipe for Whole Wheat Walnut bread. Let's stop a minute. Do I like walnuts? Not particularly but I was so darn determined to make something and this was the only recipe that I had all of the ingredients. For the future, this is not an ideal way to select a recipe.

I made the dough and I probably over-mixed it before the 45 minute rest. Already I could tell this was going to be dicey. My dough began tough. Foreshadowing begins.

It was hard to let it rest for 45 minutes, but I did manage. I began kneading. In the introduction, King Arthur looked down on hand kneading as 'few are energetic enough in their kneading' to make it worthwhile. To prove the King wrong, I kneaded the heck out of that bread. Yet it was not satin-y as it should have been.

Then I put the dough on the table, dappled with sunlight. Manatee and I went to Church and then began the quest for pantry organization products. This took far longer than anticipated and led to much frustration on both parts. We finally returned home, hours later. My dough had risen but I admit I was surprised it wasn't bigger. Determined to get 'er done, I began the second round of kneading. King Arthur scoffs at the idea of 'punching the dough' (admittedly one of my favorite parts). He is shocked that people think live yeast would want to be punched. Adhering to his advice, I gently laid the dough down and folded as instructed. Back in a greased pan and into the sunshine, I left the dough.

1 hour later: No change.

2 hours later: Maybe a little bigger?

3 hours later: I decided I had executed the yeasts via sunshine scorching and decided to finish off the last of the stubborn buggers by throwing it in the oven.

The result? A dense, heavy, bitter walnut studded disaster and a very frustrated Badger Girl.

Resolutions: I won't give in to the lure of a bread machine but perhaps I will try our kitchen aid mixer with a dough hook. I also will not put bread dough in direct sunlight but will find another warm, draft free zone for rising. And no more recipes that include walnuts. 

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