Archive for the ‘Yeast Breads’ Category

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No ordinary ordinaire

January 30, 2011

I think the very first bread book I ever acquired was Ultimate Bread by Eric Treuille & Ursula Ferrigno.*  At that point in time I had no interest whatsoever in making yeast breads, but there were lots of shiny, gorgeous pictures, so I bought it anyway.  I figured if nothing else, it would be nice to flip through once and then add to the cookbook shelf.  As I paged through, however, I became intrigued.  This book is filled with tons of information, describing a wide variety of processes and techniques, and the accompanying pictures show what things should look like at different stages of the recipes.  Very cool, but it was still relegated to the shelf for several years.  Yeast bread is scary, am I right???
I finally picked it back up when I was frustrated at work one day and needed something outside of my comfort zone to distract me.  Turns out, yeast breads aren’t so terrifying after all.  They require a little more attention, but the payoff is totally worth it.  Working with the dough satisfied something inside me.  The texture, feel, and smell of first the dough and then the completed loaf soothed the savage beast, so to speak.  And for major bonus points, I discovered that kneading the dough was a great way to relax, pull some of the stress out of my shoulders, and it even seemed to help with some repetitive stress pain I’d been experiencing in my wrist.  These days I mostly use the mixer to knead, but every once in a while I’ll still work the dough by hand.

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oh autumn squashes, how I love thee

September 26, 2010

I love autumn squashes.  Can’t stand summer squashes, but dear lord I could eat autumn squashes every day if you let me.  Butternut, kabocha, acorn, delicata, sunshine, hubbard, pumpkin – yes, yes, yes.  When I came across a recipe last year that incorporated butternut squash into a yeast loaf, I knew I had to try it.  The resulting bread was a beautiful pale yellow, with just a hint of sweetness.  I brought some in to work, and coworker H has brought it up in conversation on a regular basis ever since.  Seriously, probably at least once a month there’d be a mention of the squash bread.  Definitely a sign of a successful recipe. Read the rest of this entry ?

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make a good crust special

June 6, 2010

The first cookbook I decided to use was put out by the Trinity Lutheran Church Ladies Aid Society, Elkhart Indiana, circa 1975. Two lifelong members of the Ladies Aid Society were mrslovey’s great-aunts, and they had given a copy of the book to mrsloveymom, who later passed it to mrslovey.  Based on other recipes of the aunties that I’ve tried, I figured that any cookbook they endorsed would be safe to use for this experiment.  In addition, I really liked one of the sentences in the intro:  The recipes in this book have not been tested in laboratories but have been tried and tested by a special group of tasters; our family and friends. Sounds like exactly what I’m looking for!  I decided on Old Fashioned White Bread, by Barbara Brumbaugh, and got to work.

I was interested in the butter and milk added to the dough, and wondered how they would impact the final result.  I also really liked the ‘makes a good crust special’.  Really, how could I resist that?? Well let me tell you, this bread is DELICIOUS.  Nice golden brown crust, and a light, airy fine-grain crumb that has just the slightest hint of sweet to it.  This bread will be perfect for sandwiches.  The only modifications I made were to use butter instead of margarine, and I used the liquid milk option instead of the dry milk.  Other than that, I followed it totally as written.  You should make this bread soon, and you should make it often.  I know I’m planning on it! Read the rest of this entry ?

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it’s about time

March 30, 2010

From practically the first moment I contemplated putting things in a hot oven and seeing what happens, mrslovey’s been up my butt to make her some cinnamon bread.  Somehow, I’ve managed to avoid this request for nearly a decade now.  At this point it’s a running joke between us.  It’s not that I didn’t want to make it for her.  Initially, I was simply terrified by yeast breads, and I didn’t want to risk messing up something she was so excited about.  Eventually I became more confident in this area, but still never seemed to produce a loaf.  Want to know why?  I’ll tell you why – there are quite possibly one zillion recipes for cinnamon swirl bread out there, and no two are the same.  How the heck was I supposed to know which one was the right one?

Once it was confirmed that this month was yeast bread month, I knew that there was no way I could possibly avoid this task any longer.  Not wanting to be solely responsible (really, not wanting the overwhelming task of picking a single recipe), I sent mrslovey to the cookbookcase and told her to come back with the winner.  All I heard from the kitchen for about 30 minutes was the turning of pages.  Finally she emerged with an orange coil-bound book that I don’t recall ever seeing before. Midwestern church cookbook, 1975, hoo daddy.  “This, this is the one you’ll make!”  Ok, if you say so!  I figure if it failed miserably, I can always blame Mrs. Magnusen.

The recipe is written as if you’re sitting at the kitchen table while she’s making the bread.  A couple of the ingredients are kind of vague on how much, or else lacking quantities completely.  When it gets to the loaf shaping part, she goes on a complete tangent.  You could do it this way, or that way, or make some of this other thing and put this in it…it went on forever, swear.  From start to finish the written recipe was almost two solid pages long.  Now, I know that I can be chatty, but that was a little ridiculous.  Plus, I’m lazy and don’t want to type all that out.  So I present to you my interpretation, with far fewer words, and a couple of tweaks.  And how did it turn out, you ask, this long-awaited loaf?  I’m afraid the words I’d use to describe it could be considered sacrilegious, so in deference to Mrs. Magnusen, I won’t type them out here.     Read the rest of this entry ?

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dinner roll dinner roll ding ding ding!

March 26, 2010

When I first started baking, one of the things that intimidated me most was dinner rolls.  Yes, dinner rolls, weird, whatever.  For reasons unknown, I could never get a consistent result.  Some days they’d come out perfect, other days they’d just sit there refusing to rise, like sullen little rocks.  It was awful not being able to commit for holidays, since I wouldn’t have any idea whether or not a particular batch would succeed or fail miserably.

Nowadays, I don’t have that problem.  In fact, not only am I making rolls for whichever meal I’m attending, I also have friends, coworkers, and family who are buying them (from me! with money!).  Last year I made something obnoxious like two hundred rolls for Thanksgiving, and nearly that again for Christmas.  And every single one came out a perfect cloud of tasty.

What made the difference, you ask?  I’m almost hesitant to tell, I’m afraid people won’t be nearly as impressed with them if they knew how easy these rolls are!  First, I finally found the right recipe.  Yes, I’m talking about King Arthur Flour AGAIN.  Their recipes are so consistently good, how could I not?  In this case, I discovered their Soft White Dinner Rolls.  The butter, potato flakes, and dried milk add a ton of flavor, while leaving the texture light, soft, and tender.  They’re delicious on the day they’re made, and they also make great little finger sandwich rolls with leftovers.  They freeze beautifully, so I tend to make a double batch – eat one now, freeze the second for super-easy homemade rolls later!

I do have one confession, however.  I’m *not* going to tell you the shortcut technique I figured out that shaves off more than half the total prep time.  Girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do to keep the customers calling!

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not sure who this Anna is, but she’s my new best friend

March 21, 2010

Anadama bread is delicious.  And it definitely originates in New England. Pretty much everyone agrees on these two things.  What isn’t as clear, however, is the exact source of the name.  Depending on who you talk to/what you read, it was either a farmer or a fisherman, exasperated with the constant diet of cornmeal and molasses his wife, Anna, was feeding him.  Apparently, the farmer just cursed his wife.  The fisherman craved bread, so he threw some yeast and flour into his daily mush, left it near the fire, and ate the resulting loaf.  Whichever is true (if either is), it’s an amusing story that reflects on how these two ingredients were a staple in the early New Englander’s daily diet.  I’ve been looking forward to making a loaf of anadama for several months, and finally got around to it today.

Holy cow, this is GOOD bread.  Possibly the best loaf so far this year.

The loaf itself feels substantial in the hand, but the bread is not overly heavy.  Does that make sense?  It’s like the tip on how to pick ripe fruit – find one that feels heavy for its size.  Anyway.  The cornmeal added a delicious flavor and texture, and was a nice departure from all-wheat breads.  I was worried that the molasses would be overwhelming, but it just lent a nice undertone.  This bread has great depth of flavor.  The crust is dark and chewy, with a sprinkling of cornmeal on top for added contrast.  The crumb is moist, dense, and amazingly flavorful.  It would lend itself well to toast or sandwiches.  Our first taste was with just a smear of butter.  For dessert, we spread a little jam.  I’m sure I’ll be making this again and again and again.  And again.  Damn you, Anna. Read the rest of this entry ?

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the loaf that dare not speak its name

March 17, 2010


In the past week we’ve had another wonderful visit from an old friend, doctor visits, and car troubles.  We’ve also had some delicious food, and a couple of opportunities to bake, both sweets and savory.  Before I get to the newer stuff, however, in my last post I promised that I’d share my sourdough rolls.  To be honest though, I don’t even know if that’s what they are, exactly.  Yes, I’m using sourdough starter, but I’m throwing it into a recipe that normally uses a very young (12-16 hours old) starter, and produces a more traditional Italian loaf.  The use of an older starter gives these a much more pronounced tang than they would normally have.  Plus, I’m shaping them as rolls instead of a loaf (although I’ve done that, too).   So what is it?  Sourdough?  Italian?  Soutalian?  Italerdough?  Rollitalisour?  I don’t know exactly what to call them, but they’re darn good.  I think I’ve decided to keep this highly mutated recipe for rolls, and continue working on a truer sourdough for loaves.

Truthfully, I can’t promise that this recipe will work for anyone else.  I think (in my very limited knowledge on the topic) that so much depends on your particular starter.  I had to do a lot of tweaking with volume and timing to figure out what worked consistently with my starter.  For me, the first key was feeding the starter about 10 hours before I planned on beginning.  In theory, this means that I’d feed it just before bedtime, and start actively working with it after breakfast.  What that really means is that frequently I would end up with no bread when I had hoped for bread, because I don’t have the kind of attention span that lets me plan that far in advance on a regular basis.  On the occasions that I did remember, though, after breakfast I’d pull out 12 ounces of starter from the bucket.  This seemed to be just the right amount to use  in order to get the rise and texture that I was looking for.  Your starter may vary.  I’d be surprised if it didn’t.   Read the rest of this entry ?