Sunday, February 7, 2010

On baking bread

Again, a Saturday with no daytime plans. So of course, I started baking bread after I made my coffee. After a short bread conversation last week, I started thinking about what really goes into baking bread. I don't find it all that hard, mostly just time-consuming, yet others think it's one of the most challenging things to bake. So yesterday I really tried to see bread-baking from the eyes of someone who's never done it before. Which means, I took a lot more pictures, and tried to photograph each and every step. I hope new bakers might find this helpful.

I browsed a bit for a recipe, and came up with sesame cheese bread, from my King Arthur Flour Cookbook (which they don't seem to have online, unfortunately). I opted for a savory recipe, after getting my fill of nutella all last week.

In a medium-sized bowl, I combined 2 cups of warm water and 1/4 cup white sugar, stirred to dissolve the sugar. I added 2T yeast, stirred, and ignored it for about 30 min while I had breakfast. This is called "proofing", and you're basically waking the yeast up- they've been in the fridge for a long time, they're cold and sleepy. And yes, these are scientific terms. Trust me, I got my PhD in research on yeast (I'm not kidding, you can go to pubmed and search for me). Generally recipes say do this for 5 minutes, but I always end up doing other stuff and forgetting about the yeast. It's totally fine to let it go longer, like I do.

I also toasted 1/2cup of sesame seeds in a frying pan over medium-high heat for 7 min, stirring occasionally, until they started to turn golden brown.

And I ignored it all, like I said, for about half an hour. Maybe closer to 45 min, timing wasn't all that important.

I transferred the yeast mixture to my stand mixer.

And added 2 cups of flour, one cup at a time.

Then I beat 2 eggs and softened 2T butter in the microwave,
and threw that in, along with the toasted sesame seeds and 2cups grated sharp cheddar. I beat this "vigorously" (on medium) for 2 minutes.

Then I added 4 more cups of flour, 1 cup at a time

after 2 cups

after a 3rd cup

after the final cup
until I had a dough stiff enough to knead.

See? So far it's not that hard, there are just a lot of ingredients. I usually like to gather everything while I'm letting the yeast proof at the beginning.

Ok, now kneading. Kneading isn't technically hard, either, it's just a work out. If you have a stand mixer, you can use the dough hook attachment and let it go. If you don't, you can do it by hand, just fold the dough over and over, until it's kind of shiny and elastic (poke it hard, and watch it slowly pop back). I ended up kneading in my mixer for a few minutes and then finishing by hand.

Then, I greased the bowl (with Pam nonstick spray) and rolled the big ball of dough around once to coat, and covered with a damp dishtowel and let it rise.

The recipe said rise 1-1.5 hrs, until doubled, I left it for just over 2 hrs. I again used my radiator to keep the dough warm for the yeast to work.

Before rising

After rising

Then I plopped the dough onto a floured board,

pushed the dough out to about a 15in square, spread an additional cup of cheese on it (I used a blend of asiago, ermentaler and gruyere- I ran out of cheddar),

and rolled up the dough,

and kneaded it for another minute. Then I let it rest for a few minutes while I prepared the baking pans. I sprayed 1 loaf pan, 3 mini loaf pans, and 6 muffin tins (although a 4th mini loaf pan would have been good). I broke off pieces of dough and shaped them into ovals (or balls, for the muffin tin) and dropped them in- a piece that fits inside the pan without touching the edges is good, most of my muffin tin balls were too big after rising. I placed them back on the radiator to rise, and covered them with the dishtowl again.

They rose for 1 hr 15min (recipe suggested 45 minutes)

I popped them into a preheated 375oF oven, the muffin tin for 20 min, and the loaves for about 40 minutes, until the tops were golden brown.

And we ate them.

And we sliced the loaf for toast for breakfast.

And overall, it's really not that hard. Bread involves yeast, but yeast merely means wait, wait and wait. I think it's easier to bake bread if you have a vague idea what you're doing- which maybe now you do.

Oh and by the way, this was the best bread I've ever made. I highly recommend this recipe.

1 comment:

Katie said...

OH YUM! Not only do I absolutely LOVE baking bread (something about yeast dough rising that makes me happy) but this looks DELICIOUS too! :)