Sunday, December 13, 2009

Mmmm, Bread

If Holland hadn't stolen my camera, I could have taken a picture of the beautiful loaves of bread I've been slaving over for the past two days. Slaving, as in watching them rise, transferring to a clean bowl, putting in the refrigerator, letting rise again, kneading a bit, putting in two bread pans and baking. Whew. And they tasted pretty darn good to boot!

I bought this great book recommended by a friend. Her husband is a cooking fool (well, she is too, looking at all her Facebook status updates) and he's always making bread. I bought it on Amazon. It's called Crust and Crumb: Master Formulas for Serious Bread Bakers. The title alone should have scared the socks off me. I'm not a serious bread baker. I'm not even a serious baker. But I'm a serious eater, so I figured that I qualified in some way to buy this book. I read through some of the techniques in the front of the book, just to familiarize myself with the vocabulary. I had experience with bread making before - and not just throwing flour and yeast and water in a bread machine and flipping a switch. I actually learned to hand knead. Doesn't seem a like a big deal, but when your Kitchen Aid mixer starts to levitate on your counter, you'd better know how to knead or you'll be buying a new machine. I think it actually growled at me.

The recipe calls for a starter. Not too hard. A little hand kneading and throw it in a bowl for 5 hours. Then I even got to refrigerate it and forget about it until today. I realized that I should have cooked the brown rice before taking the starter out of the fridge to come to room temp. Oh well. Make a mental note of that for next time. The recipe calls for two different types of starters. My friend recommended doubling the recipe and using all of the same starter. Good thing. I think one starter is enough for a novice. The only thing I wasn't completely familiar with was testing to make sure the dough was ready for the final rise. There's a technique called a "windowpane" test. To make sure that the dough is the right consistency. If you've over-kneaded the dough, there's no way to add water or flour to fix it. Luckily, I never reached the point of no return - which the author recommends you throwing it out if you've achieved this feat. It actually stretched the right way. I even gave a bit to the kids to play with. They were fascinated by it. Punching it, kneading it, rolling it and Holland even snuck a bite.

The house smelled wonderful. Romania thought I was cooking pizza. Nah. That was probably just the provolone chicken I was baking while they were playing racquetball with Super Hero. My, my. What's with all this cooking and baking? I'll analyze that after I eat some more of the homemade almond roca sitting in my kitchen. Talk about cooking skills. Try bringing butter and brown sugar to a hard crack without a candy thermometer. Now that's some skills. Thanks, gramma for all those lessons on Little Grandma's Christmas suckers or I'd have no idea what that even meant.

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