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Bake a Loaf - De File
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Bake a Loaf
Last night, spurred by my parental duty to help Skylar with her Science Fair project -- she's studying yeast -- I made my very first loaves of bread. We worked together, of course, but a few delays in the process and her exhaustion made it necessary for me to take over from the dough mixing stage onward. I can honestly say that the phenomenon cookbooks describe, whereby the process of producing homemade bread leads to a profound sense of well being, hit me with a force I did not expect. Even if the loaves had turned out inedible, the sheer joy of watching the dough rise would have been enough to give me a serious emotional boost. But they came out pretty tasty, if a little denser and wider than I was hoping.

Three loaves of homemade bread!

This brings me to my motivation for sharing this with you. If you have recipes for making yeast bread that you find particularly stellar or tips that have proven useful over the years, Skylar and I would be most grateful to benefit from your knowledge. The loaves we made last night were an attempt at baguettes, though insufficiently airy to meet a French standard. We're going to continue producing them for the course of the experiment, since we need to limit our variables, but will also try our hands at other kinds of bread. We also aim to make spontaneously leavened bread down the road, even if its creation seems too time-consuming and unpredictable for the Science Fair.

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15 comments or Leave a comment
known_nothing From: known_nothing Date: January 12th, 2010 11:38 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Baking bread is my passion (like a good Austrian!). Here's some links I've found useful over the years:


Also, give sourdough a try one day -- it's fantastic, and easier to make than one would think. I bake exclusively with sourdough now (mostly Austrian rye breads). I purchased my starters from Sourdough International (http://www.sourdo.com/), but you can get a fantastically strong one for free from http://home.att.net/~carlsfriends/

One hint: put a pinch of vitamin C in your dough (along with some wheat gluten); it helps the bread to rise. Also, let some of the dough sit overnight for improved flavor...
known_nothing From: known_nothing Date: January 13th, 2010 12:26 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Oh, and I forgot the most important tip! If you haven't already, do purchase a cast iron dutch oven (one that is five quarts). You can buy one at Target or Amazon for about $25.00. It will be the best investment you'll make as far as bread making is concerned. Place any standard boule (about five cups of flour) in your iron pot, put it in a cold oven (some prefer it hot; you'll get better oven spring from a cold oven, however) and bake at 450 for about forty minutes. Then take off the lid and bake for another twenty minutes. Take it out and let cool for an hour or two (to maintain the integrity of the crumb; the bread is still baking as it cools) -- you'll have the most perfect rustic European loaf. Just like you can purchase at any bakery in Germany or France. You can bake any recipe in your iron pot and it will come out divine; the pot creates the conditions of a professional oven...

The easiest recipe for the dutch oven: no knead bread. Here's a link to a NYT article on it: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/08/dining/081mrex.html

There are many variations of this recipe -- it's really the easiest (and one of the most delicious) bread recipes out there. And it works great for sourdough breads too (I just re-read your post and see that you are indeed going to have a go with sourdough; believe me, once you succeed with it, you won't go back to commercial yeast. Homemade sourdough is just that fantastic (and the process is so rewarding and fascinating)).
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: January 13th, 2010 05:12 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Also super helpful. I'm going to go get that Dutch oven ASAP.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: January 13th, 2010 05:11 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Thanks so much! Wow. You really gave me a lot to work with.

(And it's nice to hear from you again, especially here in this largely moribund backwater of the social media world.)
known_nothing From: known_nothing Date: January 13th, 2010 01:49 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
You're welcome! Yup, I'm back online -- perhaps I'm encouraged by my move this summer back to sunnier climes. This East Coast weather really gets to me...

One more thing: King Arthur flour is indeed the best. Use it and your bread will turn out wonderful every time -- plus you'll be supporting the economy of the most wonderful state of Vermont! And go to Sunflower Market (the bulk section) for specialty flours like pumpernickel and finely milled rye. You'll pay a fraction of the price you'd pay elsewhere...
quuf From: quuf Date: January 13th, 2010 02:57 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
I used to bake bread every weekend, and would often braid it (whether it was challah or not). Skylar might enjoy that.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: January 13th, 2010 05:11 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
We're going to try that! Thanks. I'll post about our progress.
alsoname From: alsoname Date: January 13th, 2010 05:29 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
flw could answer this. He makes awesome bread.
e_compass_rosa From: e_compass_rosa Date: January 13th, 2010 05:50 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
I have the Cheeseboard cookbook, and am particularly partial to the Challah recipe.
thedayiexploded From: thedayiexploded Date: January 13th, 2010 10:05 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Have you tried beer bread? It uses the leftover yeast from the brewing process?
elizabeg From: elizabeg Date: January 13th, 2010 07:50 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Very nice! You've motivated me to hunt down my mom's recipe for raisin bread. So good! She also makes cinnamon rolls ever Christmas that are to die for.

I used to bake Irish soda bread quite a lot. It's super easy and might provide Skylar with a nice point of comparison for a yeast-less bread...
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: January 15th, 2010 07:19 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
I'll have to try that. I think baking must have the power to heal!
elizabeg From: elizabeg Date: January 15th, 2010 06:33 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
I'll find the recipes for you!
From: (Anonymous) Date: January 14th, 2010 07:05 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)


By definition, baguettes are long and narrow, and how you shape the loaf affects the density of the final product. Next time, you might try making your loaves about twice as long as these, and much thinner -- after you've shaped them but before the final rise, they should look like like thick pieces of rope. Also, be careful not to overwork the dough, let that final rise be a relatively short one (the loaves should swell but not double in volume), and use a very hot oven (500 degrees) for the first ten minutes or so of baking. These precautions will give you a more pronounced "oven spring" (the rapid expansion of the dough at the beginning of the baking process that creates an airy texture). Also, misting the loaves with water before you put them in the oven and a couple of times during the first few minutes of baking will help to create a nice crackly crust. Some bakers also mist the walls of the oven or chuck in a few pieces of ice to create additional steam.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: January 15th, 2010 07:18 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)

Re: Baguettes

Thanks so much for the tips! I had figured that my cylinders of dough were too wide and tall, but this confirms it. And I had also failed to follow the instructions on "misting," so I appreciate the reminder. What should I turn the oven down to after those first ten minutes?
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