Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Special Kneads: Getting It Right

I've been working so hard on my bread skills. I've bought books. I've researched. I've enlisted the help of Kitchenaid + dough hook, I've let it rise for hours upon hours, and I've sought advice from friends. Only to, at first, produce this mess:

Upon further reading, I realized my water was too hot, therefore killing the yeast straight away. So I went back to lukewarm water, kneaded electrically with the dough hook, and tried to regulate the temperature of the rise by doing it in the oven, as per this recipe. I got this:

It wasn't bad. I took it to dinner at a friend's house and his children gobbled it up with butter. But I knew I could do better. Then a new friend (who knew D.O.P.'s of films gave such good domestic advice?) told me to do it by hand so I could feel the dough, only let it rise 45 minutes the first and second time, turn the oven up so the blast of heat makes it puff even more, and use more yeast than is recommended. So I pressed on.

I tried more tips from this book, which I found at the thrift store. I sifted the flour so it would be nice and fine and absorb the yeast easily. I also frothed the yeast, placing it in lukewarm water with a teaspoon of sugar, and letting it foam for 10-15 minutes on its own, before I added it to the flour and fat. I baked it at about 400 degrees, and I had to take out the top rack since it was growing so high. Friends, look what I got!

There was much jumping up and down at the stove. There was mozzarella and rocket eaten on this bread. There was the best toast we've had in months, topped with a free range egg. And though I'm going back to trying whole wheat soon, I'm so happy to have succeeded on my first farmhouse white loaf. A few more of these and I can start to get creative. Stay tuned for more "special kneads"!
P.S. I love these photos. It looks like the loaves are looking wistfully out the window.
P.P.S. Do you have a favorite loaf?


Lisa said...

Good for you, not giving up! I agree that hand-kneading is the best method. No mixers or machines for me. It's the most fun part about yeast baking, having the dough come together under your hands and go from sticky mess to lovely soft springy dough.

One of my favorite bread recipes is from a King Arthur Flour bag. Oatmeal bread that's wonderful for toast and sandwiches. I leave out the raisins. Here's the recipe on their website:


Alexandra said...

Hi Hol-
I've been working on beer bread recently. I'll email you the recipe once I get it right - I'm almost there!

angeltreats said...

I use a mixer to make my bread both at home and at work and it always turns out fine :) The very best bread book I've ever found is the River Cottage Bread Handbook:


My copy is absolutely disgusting from having dough dripped on it! But it looks like you've got it right anyway, the rosemary bread a few posts up looks yummy.