28 July 2006

Slowtech ... slowblog is more like it. Glacially slow.

Every week I bake bread, and we eat it. I try to mix it up some and not make the same recipes all the time but Dave like whole-wheat (as do I) and the weather is generally verrrry hot and humid, so I tend to go for recipes that will produce at least a couple of decent-sized loaves.

I am getting better at baking bread, in general. I've had some failures - one time I killed the yeast because the water was too hot; a couple of other times the yeast wasn't quite activated enough; I forgot to watch the time on the last batch of limpa, plus the bread tricked me! It grew a huge hollow bit in the centre of each loaf which made it sound hollow when rapped with the knuckles on the top and the bottom. (Because there was, of course, a pocket of hollow air in there. Duh.) But it was all underdone and doughy-gooey in the centre of the loaf, around the air pocket. (I think the air pocket itself was created by my slinging it haphazardly from th fridge straight into the oven, instead of allowing it to sit at room temp for 15 minutes or so.) Or the air pocket/undercooked problem could have been because I didn't keep a very watchful eye on the clock. Or it could have been because contrary to the recipe's advice, I put the loaves in loaf pans rather than making free-form ones, as recommended. Bless his heart, Dave ate it all anyway. One more thing I love about him: he is just as happy to eat my failures as my successes.

Next time when making limpa I will follow the directions more closely to the letter. I am still learning what substitutions I can make, and what I can't. For example: loaves baked in a tin can generally be free-form, if you don't have enough tins. But not vice versa (see above example.) Bread which calls for raisins and pecans can easily have dried cherries and pine-nuts substituted, but you will need to keep the proportions the same. You can also always substitute high-protien bread flour for plain flour (I think).

I tried substituting high-protein bread flour with an oatmeal bread last week. When I made the original recipe, it called for plain flour and outmeal, which I used. The crumb was extremely loose. The bread tasted delicious, but its texture, with clumps of bready-oatmeal practically coming off in your hand, was not what I wanted. So, trying the recipe again (more because it made three big loaves than because I loved it so much.) Anyway, so the second time around I used high-protein bread flour, figuring that the higher protein might yield a tighter, denser crumb and ... it did. I also think that the finer crumb was a result of more working - I got all tuckered out towards the end of the second kneading, and asked Dave for help (it's a heavy dough. He brought his ex-car-mechanic hands over and kneaded that bread into submission without breaking a sweat. (He was also innovative and used a rolling pin.) Anyway, it turned out delicious. The oatmeal was perfectly integrated into the bread and the molasses flavour was lovely on the back of your tongue - not really sweet, just adding an extra element of depth to the flavour. It's now definitely something I will make again (possibly tonight, using Mom's kitchen-aid, weather permitting.)

And that is all I have to say about that.