About twice a year I get this romantic notion that I am going to bake bread. Which is hilarious because I'm scared of bread... scared of failing. I have baked a lot of bread and it's either dry or the crumb isn't right or it's too heavy like a brick. But a couple times a year I get a bug in my bonnet and want to bake bread.
I will be baking in my immaculate kitchen on tiptoe. Singing with the bluebirds that a perched happily on the sunny window sill. Did I also mention I am 5'10" and am at most 125 pounds. Very Disney Princess. My glossy hair swings around perfectly with every movement but never is in my face. My house smells like bread fresh out of the oven.
My kitchen is a mess. It's foggy and the birds are afraid of the cat. I am five foot nothing. Not close to 125 pounds. My hair is always in the way and getting grayer by the minute. And bread? Well I can never master the bread part.
Let's see why because there are many reasons I fail and they are my own damn fault.
-I can cook but baking bread is another story. It's like thinking if you do a thousand sit-ups a day for a week you'll have great abs. Baking bread is something you have to do a lot over and over again to get the hang of it. I don't bake bread often but I think each time I do, it will turn out marvelously or that I will have great abs. It's a toss up
-Heat. I keep my house cold in the winter. I'm talking the warmest it gets in my house is 65 degrees. The yeasties do not like cold. They want a nice warm environment. It has taken a lot of failed bread for me to get this one simple truth.
-And last but not least. I hate instructions. Recipe schmecipe. I like to think of a recipes as a very loose guideline. When making bread you need to follow directions and this is where I fail. When I bake bread I need to follow the recipe. The person who wrote it knows what they are doing when it comes to bread and I, the most stubbornest person on the earth, needs to listen, read, and most importantly follow the recipe.
Okay, class is session. Let's bake some bread.
Ingredients first, then recipe instructions under each picture with my notes in italics.
oatmeal sandwich bread: good to the grain by kim boyce
1 pkg active dry yeast
3 tbs unsulphured molasses
2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups bread flour
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 tbs kosher salt
Lightly butter a large bowl and a bread loaf pan about 9 by 5 by 3 inches.
Add 2 cups of warm water, yeast, and molasses to the bowl of a standing mixer. Stir and allowing the yeast to bloom for about five minutes, until it begins to bubble.If it doesn't, it may be inactive; throw it out and start over.
Warm water means 105-115 degrees. Too hot and you kill the yeast, too cold and the yeast will not activate.
I also rinse my mixer bowl with warm water on the inside and outside, then dry before placing yeast and water into the bowl. Warm bowl and warm water makes the yeast very happy.
To autolyse, measure the flours oats, and butter into the bowl mixture with yeast mixture and stir together with a wooden spoon cover with a towel and let stand for 30 minutes.
Autolyse means all the ingredients are mixed together except salt and then allowed to rest before kneading. This rest allows the flour time to absorb the water, yielding a wetter dough and a moister bread.
Since my house is cold, here's another tip to get bread dough to rise. I preheat my oven to the lowest temperature (170 degrees) for about five minutes. Then I turn off the oven and place my dough in the warm oven. Make sure not to heat your oven too much or it will kill the yeast also. Anytime the dough had to rest, I placed it in my warm oven.
Attach the bowl and the bread hook to the mixer, add salt, and mix on medium speed for 6 minutes. The dough should slap around the sides without sticking to them. If the dough is sticking at any time during the mixing, add a tablespoon or two of bread flour until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl. The dough should be soft and supple, slightly tacky, with a beautiful sheeting effect.
My dough was perfect just like the above directions. When I stopped the mixer this sheeting (or what I think she meant by sheeting effect) happened. Then the dough pulled right back into the ball of dough in the bowl.
For the first rise, scrape the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead a few times.
When I bake bread i always keep a little pile of flour the upper right hand side of my work surface just in case the dough starts to stick.
Put the dough into the buttered bowl, cover with a towel and leave it to rise for about an hour, or until it's doubled in size.
Again I leave the dough in my warm oven.
How do you tell if it's proofed? Gently push a floured finger into the dough. If it springs back, the dough needs to proof longer. If a dimple remains, move on to the next step.
To shape the dough, scrape the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Press down on the dough, working it toward a square shape while depressing all of the bubbles.
Fold the dough down from the top to the middle, then from the bottom to the middle. Next bring the newly formed top and bottom edges together and pinch the seam in the middle, sealing the seam with your fingers.
Pinch the sides together and roll the shaped dough back and forth, plumping it so that it's evenly formed and about the size of your loaf pan.
Place the dough in the pan with the seam side down and press it gently into the corners of the pan.
For the second rise, cover the dough with a towel and let it rise in a warm place for about an hour, or until the dough rises to half it's size, or puffs up barely, or just over the edge of the pan. While the dough is rising, preheat oven to 400 degrees.
When the dough has finished it's final rise, sprinkle the top of the loaf with oats or bran, if desired.
Bake for about 40 minutes, rotating halfway through. The loaf is ready when the top crust is as dark as molasses and the bottom crust is dark brown. To see if the bread is ready, give the loaf a thump to see if it sounds hollow. If the hollow sound isn't there and the bread isn't dark enough, bake for another 5 minutes. Remove the loaf from the pan and cool on a baking rack, preferably for a few hours, so the crumb doesn't collapse when you cut into it and the flavor can develop.
Tasting notes: I was thrilled with this bread. Slightly sweet, moist and bakery worthy. When and if my kids ever leave the house permanently, I will stop buying bread and make this my house loaf.
Here are some other recipes that I lay out step by step... perfect french fries, tiramisu, gnocchi, pecan pie, cranberry streusel bars, brownies with caramel sauce, spam musubi, and dill pull apart rolls.
Still here? Good. I was so happy the way that this bread turned out. I felt like a champ so I thought I'd spread the love. Want to win a copy of Good to The Grain? Leave as many comments here as you like or go click the like button on evil chef mom's facebook page and leave a comment there. Already a fan? You can leave a comment there as well. Winners will be announced Tuesday February 1st 2011.
Posted by krysta at 1:55 PM