Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Kickin' Frustration's Heiney in the Knead


I found this recipe to be very straightforward and good in terms of bread-baking. What I decided to do was make one very enormous loaf of bread for sandwiches since we were receiving our container from America with movers coming to help unpack the container and I wanted to make sure we had enough sandwich bread on hand.



The dough was not hard to work with in my opinion. I used a fair amount of potatoes - 16 ounces - but if I were to make this again I probably would not use that many potatoes simply because I am a fan of very airy, holey bread and this was more dense with a tight crumb.


However, I received rave reviews on the bread and it was tasty. I wished I could have made a focaccia and plan on trying to make one with potatoes and rosemary on the top the next time.

This was a fun challenge, it made me realize how nice it is to get my hands dirty with dough and knead out frustrations. Thanks for a great recipe!



** Hi it's Lis :) I want to apologize to Monica and all of ya'll for getting her post up so late. She got it to me in plenty of time, but I dropped the ball and didn't see it until just recently. I'm so sorry! Forgive me? Please? Pretty please?


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Potato Rolls for Thanksgiving

I made my November recipe on November 12 because I was afraid I would run out of time before Thanksgiving. My mother and I have been doing the recipes together and we decided to make rolls to freeze for Thanksgiving.

Kathy's rolls

We were able to complete the recipe as it was written and our bread rose as expected. We made balls for our rolls, put them in the pan to rise and we must have made the balls of dough too large or did not put them far enough apart because when they rose the second time it looked like one big piece of flatbread. I cooked it but they had not risen high enough and it was mostly crust.

I thought the recipe was good but I would make either a loaf of bread or foccocia the next time. It is the type of bread I would serve with soup or an entree salad but not with a big dinner. We had a good time making it and this recipe made me want to try some other bread recipes. I am looking forward to December's challenge.


Monday, November 26, 2007

Need to Knead (and add flour too)

After my fist DB challenge last month, I was really excited to see what the next one would be. I checked the website maybe 120 times until I finally saw the next challenge posted- Tender Potato Bread. I was thrilled with the choice because my husband A* is a bread baker (and bread lover) and I’ve helped him make bread before, so I relished the prospect of doing it on my own, with maybe just a little bit of help from him. Also, both A* and his mom spoke of the wonders of potato bread (how soft and delicious it is, with little specks of potato in it). Once I read the actual recipe, it thought it was… interesting. It was kind of Talmudic, having both the canon and commentary all rolled into one. I found it just a little bit confusing but appreciated all the notes and suggestions from someone who had tried the recipe already.

Before I started, A* and I decided that he would be more of a consultant so I could actually learn how to do it on my own. I appreciated having him there for reassurance and support, as well as actual coaching, but I wonder whether having him there made me less daring. For example, he disagreed with the recipe at several points and I had to remind him that I was supposed to follow the recipe as it was (such as not using the sponge method). In the end, I have to admit I ended up going with his deviations a couple of times. My yeast, for example, was very close to its expiration time and A* was surprised by how little yeast the recipe called for, so I ended up putting in more yeast (about 3 tsp) just in case it was weak. Also, I realized at the last minute that I only had salted butter, so A* said it was OK to use that and omit the salt (as it turns out, a mistake). Oh well… I tried to keep to the spirit of the recipe as much as I dared.

The process was a little bit scary for me, but only because I was concerned about the dough being too sticky and how I would knead it. When I saw the first mixture was basically liquid I almost freaked, but A* reminded me to look at the next step in the recipe (add more flour). The stickiness proved to be a problem throughout… I kneaded and kneaded for what felt like hours and every time I felt I was ready, I would call A* over and in the 30 seconds it took him to get to the kitchen, the dough was really sticky again. I swear this cycle happened MANY times. A* kept telling me I was focusing too much on kneading and not enough on incorporating flour, which only kind of made sense to me and proved very hard to implement. I’m not sure what I would have done if I hadn’t had A* there to tell me how long to knead it for. From recipe, it was hard to tell when to stop, and I likely would have stopped too soon (potentially the first time it stopped being sticky before it got sticky again).

FINALLY, I got it to a place where I felt it was not ridiculously sticky and set it to rise. A* suggested oiling the rising container, but that wasn’t in the recipe. I ended up acquiescing because, alas, the dough was getting sticky again, and I’m really glad I did because it was REALLY sticky after the rise. Then came more kneading, more sticking, and more blasted suggestions about incorporating more flour. Finally, I was ready to shape! We decided to do a focaccia and 2 small loaves (I only had small loaf pans). I made the focaccia with dried thyme (no rosemary in my supermarket for several weeks now; I don’t know what that’s about), and after baking it came out pretty if a bit pale.

The loaves got a light oiling and then an egg wash (A*’s suggestion) and came out beautifully golden, with a crisp crust (see picture at the beginning)

Audience Response/My Response:

The audience this time was just A* and me, as we were having a lazy day alone and home. We both thought the texture and look of the bread were perfect and liked the nuttiness of the whole wheat but found it kind of bland. We agreed that it definitely needed more salt. I’m not sure if this was because I decided that adding salted butter was enough (and it actually wasn’t) or if kosher salt (which I used) is less salty per teaspoon than table salt (which I think it is) or if the recipe really needs more salt, or maybe all three. A* noted that too little salt is better than too much because you can add salt to the toppings. We ended up eating the bread dipped in olive oil, balsamic, and lots of kosher salt.

We were also a bit disappointed that there weren’t any actual potato bits, although the crazy kneading probably obliterated them. A* thought the amount of potato was probably too conservative (even though we used 16oz.) because we ended up with barely any potato taste and no chunks.

What I learned/practice:

1) Kneading bread is fun! It’s like playing with A LOT of play-dough at a time. However, apparently you have to remember that it’s not just about the squishing and folding but also about incorporating the flour, which took me forever to learn.

2) Kneading is easier, at least for me with my little hands and short arms, when you use smaller amounts of dough. (Corollary- I may need to start exercising to build some arm strength if I want to knead the whole dough effectively).

3) Pizza stones are awesome for baking bread! That part is definitely going into our permanent baking repertoire. In our past bread baking forays, the bread came out with a very soft crust and I like solid crusts. The pizza stone really helped with that!

4) I’m not sure I can say that I can now make bread totally on my own (I got a lot of coaching) but at least I’m closer!

The final verdict:

I had lots of fun making the bread and it was delicious if a bit bland. Next time I would add more salt, potentially egg wash the focaccia, and come up with some flavorings just to experiment. A* wasn’t too convinced with this recipe, as he thought that it didn’t call for enough yeast, salt, or potatoes and he prefers the sponge method like in the Tassajara Bread Book. All in all, I think the potato bread concept is a keeper, as is using a pizza stone for baking, but we’d probably use a different recipe. We might even start baking bread regularly... but only after I finish my dissertation!

First Challenge Complete - Nobody Dies!


I was nervous about this, my first DB Challenge, since I’ve never baked yeasted bread before. And then my husband and I tried a few weeks without white flour in our diet (it wasn’t fun, lots of brown rice), so I couldn’t find a good time to bake the bread. On the day I’d set aside to make the bread, what wound up happening was that, due to poor time management skills on my part, I didn’t start making it until pretty late. The loaves wouldn’t go into the oven until nearly bedtime. So I made up the dough, let it rise once, shaped and then refrigerated it overnight. It was a pretty sticky dough, but I kept flouring it liberally and it really didn’t give me too many problems, which was a pleasant surprise.


My husband is the bread baker in our duo, so he had expressed some concern about using only two teaspoons of yeast in the bread, but we both found that his concerns were unfounded. The next morning, I discovered that my rolls and the loaf of bread were huge! Even the cold of the refrigerator couldn’t stop them from expanding exponentially. (Sadly, no picture of this stage exists, since I was too quick to subvert the problem before photo documentation.) I had to punch them down in the pan before putting them in the oven, lest they turn into some I Love Lucy-esque monstrosity. I also forgot to slash the loaves and rolls, as well as do a wash of butter or olive oil, so I pulled them out and did a belated slash and oil. We got a little over-exuberant in the oil department, which wound up creating a very crispy bottom on the rolls.

And when I opened the oven, gasp! I’d made bread! And nobody died!

Bread and Rolls

I was pleased with the chewy texture and uniform crumb, though I think I didn’t add enough salt. It didn’t have that doughy, unfinished homemade-bread taste that marred a few of my husband’s early bread forays, a nice turn of events. We had the rolls for lunch and toasted a few slices of the loaf for our sandwiches today. Very nice, if I may pat a flour hand on my own back.

Given that I have a huge sweet list of things I’d like to bake, I don’t know if I’ll rush back to make this recipe again, but my husband may use the recipe soon. In the meantime, I’ve made two different pumpkin pies and a lemon cheesecake for Thanksgiving dinner, and am looking forward to finding sweet, creative uses for the cans of pumpkin my mom overbought. Hmm…I’m thinking pumpkin doughnuts with a maple glaze….Anyway, I was very grateful for the chance to challenge myself outside of the dessert range, and am eagerly looking forward to the next DB Challenge!


Yay, my first DB challenge!


I had a lot of ideas for things to do with this recipe, lots of pesto and garlic and cheese floating around in the back of my mind, but what really happened was I got busy, I had to host Thanksgiving, life in general was not kind to the idea of me doing something interesting and yummy with this bread. So, I just got a chance to make the bread yesterday, and I really wish I’d had time to work with it a bit more. I made it simply as the recipe described, no time to get Daring, but I would have liked some added flavor. The end result was okay, but I’ve made better bread. I thought it was a little bit salty, and it just didn’t stand out as “great bread.” My husband really liked it for a turkey sandwich; he described it as hearty, and he liked the chewiness.


As for actually making the bread, I enjoyed working with the soft dough, although it was challenging to knead because of the stickiness. It has been a long time since I’ve made bread by hand, but I think I’m going to let the bread machine and the KitchenAid take a rest, and do it the old fashioned way a little more often.


I’m not sure if my kitchen was really warm, or what happened, but it rose a lot more than I expected, and my large loaf ended up overflowing the loaf pan and getting a mushroom shape.


I braided the rest of the dough, but instead of rising up, it sort of oozed out sideways. Maybe I should have put the braid into a loaf pan to contain it and make it go up.

So, in conclusion, I really liked that this challenge got me in the kitchen making bread without machines, and I plan on doing that a lot more, but I don’t think I’ll be making this particular bread again. I can’t wait for the next challenge, and I am proud to now officially call myself a Daring Baker!


Tender Potato Bread - Gluten Free!

First, I created a gluten free flour mixture consisting of Amaranth, Sorghum, and a bit of Teff flour to help bind the final bread together a bit better. To this mixture I also added a dash of xanthan gum to help make this a bit more like the wonderful images I've seen people post on here.

Once I made the potato bread and it turned out wonderfully, I decided that I would make a focaccia. This was a particularly wonderful treat for me since I can't even remember the last time that I had focaccia. I made a rosemary, olive oil and sun dried tomato focaccia.

After making all of these I had a few friends come over and try out my first Daring Bakers challenge. I didn't tell them that I made them gluten free, and honestly, I don't think that they would have known if I didn't tell them when they were leaving. Thank you so much for posting this wonderful challenge. This recipe will certainly be something that I use on a regular basis.