Country Bread - yeast activated at 72F, 100F, and 130F (left to right) - July 8, 2017
This lesson took me through an emotional rollercoaster: I was excited, apprehensive, disappointed, frustrated, overjoyed, exhausted and famished. I came through it all (monopolizing The Bread Whisperer over text for several hours), and the main thing I learned? Next time, a big glass of wine while working will probably relax both me and the dough.
The task was to make three mini loaves of bread. Sounds simple enough... but wait, thinking that way is what got me here - and my mentor is ensuring I understand every step involved in creating bakery worthy bread... so where do we start? Well first I had to use bakers math to scale the recipe down to make 450g of dough per loaf - I am glad to say this was much more successful and went way quicker this time since I actually understand it now. Step 1 - check!
Step 2 - make the first dough. It is 8 p.m. My six-month-old is babbling away at her Daddy after a long day of house renovations. If I don't start now another day will pass me by, and honestly I want to eat bread, I want to smell bread, I want to spend time in my kitchen making something that makes people smile and salivate... I pull out my KitchenAid mixer and my scale. It is go time!
The frustration didn't take long to set in.
The ingredients measured carefully and the room temperature water reading 72F. I ran the mixer with the 'C' hook performing the window-pane test after 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 minutes. It shouldn't take so long - the mixer is crying, the small batch barely being picked up by machine as it jostled about. I turned it off, grabbed it out and used my initial aggravation at it not being "easy" to knead it in to submission myself. Nine minutes later it was beautifully soft, and the window-pane test not too shabby (if I do say so myself)!
I put it in a bowl, set a timer, and took a measurement before I set it aside to proof under a cloth. It was 1.5" high and ready to go.
After a break (read as: putting Addie to bed, twice. Poor teething babe!) I repeated the process for the second dough with 100F water and the third with 130F water. I did switch to a paddle which worked much, much better than the hook. Less than 7 minutes in the mixer for each dough and minimal hand-kneading needed. Two more timers, and proofing was underway for all three.
The timing of my break worked out pretty well since the first dough took so much longer to proof - two hours and it was doubled, puffy and pillowy. I pressed a finger in the top and it didn't bounce back - time to get it in the loaf pan... but how? I remember talking about using a tiny amount of Crisco to grease the pan, and giving it a few good kneads to get the gas out before letting it rise again, but do I just kind of cram it in the pan? Well - I tried that, and send TBW a panicked photo and question, he replied with a King Arthur Flour video lesson on shaping (why didn't I think of that?!), it was a game changer. I watched it a few times and had a much more pleasant looking loaf. Back under the towel - the next one was ready - repeat with the third. Fast forward (by the miracle of the internet) 45 mins later and they are ready to go - and looking hopeful!
I set the oven to convection bake at 450F and put them in - when they started getting brown I jabbed the thermometer in and got a reading of 180F, turned the oven off and 5 mins later they read 208F (all being guided by TBW and trying to fight the urge to cut one open and see if it worked or failed). I took them out, almost hyperventilating, and then it hit me - the sweet, happy smell of freshly baked bread. Even if it was not perfect, it smelled like heaven and it WOULD be good because it is fresh, homemade bread! I took a quick measurement, some pictures, and (since it was 12:15 a.m.) I left them on a rack to cool and went to bed (or perhaps was told to leave them alone and go to bed... thankyouverymuchteacher).
The next morning (after resisting the urge to leave Addie and the dogs with my husband and run downstairs like a kid at Christmas) I sliced and taste tested with Tim. You have to love bread for breakfast!
The first one (72F) had me literally squeal with joy (freaking out the dogs, who went crazy and then startled the baby - good start to the day), it looked like REAL bread! It tasted fantastic, the texture was nice and springy - soft, fluffy clouds of white bread with a crisp crust and a delightfully subtle tangy nutty flavor - two thumbs up from us both!
The second (100F) looked fantastic too, it was a little denser and had more flavor than the first - we agreed it was better, but both would happily be eaten down to the last crumb.
The third (130F) was even more dense, and the flavor for us was overwhelming. It just had a bit too much of an after taste, and was a bit too heavy. Toasted with butter and other deliciousness it will still not be wasted!
So what have I taken from this lesson?
- The paddle is better than the 'C' hook (at least for this small of a batch and this type of dough).
- Yeast is definitely much more active with increased temperature - producing more flavor and faster results.
- The proofing time does make a difference with the density and size you end up with (I could have been a little more patient with the second and third batch so the end product may have been a bit more uniform (the loaves as you can see are visibly different sizes after baking). It also is painfully long if you don't use warm water!
- Shaping a loaf is an art form, I need lots of practice for when I make them without a loaf pan.
- I need to start before 8pm as my household does not sleep in!
Lesson five, I am ready for you!