The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Stephanie Brim's blog

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Stephanie Brim's picture
Stephanie Brim

I'm a simple girl.  My only requirement of my kitchen appliances and untensils is that they work, and work well, for the application I intend to use them.  This, among other things, is why I replaced the oven that came with this house as soon as financially possible.

I'm a gas person.  Always have been and always will be.  I can't cook very well on an electric stove.  When we went looking for houses before our baby was born, I looked at the range in every house and said no to almost every house that had an electric one.  We didn't really have the money to get a new one right away at the time.  Almost every house...except this one.

There were other very nice things about this house, though.  4 bedrooms.  1.5 bathrooms.  Big dining area that could, someday, turn into a very dreamy kitchen for yours truly.  Big patch of rhubarb on one side of the garage.  Big patch of blackberry bushes on the other side.  A peach tree in the backyard.  Plenty of room for a garden, and a patch that was partitioned off with beams of wood that could easily be turned into some sort of melon or strawberry patch without the rest of the garden being overgrown.

The not-so-nice things were many as well.  Electric range.  Carpet upstairs that didn't look as though it had been changed since the 70's.  A kitchen floor with linoleum so old that it had little bits of dirt permanently ground into it.  Very little counter space.

We got it anyway due to the aforementioned very nice things.  I've always wanted a space for a garden.

Fast forward a few months.  I'm about 5 months pregnant and the annual friends and family sale is going on through Electrolux.  My boyfriend works at the plant here in town, and his sister works at the Beam plant.  So we get the list of things and start perusing, not really thinking of getting anything.  Lo and behold, on the last page, sits my dream: a 5 burner gas range with 5 cubic ft. convection oven.  Big enough to do 4 9" cakes in.  Big enough to bake even the biggest batch of bread that I felt I could handle.  If we'd gone to Lowe's to pick up the same oven, we would've paid close to $1200. In the sale, it was less than $600.

My grandparents wanted to get us a housewarming gift anyway, and so we asked both sets to chip in and then we paid the rest.  I *cried* the day I used it for the first time.  Cookies come out perfect.  Bread bakes up so beautifully.  I thought the crying thing was just because I was pregnant, but sometimes I still get a little teary-eyed when I think about how great it is to have a range that won't burn things on the bottom and leave them raw on top.

So I wanted to say thank you to my oven.  I feed it good dough and it gives me good bread.  Such a harmonious relationship.

Stephanie Brim's picture
Stephanie Brim

Today was a good day. Strangely. It started horribly. Nothing was going my way. I thought my chicken had gone rancid on me. I was dropping things constantly. I thought my bread overproofed.

Nope. All went just fine.

Today's bake was something of a hurried thing. I knew that sometime this week I wanted to make burgers. We tend to like ground pork instead of beef for our burgers and thus I decided that there's nothing better with pork than more pork: burgers with bacon, sharp vermont cheddar, and caramelized red onion for tomorrow's dinner. I pulled the meat out of the fridge to thaw and then set out to make the buns.

I know that this is a forum of bread bakers, but have you looked at how many supermarket breads recently have high fructose corn syrup in them? Since my daughter is now getting to the age where she's going to start eating real food (as opposed to her babyfood purees), I'm trying to cut it out of our diet as much as possible. So I look to see if I can find some buns without some because she will undoubtedly want a bite of the bun...and I come up with *nothing*. There wasn't one bread on the shelf that didn't have HFCS in it. So homemade buns it is.

Now comes the tricky part. I'd never made buns before. I've picked up sandwich bread fairly quickly and can get a good loaf of that, and what I really wanted was sandwich bread in a smaller form. A slightly crisp crust with a very moist but still hearty inside. Immediately I go toward Bob's Red Mill graham flour. So I start my dough with 2 cups of whole wheat graham flour and 1 cup of distilled water. Into this I also put 2 (!) tablespoons of vital wheat gluten. Mixed until I got a cohesive dough, and then let it sit on the counter for 2 hours. Yes, 2 hours. I wanted the wheat to fully soak up the water.

2 hours later, I mix a few more things into the dough. 1/2 cup water, 1/2 cup buttermilk, 4 tablepoons butter, 4 teaspoons yeast, and 2-3 tablespoons of honey. To this I add enough Harvest King bread flour to make a very wet, sticky dough. I'd say about 2.5 cups or so. I knead this together, put it in the bowl, and walk away for 20 minutes. After that 20 minutes I flatten the dough a bit, sprinkle on 2 teaspoons of salt or thereabouts, and knead it in for about 7 more minutes. Then I walk away for another 20. One final knead for about 5 minutes, and on to the real bulk rise. Takes about an hour. Then I shape the rolls (and one very short but tasty loaf) and put them in the pan to rise. I shaped 6 large rolls since they're going to be burger buns tomorrow, but for the next occasion they'll probably be smaller. Let them proof for 45 minutes and into the oven.

The only issue that I have with them is that they aren't brown on the top by any means. I'm going to brush with egg yolk next time to get more color. The taste, however, is killer, and they'll work well with the burgers.

whole wheat buns, background, and crumb, foreground (blurred a bit, darn my camera phone)

I'm learning, and I'm loving every second of it. Without this site I'm sure learning would have been possible, but I couldn't pick a better group of people to share the experience with. You're all so helpful and very understanding. I'm glad I have some like-minded people to share both my successes and failures with. :)

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