My first time baking a recipe from Hamelman's Bread. I was a little bit intimidated, especially since I've had mediocre results with the few BBA recipes I've tried, and that's widely regarded as the better intro book for the home baker. I'm fairly certain that my lack of success stemmed, not from a problem in the recipes or instructions, but from mistakes that I made due to being totally distracted by all of the gorgeous photographs. And subbing ingredients. I get in more trouble that way...
In any case, after reading through the first part of Hamelman's book, and poring over the instructions a few times, I did manage to successfully follow the recipe. The only thing I did differently was to swap out cracked wheat for flax seeds, since I didn't feel like running to the store for one measly ingredient. Flax seeds were on the list of acceptable substitutions, so really, I as good as followed the recipe, right? That's what I'm telling myself.
This was also the inauguration of my kitchen scale as a baking assistant. It has been my faithful weight-loss tool for a number of months. I have no idea why it took me so long to use it for this second purpose, as it was an almost magical experience, not having to add an extra cup of flour, or half cup of water, to get my dough the correct consistency. Everything came together in a dough that was a bit tacky, but still very manageable, and I didn't have to tinker with it at all. I feel like I never want to measure by volume again.
I made two 1.5 lb loaves: One round loaf to practice my slashing (I am getting better, ever so slowly), and one pan loaf, because sandwiches rock my world. The approximately 1 lb of dough left I used to make a smaller loaf, which I took in to work. My coworkers happily devoured it, so I guess it turned out just fine.
The loaves didn't rise quite as much as I expected. I'm not sure if that's because I didn't develop the gluten enough, didn't proof long enough, or if I just had unrealistic expectations for this kind of loaf. In any case, the texture was not at all off-putting or brick-like, and the flavor was excellent. The last few times I've made non-sourdough bread, I was disappointed by the flat flavors that I got, but there was no such problem with this loaf. I happily ate a slice of it plain, and then made a killer tuna salad sandwich with it. I loved the little pops of texture that the grains contributed, and the crackly, toasty crust.
(Please pardon my taken-with-a-cellphone photographs.)
I still have a lot to learn, but for now I'm content, because this is some of the best bread that I've made to date. Although if anyone has suggestions that might help make my next batch even better, I'm all ears!