Newbie's first loaves!
This is part me showing off, part asking for input. :)
A bit about me - I've always enjoyed cooking, but just recently (as of a week ago) dove into bread-making for the first time ever when I bought a few packets of active dry yeast on a whim. I've made two batches, and I've got my third one retarding in the fridge. I've already bought a proper jar of yeast (rather than packets,) and I've got an attempt at cherry yeast water brewing in the kitchen at the moment.
... yeah, I'm kind of addicted already. ;)
Unfortunately, I don't really have a great setup for making bread - you'll see from the pictures how I cook it, and probably cry a little bit. Still though, it's coming out tasty, and that's all that really matters. Note that all the measurements I use are volume measurements. I don't quite know the math involved in changing volume measurements to mass measurements, and I'm honestly not 100% sure on my proportions.
So, the first loaf, which I call a parmesan cream loaf:
This loaf was really dense. It actually came out more like a biscuit than bread, but it was amazingly tasty - kinda like bread made from a biscuit, because it had sort of a cross between the two flavors. I just threw out about an inch wide portion of the second loaf since it's been sitting around for a couple of days, but I'm sure it could have easily been made edible again if I really wanted.
The crust itself came out extremely flaky and a little bit crunchy.
Rough recipe (since I tend to be really slap-dash when I'm cooking:)
4 cups AP flour (Safeway brand)
2 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream (!)
1 packet of Fleischmann's Active Dry Yeast
1 cup grated parmesan
I ended up kneading it until it felt "done" to me, letting it sit around when I got annoyed with it. I probably underproofed it, and I know I wasn't patient about letting it bulk ferment. It -did- rise to a decent degree, but it spread rather than rising up.
I let it cook at about 425F for... 40 minutes or so? I'm not used to writing down my recipes, unfortunately. I did steam the loaf, which is what I attribute the awesome crust to - it didn't get as hard as I'd have liked, but it was still good. No glaze was used on this one.
Second loaf, which I call an "all-in-one garlic bread":
Crumb shot after my friend and I had an hour with the loaf (he dropped it and I put a finger through the loaf catching it, so I figured it was cool enough to eat at that point...):
This one turned out beautifully, looks-wise. I loved the way the crust looked, even though it was still thinner than I'd have liked. Once again, I really should have cooked it longer. The dough was REALLY wet and I hadn't figured out folding yet, so I said "screw it" and tossed it in for a bulk ferment/retard/autolyze overnight after attempting to knead it (since I was making it the previous night for something I was doing the next day.)
4 cups AP flour (Safeway Brand)
2 1/4 cups water
1 packet Fleischmann's active dry yeast
1 stick butter (melted)
1 cup grated parmesan
1/4 cup minced garlic
1 whole egg, beaten (for glaze)
"Italian Herbs" (sprinkled on top before glazing)
I mixed the flour, salt, and parmesan in with 2 cups of the water; then I added the proofed yeast (which added the other 1/4 cup of water,) butter, and garlic. I attempted to knead it until I got annoyed with it (once again,) poured it on my pan, and let it chill in the fridge for about 8-10 hours. Once I pulled it out, I kneaded it a bit more (which went a WHOLE lot better after letting it sit in the fridge overnight...) shaped it into that rectangle shape, and let it rise a little bit (as usual though, not enough - at least I had the excuse of being on a time crunch this time!)
After letting it rise, I sprinkled on the finely-ground Italian herbs (what they are, I'm not sure - I just know that Market Spice in Seattle sells them, and they're great in anything Italian...) and then used a basting brush to coat it with the beaten egg.
I scored it, then cooked it at 400F for about 45 minutes. Steam was added, again, during the first 5-10 minutes of cooking. It came out looking beautiful. The crumb was very moist - more so than the previous loaf, which I attribute to the lower cooking temperature. The crust was soft, thin, and a little bit chewy - perfect for tearing off a chunk and nibbling at it. The crumb was extremely moist, and it had a touch of garlic butter flavor to it - just enough for a hint of the flavor. My two friends and I certainly enjoyed it - the loaf didn't last the day.
I suspect I've been overhydrating my dough for a newbie - for both the previous recipes, I actually ended up mixing in 3 cups of flour, and sifting the fourth one over the dough to keep it dry enough to work with. This is a large part of why the recipes are inexact. <_<
Now for my questions:
Would adding some vital wheat gluten flour to the first recipe strengthen the gluten structure enough that I could get a better rise/more holes out of it?
Would it be worth trying the first recipe in a loaf pan so it rises up instead of out?
Would cooking either loaf for longer at a higher temperature dry out the crumb and give me a thicker crust?
When pulling a loaf out after retarding, should I pull it out, portion it, shape the loaves, bring to room temperature, reshape, and then let it rise? Or should I do things in a different order?
I'll take any other suggestions as well, of course. :)
Thanks in advance for any help that might be given, and I'm glad to have found this site! The lessons, the handbook, and all the assorted posts that describe process have been hugely helpful in getting me up to speed on this stuff.