Introductions and Questions
Hello to All:
I'm sure I've got a slightly different angle than most when it comes to enjoying baking as a pastime. I thought I'd share it and ask a few questions.
Due to some financial struggles in the house, my wife and I decided that to keep our heads afloat, some unnecessary luxuries had to be removed from our life. This included the TV !!!! Upon it's removal from our house - I began milling around aimlessly in the evenings, not really having a clue what I should be doing with myself. Sad, I know.... Sure, there's always chores to be done - but I was looking for some way to relax...affordably. Then one miserable raining day - we ran out of bread ( which is a life ending event for young children who seem to grow from nothing but French toast and grilled cheese). So instead of trudging out into the rain, I figured we'd have a nice afternoon playing in some flour and making some homemade bread. Since then, I've become slightly obsessed with being able to make my own bread....and actually be proud of the outcome. Every other evening I make a batch of 3-4 loaves and try to tweak the recipe I've been using ( http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Fabulous-Homemade-Bread/Detail.aspx ) to find the perfect balance as it never seems to come out just right. Most of my tweaking only is limited to actual preparation / Setup / Order of Ingredients / proofing times...etc. I'm really amazed at how altering any of these steps without altering the ingredients makes very different loaves of bread!
I woefully admit that my baking education is coming entirely from web sites scattered over the internet as I await for my copy of "Bread Alone" to be available from the library; so my skills may be a Frankenstein type collection from varying schools of thought. This morning however I thought I finally had it down pat. My loaves weren't rising very high, were a little dense, and tasted a little bland. I found a collection of pointers at this website http://www.foodiefarmgirl.blogspot.com/2005/07/ten-tips-for-better-bread.html and did 4 things differently over what I have been doing.
1) I tried kneading the Dough by hand (While enjoying a glass of wine) - very nice!
2) I allowed for a rest period prior to adding my salt and oats.
3) I allowed the first rise to occur in my refrigerator overnight
4) I let the second rise happen in an appropriately warm oven (because my house is a chilly 68 Degrees) with the addition of a small boiling pan of water placed at the bottom of the oven to provide for a warm steam during the final rise. ( To be honest - I'm not sure why I did this or what I was trying to achieve by doing it....!!)
The end result? It was a gorgeous looking loaf of bread. I even made my wife come out of the bedroom early this morning to admire my creation. But now for the downside. Upon cutting into my masterpiece - I noticed that it's very, fluffy, moist & full of flavor, but it just doesn't doesn't want to hold together very well. Trying to slice through it is frustraiting as it just wants to fall apart!!! I was so close! But now that I jumped the gun and made so many changes in my bread making routine - I don't have a clue which added step is contributing to my successes (Taste, Rise, Moistness) and which is contributing to my failures ( crumbly).
Any help or criticism is welcomed.