Saturday, August 15, 2009

adventures in bread baking

I have a great appreciation now for people who really can blog something insightful and interesting every single day. I have big dreams ( and great posts) in my head I always mean to type up when I get home- but in the midst of a toddler and a newly initiated kindergardener (she started this week) my brain is kinda like a etch a sketch with Mona Lisa on it...after its been dropped down a few flights of stairs. Kinda blank and spotty at the same time. Its been a busy summer, we've gone to the beach, visited the Orange County Fair, I got even more involved with the formation of the local community garden and I've been spending alot of time in the kitchen making more jams and pouring over my prized vintage cookbooks for something inspirational to tackle. Blame it on being a double Capricorn, but I'm not really ever content unless I'm pushing myself to learn something new and inprove on it.

While on my blogging sabbiatical of sorts I've gone into the realm of making bread. Yes bread, staple of millions, and for me a $3.79 multigrain loaf is always on my shopping list, to toast alongside my beloved homegrown fresh eggs (from chicken blessed pals) sunny side up over easy. Then it kinda dawned on me that it wouldn't cost me almost $4 to make a decent loaf of bread that wasnt just "white crap", and after all my birthmother did get me a kitchenaid artisan mixer ( Luv ya MoMo!). Yes the powers that be made it known to me by my inability to cut carbs that if I was really delving into the mental state of a country woman I needed (I typed kneaded at first, LOL) to make a decent, healthy, preferably multigrain bread. French bread would be awesome too, what was once a $.89 loaf for garlic bread was up to $1.29 now. I hate relying on the supermarket for something as basic as bread. I've been reading books, vintage cookbooks/magazines, websites, and blogs learning all sorts of interesting trivia, history, and factoids about the different types of flours, milling processes and different breads and baking styles. I am such a food nerd. King Arthur Flour's website and Bobs Red Mill have aot of awesome information for novice bakers. So far my attempts have been rather successful if I do say so myself.

Heres the bread I had been making for the last 5 years, a gluten-free bread for my husband that was quick to assemble and bake in my bread machine. Works great for toast, garlic bread, stuffing, bread crumbs- its dense but not dry, which is the usual issue with GF bread.

For my first attempt at making "real" bread I wanted a recipe I could easily use my kitchenaid mixer to knead for me. Yes I know that isnt really 'traditional' but in my household counterspace for kneading dough is hard to find and my kitchentable too corwded with other stuff to use. So the mixer was a good first step for me. Eventually I totally want to learn how to knead the bread myself and literally get a feel for it in my hands, but baby steps here.
My first attempt was an ode to my favorite bread in the world, the sweet Molasses Oat bread from Black Angis steakhouse. Boy every time I go there I polish off 2 loaves of the stuff with their butter before my food ever comes out. You'd think I'd learn by now but nope. Its just that good. So when I did a google search for "Kitchenaid Oat Bread" I found a very good recipe on recipezarr for a Honey Oatmeal Bread, I knew I had found an awesome recipe. It rose and baked beautifully, as my proud photos can attest to. Later on I tweaked the recipe a bit, using 1/4 cup blackstrap molasses and 1/4 honey, and the flavor was subtle. I wanted more so then I tried 1/2 blackstrap molasses and 1/4 c honey. You could def taste the molasses, but it wasnt as sweet. So finally I used a 1/2 c molasses, 1/4 c honey AND 1 T of white sugar disolved in the warm water mixture. Bingo! Nice and sweet, but not too much, with a wonderful taste of molasses in it. Yesterday I played around with it a bit more substituting half of the rolled oats with some milled 10 grain cereal to try and get it closer to store bought multigrain bread. It turned out well, I totally forgot I was supossed to soak the grains in hot water first, but maybe because it was pretty fine gound and I used a bit extra water it worked just fine, but took closer to 3 hours to double and rise instead of 1 hour. Next time I make it I may add some cracked sunflower seeds and flax seeds in as well.

This week I also tried my hand at making French Bread. For some reason I had it in my mind that it was really complicated with milk and eggs and dry milk and who knows what- probably because when I watch chefs on TV make brioche I feel overwhelmed...but this French Bread recipe Kitchenaid publishes in their mixer manuals is really awesome, and with only water, flour, yeast, butter, and salt. ( don't use a peel so I skipped the cornmeal, and forgot about the eggwash and it still turned out great). I hope to buy a baking stone someday for artisanal breads and pizza, but for right now my non-stick cookie sheet seems to be working. Alton Brown says you can use a plain unglazed $2 quarry tile from Home Depot, so I'll go check that out sometime as well. I tried to be fancy and braided one loaf like my mom described in how she used to make Challah, and I was so overjoyed to see how pretty it turned out.

In the future I want to try making rolls out of it, or adding fresh chopped rosemary to imitate my other favorite restaurant bread, Maccaroni Grill's Rosemary bread. My mom suggested added shredded cheddar cheese or dried herbs to it, I hope this dough is as flexable as I'm praying it is. I love the idea of getting a few dough recipes down pat and then just changing it up a bit to add more variations.

Looks like I might not be able to rely on my mixer to do all the kneading for me- when I made the french bread I substituted bread flour for all purpose since I had hoped it would make it better, but boy did my mixer have to work at it. The top part wobbled so much the hinge pin that holds the motor part to the base of the mixer worked its way out almost all the way- not good. I had to go google a solution because of course that day kitchenaid customer service was closed because of department meeting. I ended up taping the pin very gently into place with a hammer then tightening the screw underneath thats supossed ot hold it in place. Later on I looked up why that had happened-found the answer on the official Kitchenaid Forums- I guess artisan mixers can only handle up to 9 cups of all purpose flour at a time or 6 cups of specialty flour ( whole grain, bread, or high gluten ) per load. I guess having 7 cups
of bread flour was making the motor a bit grumpy. I may have to cut some recipes in half to avoid burning out the motor on my hardworking buddy. I had no idea there were different mixers for such things, I could never figure why if a mixer is supossed to do so many basic functions and last for years why people own 3 or 4 of them... or why some are more expensive or whatever, I guess the stronger the motor the more dough it can handle at once and can handle denser flours. Interesting. Now I know!
But I think no matter how much I try and justify this to my husband he ain't going to go for it.

At only $900 at Williams-Sonoma this 575 watt, 6qt, real copper coated thing of beauty is going to stay on its shelf along with all the rest of the really beautiful and expensive stuff there I'll always drool over but never buy. Well, maybe for our 10 year anniversary or something, kitchenaid outlet sells reburbished ones for only $450 on ebay.

Only $450. yeah. only. ha.

My new addiction to bread baking is supossed to be SAVING me money! (right?)


Raksha said...

Your bread is SO beautiful, Cindy! And I bet it tastes even better than it looks. I wish I could tell you you're inspiring me (and you are) but I gotta be honest--you're intimidating me even more! I don't own a bread machine and I've never used the mixer I inherited. As an urban homesteader I've got a long way to go. In fact, I haven't even gotten started yet!

knittnkitten said...

Here's a blog you might want to watch for...


knittnkitten said...

Half off?

Cindy said...


*drool* so tempting....alas, just found out hubby is getting laid off this Friday so it seems I'm going to have to suck it up and be careful with my artisan for awhile yet.

Cindy said...

oh and that knead for bread site is awesome! I adore recipe blogs, I'm adding that to my list. :)

knittnkitten said...

Sorry to hear about your hubby, I'm week to week at the moment and it's sad. I know things are picking up, but boy is this a shake up. Best wishes to you and yours.