Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A Slice of Chicanery

Although unemployed, I still fail to blog consistently....

However, I have started baking bread. And that is an event that warrants a blog post.
a delicious success.

I have been scared of any baking involving yeast for a long time. But in the wake of my college graduation and subsequent unemployment I have had the opportunity to conquer my fears. After making more quickbread, cookies, and some really awesome graham crackers, I'd had enough of sweets and filling my house with things I felt guilty about eating. It was time to make something useful, something I can't live without.

Like vegetables, but not because I can't garden in January!

I was also inspired by reading Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. If they could bake all their own bread in their quest to eat local, then why couldn't I? I started simple. I commandeered my parents' bread machine and looked up a simple whole wheat loaf recipe. I stuck all the ingredients in the machine, pushed go and went to bed. Loaf one was not a resounding success. It seemed as if the dough was too wet; the top of the loaf was caved in and the texture of the bread was like a sticky sponge.

For my next loaf I used the same recipe, but decided to actually check on the bread as it was kneading and rising. My suspicions were right! The dough was too wet. A tablespoon or so of flour later and everything seemed better. After baking, the the top was still caved in, but this time only slightly and the inner texture was pleasant however, the grain size was irregular throughout the loaf. I had to continue my quest for quality bread!

Loaf three qualified as a success in my book. I stuck with the same recipe, but this time added even more extra flour than I had the second time and hoped I didn't end up with a doorstop. When I opened the machine after baking I found a perfectly rounded top and when I sliced the loaf the grain size was uniform all the way through!

Making two passable loaves of bread wasn't enough though. I also decided I wanted to make pizza dough for homemade pizza. For this, I just used the recipe for pizza dough that came with the machine. It worked out great. I made enough dough for two thin, but not too thin, crusts on my 11x14 all-purpose-pan (in other words the only pan I have). The pizza ended up being amazing. Cam and I topped it with shittake mushroom tomato sauce, carmelized onions, kalamata olives, salami, and a blend of parmesan and mozzarella cheese. Best part? We got enough of everything to make two pizzas... super easy and delicious dinner tonight!

That could have been the end of the story, but its not! While eating a toasted sliced of the third loaf with my friend Anthony, he asked me why I was making bread in a machine, since it was so easy to do with out one. I told him I hadn't really though about trying it without the help of the bread machine.

After my conversation with Anthony, I started poking around on the internet for super simple bread recipes, aka I didn't want to have to knead the bread or work very hard. My search eventually yielded this. I was ready. No kneading, and four loaves for only several minutes of work? Sounded perfect to me. And it is; the picture up top is all that is left from loaf one. I think the second one might end up in a loaf pan to make it more sandwich-able.

Standard Flannery baking behavior: I changed the recipe a bit. I substituted 1 1/2 cups of All Purpose Flour with Whole Wheat and instead of the steam pan I just covered the loaf with a foil lid for the first ten minutes I baked it. I've only made one loaf so far, but it is rad. I think my dough might be slightly too dry. I didn't look quite as sticky and slack as the dough in the pictures on the King Arthur site. It still rose fairly well, but not quite at much as the ones in the photos. Also, I am sure not having steam in my oven effected the rising and the crust texture, but I only have one pan and one shelf in my oven, so that is just how it had to be.

This post has been food, food, food. But I have also been climbing a lot too. I sent all the boulder problems on the list I made earlier this season, but I still haven't sent my illustrious v7 or v8 yet. I think/ hope its going to happen soon.

And here is Merlin; he's amazing:
Yeah, he's this cute, all of the time.

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