Wednesday, November 3, 2010

scratchmade bread: a mission

So among my goals is a Patrick/Lindsay goal to ultimately scratchmake all our food.

Well, a couple of months ago I bought a ton of bread from the grocery store, popped it in the freezer, and made a deal with myself: by the time those loaves ran out, I'll need to have started making our bread from scratch.

And guess what? I did it.

My very first attempt ... success!

I have this picture in my head of hand-kneaded, whole grain loaves or crackly french baguettes. But for the purposes of actually get myself into gear, I decided to start simple and work my way up as I learn more about bread-making, more about our kitchen and oven, and more about patience with dough.

Lucky I have a friend who's already more fearless with breadmaking than I am, right? She suggested the very first recipe she ever used, Emeril Lagasse's basic Italian bread. It includes sugar and oil right in the dough, which I have a feeling makes it an easier dough to work with.

I'm looking forward to the day I know how to extract all the flavor and texture I'm looking for from those four basic ingredients: yeast, flour, water, salt.

In the meantime, this was recipe was very good to me, even when I messed up just a bit (lucky for you, I have pictures of the batch I muddled ... learning experience!).

Basic Italian Bread
Emeril Lagasse,

The only note I have to add to the original: I used 5/8 oz active dry yeast (the recipe calls for cake yeast). Thank you, Melizza, for directing me to this yeast conversion table!

italian ingredientsitalian ingredients
italian ingredientsitalian ingredients
That's a lot of yeast! It seemed like a lot to me, anyway. I'll be curious as I get further into my life with bread if I look back at this recipe with a bit of wonder.

italian dough, mid-kneaditalian dough, end of kneading
At left is the dough just a minute or so into kneading; on the right, just before I pulled the bowl off the mixer (after about eight minutes of kneading at medium speed, around 4 if you have a KitchenAid).

italian dough, window-pane approveditalian dough, pre-proof
italian dough, overproofed!italian loaf, seeded
Some notes: Windowpane test! (Read a nice description of the windowpane test and its relationship to gluten development.) I'm kinda proud. I mean the machine did all the work, but I made that dough!

Another note: that dough rose way too much. It should have merely doubled. Clearly it exploded during its first rise. Can't wait to find out what happens to bread when I get it just right.

And yet another note: See those scores on the finished loaf? Yeah, they should be more like cuts. I didn't provide the dough/steam/gas enough of an escape route when I made these psuedo cuts, and you can see what happened below.

italian loaf, insufficient scoringitalian loaf, cracked
And what happened? The little dimples you see pale to what they should be (the photo at the top of this entry is actually a great example of what should have happened: big craggy cracks). And to the right ... those cracks along the bottom of the loaf are, I think, what happens to the loaf when it doesn't have its exits properly marked ...

In any case, the bread was tasty, perfectly serviceable as bread. I made a sandwich within twenty minutes of it coming out of the oven. Nothing could have made me prouder that day.

fresh-bread cheese sandwich

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