Monday, February 29, 2016

Going rogue on Preston Yancey's white bread, attempt #4

I'm at week 4 of Preston Yancey's Out of the House of Bread.  At this point, this bread should be coming out perfect. I'm not really sure why it's still giving me so much trouble.  I don't think anyone else can tell, but I can tell and it's driving me crazy.

This week, I dreamed of making baguettes.  I figured this recipe would work with a few tweaks.

It's sort of funny; each time I make the recipe I simultaneously move closer and further away from the original recipe as written.  For example, this time I got the ingredients mostly right, but gave them a longer rise and shaped them differently - into baguettes!  Then, I let them rise using a couche (a technique introduced to me by Yancey) and got to try out one of his techniques I had hitherto not needed: spraying the baguettes with water before scoring them to get a crispy crust.  

If you want to learn more about why I'm making this recipe multiple times, check out this post.

Mistake #1:  Wrong flour.  This wasn't really a mistake so much as a failure to plan.  I ran out of all-purpose flour at 400 grams, and had to substitute whole wheat for the other 800 grams.  Not the worst problem ever, but it does affect gluten formation.  Whole wheat flour has less protein content than AP flour and absorbs more water.  I added 800 grams of water (instead of the usual 775g) initially, then another 1/2 cup with the yeast, sugar and honey mixture.

Mistake #2: No salt.  I added the yeast mixture but completely forgot the salt this time. I think it's because there's no step that 'reminds' me to add the salt.  There's the autolyse so I remember the flour and water, and the yeast mixture has yeast, sugar, honey, and water.  There's no mixture requiring salt, so I forget to add it.

This time, I wanted to maximize flavor, so I only added 1/2 teaspoon of yeast so it would have a long fermentation time.


Added oil and yeast mixture

Again, to maximize flavor, I covered my bowl and let it ferment overnight in the refrigerator.

After I refrigerated it overnight, I took the bowl out the next morning and let it rise on the counter for another four hours.  Then I divided the dough into eight pieces, rolled them out into baguettes, then let them rise another hour in my floured towel couche.

Now I had a bit of a problem.  The baguettes would not fit in my dutch oven, but they still needed conductive heat for oven spring.  I used a heavy baking sheet upside down.

I used a plastic placemat as a peel to transfer the dough to the oven.

I had to straighten them a little after the transfer

Spraying the baguettes after scoring them.  This picture is blurry because the sprayer created lots of steam!

I was very happy with the results.

I was also very happy with the crumb.  Look at those nice holes!

I was hosting the after-church fellowship hour, so I cut these up and brought them with my soup.  Even without salt, they got rave reviews.  The whole wheat ended up being a benefit because they didn't go stale as fast as regular white flour baguettes. 

Have you ever taken a recipe and made it yours? How much do you think you need to change it before you can call it your own?  Please leave me a comment below!

Friday, February 26, 2016

The Science Behind... the baking process, one sentence & illustrated edition

I know my The Science Behind... the baking process posts are a deep dive into the chemistry behind baking, and most people don't need or want that level of detail.

Therefore, I challenged myself to create a quick version, broken down into the component parts of a bread recipe.  Each step gets one sentence.

Sentences contain several clauses; I'm not that concise.

Also pictures.  Really, really terrible pictures made in Microsoft Paint.

In this post, I will attempt to synthesize the science behind the following topics:

1. hydration
2. mixing
3. kneading
4. rising/fermenting
5. shaping
6. scoring
7. baking
8. resting/staling  

This is either going to be really awesome, or just embarrassing for all involved.  I'll let you be the judge.

1. Hydration - Ratio of flour to water measured by weight; ranges from sandwich breads at 66% to french baguettes at 85% to quick breads at 100%.

2. Mixing - Weigh your ingredients using a kitchen scale for greatest accuracy and to troubleshoot; use your fingers to mix so you can really feel how the flour is absorbing the water; let it rest for ten minutes to form your gluten net (flour + water) without having to knead.

3. Kneading - Gluten net will form naturally by the flour and water if given enough time; help the net along by doing stretch and folds.

4. Rising/fermenting - Yeast eat the sugars in flour (or added sugar) and release carbon dioxide bubbles that get trapped by the gluten net and rise your dough; they also release ethyl alcohol which gives good flavor; use less yeast for better flavor and more yeast for faster rise.

5. Shaping - Not only makes your dough pretty but stretches and organizes your gluten net more uniformly; provides smooth surface for scoring later.

6. Scoring - Not only makes your dough pretty but provides weak points in the surface for the bread to expand; particularly important for doughs baked at high temperature (425 degrees F and up).

7. Baking -  High temperature leads yeast to release carbon dioxide bubbles more rapidly, causing oven spring before the yeast dies off; water moves from gluten to starch, leading to browning.

8. Resting / staling - Wait until bread is cool to eat it; it is commonly thought that staling is caused by water loss but in fact the stale taste and texture is due to sugars slowly attempting to recrystallize into rigid glucose chains.

So... that's my illustrated, one sentence The Science Behind... the baking process.  Once I started creating these illustrations I could NOT stop. 

I hope this was helpful to you.  Let me know if you liked my illustrated guide in the comments below.  If you didn't, just pretend you don't know me and avoid eye contact in the hallway.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Cooking with kids: wiener schnitzel and my proudest baking moment

Obviously, the above picture is not wiener schnitzel.  I'll explain it in a minute.

So, I had a few thin boneless pork strips in the refrigerator and needed a quick way to cook them for dinner this evening.  I'm flying solo with the Little Bread Dudes so I couldn't do anything too complicated.  I cracked open my Joy of Cooking, and picked Wiener schnitzel. 

Wiener schnitzel is a fun dish to make with kids because it doesn't require any chopping, and involves hammers.  You can also make it one-handed with a cranky baby on your hip.  What's not to love? 

You will need:

pack of pork cutlets, boneless pork chops, or other boneless cut, about 6 pieces
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs
1 tablespoon milk
2 cups bread crumbs

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.  Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a large pan over medium-high heat.

2. Put your flour onto a large plate or dish.  Do the same for the bread crumbs.  Mix together the milk and eggs in a bowl.

Steps 3-4 are demonstrated in this video.  After I did the first one, Little Bread Dude insisted on taking over the dredging process.  I did all the stove-top cooking, of course.

3. Place each cutlet between plastic wrap and flatten with a meat tenderizer.

4. Dredge first in the flour, then the egg mixture, then the bread crumbs.

5. Place the cutlet in your pan.  

Flip the cutlet when it has browned on the bottom.  

When the cutlet is finished cooking, place it on an oven-safe plate and put it in the oven to keep warm while you cook the rest.

After making the wiener schnitzel, I kept them in the oven to stay warm while I put Little Bread Baby to bed.  There was flour, egg mixture, and bread crumbs left over, so I let Little Bread Dude (LBD from now on) play with those to keep him entertained.

When I came back, he proudly announced that he had made bread (also a huge mess).  I looked at his work, and I saw that he had mixed the contents of all three dredging bowls together, and had added some water and salt.  

He also said he added strawberries and chocolate chips, but since we don't actually have those things, I thought he was just using his imagination.  Since I hadn't been present during the making of his dough, I really didn't have any idea what he put in there.

He covered his creation with one of my reusable plastic covers and put the dough in the refrigerator.  
He was so proud of himself, and I was amazed at how much he picked up from baking bread with me.  I was impressed.  It made me choke up a little.  
Since the flour, eggs, milk, water, bread crumbs and salt constitute a simple bread dough, I thought it wouldn't hurt to bake it and see what happened. 

While LBD ate dinner, I surreptitiously added some baking soda and baking powder to help things along.  

As I handled the dough to shape it into a ball, I noticed streaks of red and what looked like little strawberry seeds in the dough.  I figured he had added some jam to his dough.

Then I bumped the oven up to 375 degrees F.  Soda breads don't really benefit from higher baking temperatures.  I placed the tiny loaf on a parchment-lined baking sheet and baked it for 25 minutes.  I used a probe thermometer to make sure the temperature was above 190 degrees F, so it was thoroughly cooked.

This is what came out. Browning didn't really happen, but the crust was sufficiently hardened.  It was basically a quick soda bread.  We let it cool, then sliced it.  LBD was ecstatic and couldn't get enough.  Then I noticed something odd.  See if you can spot it:

texture was similar to irish soda bread, or a biscuit
There was a big spot that was clearly chocolate; the question was, where had he gotten it?

We keep a bar of semisweet chocolate in the freezer but it's beyond his reach.  We have cocoa powder for making hot chocolate on a low shelf, but he has difficulty opening the lid, and obviously this is just one big spot of chocolate, not sprinkled throughout.  I needed to get to the bottom of this.  I asked LBD where he got the chocolate.  He said off the counter, which didn't make sense to me until I remembered:

Mr. Bread Maiden had picked up macarons on a business trip, but they'd gotten broken in transit.  LBD must've seen the bag on the counter and thrown in a piece of chocolate macaron.

Then I realized: that was where the reddish smear and strawberry seeds were from, too.  The pink in the bag is a piece of raspberry macaron with raspberry jam.  

Mystery solved.  

They say kids are more likely to eat what they have made themselves.  I absolutely think this is true.  A few days ago, I made breaded chicken tenders, and LBD wouldn't touch them.  Today, we made breaded pork cutlets, and he devoured them.  He also ate fully half of his bread creation.  The only reason I think he didn't finish it off is he wanted to save some for Mr. Bread Maiden when he gets home on Friday. He also made sure his little brother got to sample some.

You can see the bag of macarons in the background next to the squashes
It's so fun now that he's old enough to help out, and that I've gotten to the point where I can let go and let him help, and make a mess, and try something new.  The memories are worth the mess, and I definitely want to keep this memory.

Hacking a recipe: Preston Yancey's white bread, Attempt #3

This is my third time making Preston Yancey's white bread recipe from his latest book, Out of the House of Bread.  Over the course of the book, you follow various practices related to spiritual disciplines and make the same white bread nine times.

Nine times!  Besides my 2-3 white bread, and my challah recipe from the Joy (which I use to make my church's communion bread) I don't think I've ever made the same recipe nine times.

I've been documenting my thoughts on my experiences baking this bread for a later post, as well as what I've learned through the process of baking the same bread nine times.

First, a disclaimer: I know Out of the House of Bread isn't a baking book. It's a spiritual practices book, which is why I've included it in the baking and theology section of my Bread Library.  I hope nobody takes this as a criticism of the book or of the author.  There is a lot to like about this recipe, and as a result I'm adding some of my own knowledge formed from years of baking bread in an effort to make it my own.  I hope he would not have a problem with this. 

For now, with two attempts under my belt, I thought I would try and correct some of the issues I've had making it, while retaining the things I like about the recipe.

Issue #1.  Tight Crumb.  This is the crumb:

Very small holes.  One of the things I really like about this bread is that it bakes to have a very crusty crust.  Most crusty breads have a very airy crumb with big holes.  So it was almost jarring for me to cut into this bread and see such a dense crumb.  I'd like to correct this.

Issue #2.  Lack of flavor.  The first time I made this bread, my father-in-law remarked that it needed salt, and I definitely agreed.  One tablespoon is just not enough for two large loaves of bread, at least not for me.  So the recipe (in my opinion) is under-salted.  It also rises for a very short time, meaning it could benefit from longer fermentation to develop better flavor.  

So this time, when I made this bread, I did something I should've done the very first time: I weighed my ingredients.  That way, I could calculate the hydration of my dough and see if I could tweak it a little bit.  If the bread had a low hydration, adding more water would result in bigger holes in my dough and a lighter, airy crumb.

As I suspected, the hydration of the dough was very low- only about 59%.  I added an extra 1/2 cup of water, bringing the hydration up to 66%- more typical for a sandwich bread.   I might try to go even higher next time. 

Then, I remembered something that hadn't occurred to me before.  Preston is baking in Texas, and I am baking in Virginia.  I remember when we lived in Austin requiring less water than I do now to create the same dough conditions.  So perhaps that is why his recipe doesn't use much water.  This is easy enough to correct.

Secondly, after the autolyse period, I added an extra 1/2 tablespoon of salt and reduced the amount of yeast to 1 1/2 teaspoons.  The increased salt will give the bread more flavor, and less yeast will give the dough more time to rise and ferment, developing better flavor as well.

Also, I've been adding the olive oil directly into the dough for two reasons.  One, it acts as a preservative, lengthening the time the bread can go without staling, and two, I don't have the patience for steps that are unnecessary.  If your gluten has formed properly, the dough should stick to itself and not to the sides of the bowl.

There is no reason to transfer your dough from a mixing bowl to a proofing bowl, plus it creates another dish to wash.  

Finally, I feel compelled to once again swear that I do know how to read.  There is something about this recipe that makes my brain not want to follow it.  Maybe it's the fact that it's on a kindle, rather than a printed book.  There is no excuse for the fact that over the past three baking sessions, not one time have I faithfully followed his recipe as written.  Usually I discover that I've done something wrong as I'm glancing over the recipe one last time, mentally checking off all the steps.  Then I realize, "D'oh! The couches go in the refrigerator!" or, "D'oh! the water was supposed to be warm, not hot!"  It's frustrating.  

before realizing I was supposed to divide the dough and put it into couches in the refrigerator
Besides those tweaks, I proceeded with the recipe, just giving it a longer fermentation period to account for less yeast.  Once it had doubled in size, I divided it and shaped it before placing it into two couches to give it a short rise in the refrigerator, then baked it using his 3-step process.

In case all the modifications have you confused, here is my recipe (to see the original, go here):

You will need:

1265g or 8 cups all-purpose flour
800g or 3 1/2 cups warm water
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon honey (yeah, I added more honey too)
1 1/2 teaspoons yeast
1 1/2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon oil

1. Pour your flour and about 720g of warm water into a very large bowl.  Mix with your hand to combine.  Don't worry if the dough is very dry.  Let the dough sit covered for 15 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, mix together the other 80g of warm water with the sugar, honey and yeast.  Let sit for 15 minutes.

3. Add the yeast mixture to the flour mixture, along with your salt and oil.  Gently knead until it comes together in a ball of dough.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise for 4-5 hours, until doubled in size.

4. Place your dough in the refrigerator for 1.5 hours.  Realize you were supposed to divide it into the couches before you refrigerated it.

5. Prepare two couches thusly.

6. Divide your dough.

Gently shape your doughs into boules, tucking the edges under the bread to form a smooth top of your dough.  Pinch the edges together to form a seam, then place your dough seam-side up into your couche.  Put it back in the refrigerator.

7. Place a dutch oven inside your oven and preheat the oven to 500 degrees F.  When the dough is ready, turn it out into your dutch oven, then use a razor blade to make a series of deep cuts on the surface of your dough.

I have found it must easier to score your loaf using a razor blade when it's already inside the screaming hot dutch oven.  This is because it cuts across the gluten strands much more easily than a serrated knife, which requires some momentum and a pulling motion straight across your loaf which is difficult and dangerous to perform under these conditions.

8. Put the lid of the dutch oven back on, and bake your loaf for 15 minutes at 500, 15 minutes at 450, remove the lid, and bake for the last 15 minutes uncovered.

9.  Remove your loaf and let it rest for at least an hour before cutting into it.

I don't know if you can tell from the pictures, but these loaves are HUGE!  I may further divide them next time into three loaves, because these are unlikely to fit in the gallon-size plastic bags I usually store my bread in.  The size does validate my hypothesis- that increasing the hydration would result in larger holes and more oven spring.  

And-- success!  Look at those holes in the crumb!

The flavor still isn't what it could be, so I may cut the yeast even further and let it rise overnight.  Other than that, I'm pleased with the improvements I made this time.  

Have you attempted this bread yet?  How did it do?  Please leave a comment below!