Thursday, March 13, 2008

Our Weekly Bread

I make bread once a week now, usually Tuesday or Wednesday. Pictured above is yesterday's production, which turned out pretty good despite this week's "whoops," forgetting to add two cups of water until I'd almost finished adding all the flour. (There's a whoops almost every week, some make me cus more than others. I got through yesterday's whoops cus-free, though it did get kinda messy.) I make enough dough for four sandwich loaves, but I only have two loaf pans. I make two sandwich loaves (each with two pounds of dough--yes, I weigh it!) and then get creative with the rest. My husband like hoagie-style rolls, so I usually make a couple of those for him. I like bread with melted cheddar cheese, celery, sesame, and poppy seeds, so I make a couple "cheesy sticks" for me. Sometimes, I make a braided loaf, to take with us to our friend's weekly potluck or to give to a neighbor. If we're going to have young friends over that day, I'll make pretzels for the kids to enjoy. Lately, I've been experimented with crackers...I roll out the dough as thin as I can, sprinkle it with kosher salt, cut it into squares with a pizza cutter, and bake 'til golden.

Annabel and Luc don't get interested in what I'm doing until it's time to shape the risen dough. I give them both a small amount of dough, a big pinch of flour, they get out their rolling pins and do what kids do with dough. The little ball of bread in the far left of the picture above is Luc's handiwork. I don't know what happened to Annabel's piece of dough. Here's my current recipe for multigrain bread:

5 cups warm water
2 tablespoons yeast
2 tablespoons evaporated cane juice or sugar
2 tablespoons sea salt
1 stick butter, softened
1 cup vital wheat gluten
1 cup 10-grain cereal
2 cups whole wheat flour
8 cups unbleached bread flour

Sprinkle yeast and pinch of sugar in one cup of water. Whisk together and allow to proof while you get the rest of the ingredients measured. Mix wheat gluten, 10 grain cereal, whole wheat flour and 2 cups unbleached flour in a bowl. Put yeast mixture, remaining 4 cups of water, sugar, and butter into mixing bowl with dough hook. Add flour mixture to mixing bowl and mix until incorporated. In the bowl you used to mix the flours together (which should now be empty), mix the remaining 6 cups of flour with the salt. Begin adding this flour and salt mixture to the mixing bowl 1 cup at a time, waiting until flour is incorporated before adding the next cup. Continue to mix until the surface of the dough is smooth--no more than 10 minutes total mixing time or the bread will become over-kneaded. If you feel unsure about things at this stage, take the dough out and finish kneading by hand.

Put kneaded dough in a large bowl. Note the size of the dough ball. Cover with a damp dish cloth, piece of plastic wrap or wax paper. Set bowl in a draft free spot and allow to rise until doubled in size, about one hour, depending on the temperature. Gently punch dough down and divide into whatever size batches you want to bake. As I mentioned, I bake two-pound sandwich loaves. If using a loaf pan, butter pan before you begin shaping the dough. If you will be baking on a sheet pan, cover the pan with parchment paper (I use Beyond Gourmet Unbleached Parchment Paper, which I am able to reuse multiple times for baking bread).

Shape dough and let rise again for 45 minutes, until doubled. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 25-35 minutes, until crust is golden brown. If you feel unsure, stick a thermometer in the underside of your loaf. This bread is done when the center is 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Put bread on a rack to cool. I store mine in plastic bags (which I reuse, over and over again, of course). I freeze one loaf and find it is perfectly good a few days later when thawed.

I wish I could address dough shaping now, but I've run out of time. It's an important aspect of making good bread and shouldn't be overlooked. I will try to take pictures as I shape my dough next week.


Hello, I'm Sally. said...

I weigh my dough too! Gotta have symmetry! Your cornucopia of bread looks nice.

Meenagirl said...

Beautiful! Have you tried the popular no-knead variety? We really like it but I haven't brought myself to make any for my family since I had to give it up myself.

Chris said...

I haven't tried no-knead bread yet. I don't think my kids would like it...sounds like it's rather crusty and they like to have softer sandwich loaves. It does sound tasty and someday I'd like to try it. Of course, I also have this wonderful mixer designed especially for making big batches of dough (the Bosch Universal Plus) which I feel compelled to use because we spent so much money on it!