Monday, January 16, 2012

Let Them Eat...Bread

Suppose Marie Antionette had not responded with "let them eat cake", to the general populace's lack of bread. Maybe the French Revolution would have been averted.
I truly enjoy baking bread. (And eating bread.) I think I have been doing it since I was 15 or younger, and I've probably made thousands of loaves. In my bread making history I have made bagels, sour dough bread, 100% whole wheat bread, pita bread, rye bread, cinnamon raisin bread and french bread. I have made hot cross buns and cinnamon rolls, pizza dough and tea rings. I have had a few flops, but thankfully not many. I have kneaded by hand, and used a mixer. I've used a small scale industrial size mixer that we could knead 15 loaves at a time. Bread baking is a full sensory experience. Well, maybe not hearing. I love the yeast smell. I love the feel of the dough as it comes together. I love the chewy, or crusty, or just plain fresh, taste. I love the sight of baked loaves, or rising dough. It is beautiful. I love the fact that bread making is as old a tradition as the world itself. Today I am making a batch of crusty french bread, and a batch of regular bread for sandwiches and toast. I usually make bread at least once a week, except during the hottest days of summer. My bread recipe makes 3 loaves of bread, or 2 loaves of bread and about 1-1/2 dozen rolls. My kids love baking day. They can't wait for the rolls to go into the oven, and then come out. They always immediately ask if they can have one. It is the only time they eat them with out butter. I remember being up at camp and slathering fresh baked bread with cinnamon butter. So fresh it was hard to slice. And it was a challenge waiting that 10-20 minutes.
I've picked up a few tricks, and learned a few secrets in my bread baking career.
-A Vitamin C tablet crushed and added to your cinnamon roll dough keeps them softer longer.
-A ratio of 1-4 whole wheat/white flour, makes the best pizza dough. Right balance of chewy and crisp.
-You don't need to ever dissolve your yeast in hot water. Mix it with your other dry ingredients, then add the wet ingredients to that. This is a pretty sure way to never kill your yeast.
-It is always easier to add more flour to soft dough, than water to really stiff dough.
-Salt water brush on french bread after shaping into its loaves, right before baking, and halfway through baking, and baking the loaves at a very high temperature, makes amazingly crispy loaves.
-Salt enhances the flavor of the bread, and also retards the growth of the yeast. If your bread has risen crazily in a short period of time, you may have forgotten the salt.
-Eggs add nothing to bread-except maybe protein. It doesn't aid rising.
-Milk makes a denser bread.
-Cinnamon rolls should NEVER be made with whole wheat flour. NEVER. They aren't supposed to be healthy, so why wreck them?
-Ditto that for french bread.
-The more times you punch down your bread, and let it rise again, the better it is. A minimum of 2 risings is required for most yeast recipes, but 3 is definitely the charm.
-Simple is good. A regular bread recipes usually has a sweetener, an oil, yeast, salt, flour, and a liquid. The best French bread simply has flour, salt, water and yeast.
-Cream Cheese frosting is the best for cinnamon rolls. It has that nice white color, and adds a slight tang.
-The bread baking process takes a chunk of time. But hands on time is generally less than 15 minutes per batch.
crusty french bread

My Kitchen Aid workhorse

bread on the rise

the delicious end product

-And, life on the Adkins diet is not worth living.

Shoot me first.=)