Fourth time's a charm when making bread!
So I'm taking this downtime to teach myself how to bake homemade yeast breads. This was all inspired by the crazy bread professor Steven Kaplan's appearance on the Conan O'Brian Show. (They keep pulling the video and posting it again, but if you run a search on google it's probably the funniest thing to ever happen on that show).
The first recipe I used was from a weblog which swore you could make a perfectly tasty and fast yeast bread in under two hours. From this I learned that there is no way to speed up good bread, and anyone who thinks otherwise doesn't know what good bread tastes like. The first batch when straight to the trash, unedible.
The second batch was a wheat bread, taken straight from the back of my whole wheat King Arthur's flour bag. I didn't have the right loaf pan, and rushed it a little bit due to time constraints. The results, a bread that tasted fine but was too dense.
The third batch was French bread, and once again I rushed just a little bit. The color and crust were perfect, but the bread was simply flavorless. It still got eaten, after I made a batch of shrimp scampi and used it to soak up the yummy liquid.
These baking attempts all occurred on the same day. After that, determined to have good sliced white sandwich bread, we went to Sur la Table for loaf pans. And in the meantime, I spent most of my internet surfing reading about the 12 steps of bread baking and the effect of various ingredients on the growth rate of yeast.
I found a wonderful recipe at A Year In Bread and then modified her mixing instructions back to the traditional 12 steps. (I didn't like her kneading in the salt last, and I've also found that it is best to mix dry into wet when baking bread.) In other words, I proofed the yeast, mixed in only a portion of the flour, and let it rise in the bowl. Then I added the salt and leftover flour just before kneading and let it rise again. I also abhor canola oil, and used an unrefined safflower oil instead.
Delicious, perfect, and sliced wonderfully. Yum (picture above).
Now I'm remaking the whole wheat bread using the correct pan and armed with better knowledge about what I'm doing and the whole process in general. We've already eating all the white bread, so I'll either make more or retry the French bread. Then it's on to fun stuff, like an Avocado bread (a batard and not a quick bread) from The Pastry Chef's Son and a dill pickle bread.
My goals? Make good sliced bread for sandwiches (check). Make the perfect French bread. And then learn how to make homemade donuts and cinnamon rolls. I'm drooling just thinking about it.