Sunday, November 24, 2019

Let There Be.....BREAD!

Ok, so I finally got off-the-dime, went and bought nice set of mixing bowls and a few other kitchen items we'd either lost or tossed during our CALEXIT, and got down to making some bread.

I looked around on the Interwebz, asked some questions, and got a basic heading to go. Thank you all who helped get me started!

And me being me (damn Engineers) I had to learn the "Science" of bread. One thing I learned was about flour. To me, "Flour" always came out of a white "Gold Medal" bag like Mom used when she baked. I kinda-sorta knew there were different types of "Flour", but never knew what the critical differences were, and their intended uses. Turns out to make good bread, you should use "Bread Flour" vs "All Purpose" or "Self Rising" flour. The key is in the protein/gluten content, with "Bread Flour" having the highest concentration, making it most suitable for bread.

And since I loves me some rye bread, I learned about rye bread. Rye flour doesn't have the high gluten content, making for a denser bread that doesn't rise as much. So we don't use 100% rye flour, but rather a mix of white Bread Flour and Rye Flour, which rises better and gives a more "bread like" texture tha using stright rye flour.

Or so I've read. Let's kick this off and get started. I first made a "Rye Sponge" with the rye flour, yeast, sugar (I used raw, unfiltered 'local hive' honey), and some water. Mix well and then let sit for about 20 minutes.

Further mixing in the other ingredients, the rest of the flour, and kneading/mixing the whole shebang together gives us this nice, buttered ball of dough.

Letting the dough rise ~2 hours while we trimmed the tree:

Good Job, Little Guy!

Here she is, all ready to be smacked down, and divided.

It actually got bigger than that. I took this shot at approx 75 minutes BRET (Bread Rising Elapsed Time), and we wound up at approx 150 minutes BRET.

I divided the loaves, and put them into bread pans that were well buttered up.

At 90 minutes PPIT (Post Pan Insertion Time), they were slathered with fresh butter from a local place, and popped into a oven preheated to 370*F.

Forty minutes later we were rewarded with these:

Two nicely browned loaves, and a house permeated with the lovely aroma of FRESH BREAD!

So how'd it turn out?  Let's try some.....

My Sweet Little Wife snagged the first piece, and her eyes opened wide when she took a bite. Uh-Oh....I must have screwed up the recipe......

NO! She pronounced it as "Excellent!". It's a bit denser than I would have liked, but holy smokes, it tastes GREAT. I'm amazed at how well it came out for my solo bread making experiment.

I did a bit of adjusting for altitude, and then next batch I make will be adjusted a bit more to lighten the consistency, but I think I nailed it on flavor. It's rich, filling, has a delightful crust, and an excellent flavor.

Hmm....wonder how much a bread making machine goes for.....


  1. Piffle on the bread machine, unless you just don't have the time in your life to drift in and out of the kitchen.

    For a raising cabinet, if your house is cold, get a large cardboard box big enough to go around your oven hood and over the top of the stove. A simple incandescent lamp in the hood and you create a nice 90-100 degree proofing oven-ish object.

    1. I'm pretty sure it was a bit cool in here, and that definitely affected the way it rose. The oven was in use (wife baked cookies!), so I put the covered bowl on top of the stove to rise.

      I'll look into keeping it warmer as it rises. I know it's important, and the 70* we keep this place at in the winter is a tad cool for the yeast to really kick off.

      I think what I need instead of a whole "Bread Machine" is just a dough mixer. I don't mind spending the time doing the bread, but yow, it really gave these old hands a workout!

    2. I highly recommend a Kitchenaid stand mixer. I got a 5qt one from Sam's a few years ago and it does well with all the regular breads and gluten-free breads I make, using the standard paddle. No need for funky bread hooks.

      The GF mixes tend to be stickier and harder on machines, so rye or pumpernikle breads will act roughly the same.

    3. And, yeah, during the winter, I keep my house about 65 or so, so a faux-proofing oven is a necessity.

      I also have taken to using milk instead of water, and heating the milk with any sugar or sweetener and using that to do the yeast activation. It's a trick out of an old 50's Betty Crocker recipe book. Heat the milk and sugar to between 110 and 120 degrees and add your yeast and let the little yeasties wake up and start doubling.

      I find that the milk helps give a better texture to the bread, plus, well, the yeast likes it.

    4. Reading up a bit more, I should have activated the yeast in a smaller cup/bowl, and then added that to my mix.

      And the proofing box idea is excellent. It does get a bit cool in here during winter.

      I'll look into the stand mixer. That's pretty much what I used to call a "bread machine" in the old days. Nowadays the things even bake the loaf for you!

      The dough mixer they had on the Iowa had a mixing bowl big enough for a kid to climb in. More of a "Mixing BUCKET", I think. But then I'm not making bread for 2,000 hungry Sailors.....

  2. Truly a man of many talents. Kudos!

  3. We had problems with getting the bread recipe tuned in to altitude too. Now, we also have delicious home made bread, but it dries out quickly in the dry, Arizona air, and extra attention has to be paid to that. I think that the next adventure will be in sour dough.

    1. My current diet plan doesn't allow bread but for years I only made sourdough bread. You can use a dab of yeast if desired.

      Growing up, my parents made sourdough pancakes every morning.

    2. @LL - Yeah, bread dries out astonishingly fast up here. French and Italian loaves turn into war clubs after about 3 days. You need a Skil Saw to cut through them. I think I understand The Process much better now, having actually done it and examining the results. Next time should see it dialed-in much better. I was "On The Paper" this time, and next time I should be "8-Ring or Better".

      @WSF - I never cared for sourdough. Several of the recipes I have are for sourdough rye, and I might give it a try, but just never cared much for regular, white sourdough.

  4. "Well done on the bread making," he said wrly. :)

    (Hat tip to Tom Swift)

    It must have smelled and tasted wonderful.

    1. I turned out better than I expected, but not quite what I wanted.

      More of a "Ground Rules Triple" than Home Run!

  5. Congrats on your tenacity, Jim! I can almost smell it.
    I lived in CO for 9 years, and I never had to make any adjustments for my yeast breads; any of them. Never had one fall.
    The quick breads are a different story.
    Keep after it!

    1. My wife had to make some minor adjustments to her cookies, cakes, and a couple of other things, and we're both still getting used to the electric stove, which works gangbusters for baking.

      This is the first yeast thing we've baked, and I now see where to improve things. I should have activated the yeast in a small container instead of the big bowl, and done it in a warmer place. It just didn't "kick" the way I remember it doing.

      But hey, I'm learning, having fun, and doing eatable projects!

  6. LOL, engineers... Glad it turned out well!

    1. Cue the Dilbert cartoons.....

      Can't help it, man; it's just the way I think. When you first explained to me how to zero my new scope, I kinda-sorta understood it. Once I did it at the range, the thoughts crystallized, and I grokked it.

      In the Physics world, I'd be an Experimentalist, not a Theoretician.

  7. Yay, for bread skills! I can only make peasant loves in the dutch oven, so I'm in awe of your skills.


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