Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Last White Bread for September

I decided to make the last white bread in the series from one of my very first bread baking cookbooks: the 1973 edition of the Sunset Cook Book of Breads. I still use this cookbook a lot, as evidenced by the worn picture of it below. This weekend I baked the white bread recipe from it as well as two loaves of sourdough by the recipe in this cookbook.

Sunset was always good about pictures and this recipe is no exception. You can see in the scans below how well they demonstrate by use of pictures.

The finished bread had a rather chewy, tough crust compared to the other breads, but tastes great. The crumb is nice - helped by the milk in the dough.

In the next couple of days I'll compare the five loaves of white bread I baked this month and pick a favorite.
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Sunday, September 20, 2009

Bread Baker's Apprentice White Bread - Variation 1

As my search for the best plain white bread continues, this week I baked The Bread Baker's Apprentice white bread, variation 1, since it was closest to the other recipes I've used. It is a delicious bread and was relatively quick to put together.

First you put the dry ingredients into the mixer's bowl: flour, salt, powdered milk, sugar and instant yeast. Then you Mix the egg, butter and water together and pour them into the dry ingredients. The mixture comes together quickly - unlike recipes where you first soften the yeast in warm water.

Within a short time, the dough looked like this. I switched to my dough hook and kneaded it in the machine for 6 minutes. Then I kneaded it on the counter for a few minutes more. I did have to add a little flour to create a dough that wasn't too sticky to handle.

The recipe indicates that the dough should rise for 1 1/2 - 2 hours. It's warm in Atlanta and warm in my house, so the dough had doubled in an hour. I then shaped it into loaves and it rose for another hour.

He says to slash the tops of the loaves and fill the slash with olive oil, which I did.

I preheated the oven to 350 and as I headed to the oven with the two risen loaves, would you believe that I dropped one of the pans? It landed on its side and the rise sank. I put the first loaf into the oven. I set the second loaf back on the counter to rise back to its former glory. That happened in about 30 minutes, at which point I put it into the oven as well.

Here's what the loaves looked like straight out of the oven. Below you can see the crumb in a beautiful slice of this bread.

This recipe has no honey in it so it lacks some of the sweet flavor of the previous three loaves. However as a sandwich bread, it will be the perfect vehicle for any type of filling. Also it made great "Toad in the hole" for me for breakfast this morning!

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Friday, September 18, 2009

Canadian Buttermilk Honey Rolls

Today I was supposed to bake Reinhart's white bread from The Bread Baker's Apprentice. All of his breads call for instant yeast and I always use active dry yeast, so I'm doing his white bread (Version 2) tomorrow after I purchase some instant yeast!

In the meantime my beekeeper's club has its annual picnic and auction on Sunday. I promised to bring some baked goods to auction in addition to some bigger items that I've donated. I always try to make something that has honey in it. Tonight I baked Canadian Buttermilk Honey Rolls - they are absolutely luscious - I've made them many times.

The recipe is from the Book of Bread by Judith and Evan Jones. It's only available used, so I'm giving you the ingredients.

2 cups buttermilk
1 T active dry yeast
2 T honey
2 tsp coarse salt
2 T butter
1/4 tsp baking soda
4 - 5 cups white flour, unbleached.

Interestingly, you get the buttermilk to a lukewarm temperature and soften the yeast in 1/3 of it.

The butter, salt and honey are stirred into the rest of the warm buttermilk. Then you add the soda. Soda is usually added to baked goods with sour cream, buttermilk or sourdough to do the chemical process to allow the bread to brown.

When you've mixed all that together, you begin to add the flour, a cup at a time. I ended with the dough hook and finished kneading on the counter. You press the dough into a flattened shape, about 3/4 inch thick.

I then do what my mother always does to rolls. I cut them out with a biscuit cutter and dip each roll in melted butter before putting it into a cake pan to rise. I love the soft sides of rolls baked this way, rather than sitting individually on a cookie sheet.

These rolls only rise once - in the pan. This means the recipe can be done start to finish in 1 1/2 hours.

They bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for 20 minutes.

Here are the finished rolls. I'll package them in Ziploc baggies and offer each dozen as a separate item at the beekeeper's auction.
I kept the small pan of rolls for me at home.

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Monday, September 14, 2009

The Comparisons of White Bread Are Ready and Waiting

Here they sit in my chest freezer, waiting for the big thaw at the end of September when I decide what is my favorite white bread recipe. Since I like all the recipes, I think I'll keep a notebook with two sections:

1. The winners in each categories
2. The also-rans that I like enough to make again

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Saturday, September 12, 2009

Sands White Bread Part II

The loaves were beautiful out of the oven and smelled heavenly. They were not as redolent of honey as the last recipe from Judith and Evan Jones.

This picture isn't well focused (I forgot about my Macro) but the crumb of this bread is lovely and it tastes really nice. This bread tastes more salty than the previous recipes and less sweet. The honey flavor is not nearly as distinctive as in the previous white breads.
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Another September White Bread - Part I

Today I tried a recipe from King Arthur Flour. I use their flour all the time, and I have a their 200th anniversary cookbook , so I was sure they'd have a good white bread.

The recipe I used was Walter Sands Famous White Bread which is both in their cookbook and on their webpage. The bread calls for powdered milk rather than liquid milk and is thus different from the previous three breads.

When the yeast was bubbly, I added the powdered milk. I followed the directions, using my Kitchen Aid, rather than doing it by hand. I always knead with the dough hook and then pour the dough onto the counter and knead a few minutes by hand as well. I did this with this white bread.

It rose quicker than the recipe said it would and looked energetic and delicious.

Here it is poured onto the counter before I made it into two loaves which I baked in

4 1/2 X 8 1/2 inch pans.

The process continues in the next part.
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Monday, September 7, 2009

Basic White Bread II - Part Two

Having turned the bread dough out of the container, I cut it in half with the bench knife and patted out a rectangular shape of sorts! Then I rolled it into a loaf. Of course, you repeat this with the second half.

I put these rolled loaves into 8 1/2 inch pans to rise. I made the mistake of getting distracted and forgetting the bread, so it rose a little higher than it should have before putting it into the oven (350 degrees for 40 minutes).

The finished loaf is pretty but the far end of the loaf is an obvious air bubble below the surface - probably the result of my leaving it rising for too long. It smells great because of the honey in the bread.

This bread cut open shows the air bubble. The authors say that this version of their white bread will be both somewhat sweet because of the honey and not as compact as either a bread recipe without the sweetener or one that starts with a sponge. It does taste sweeter than the first white bread I made but I don't like the "crumb" as well.

For a listen into what the "crumb" of the bread means, watch this video of Peter Reinhart on

So far I like the Hensperger bread better - the crumb was better and the taste, while not sweet, felt more wholesome to me.
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Basic White Bread II - the Second White Bread Part One

I've owned Judith and Evan Jones' book: The Book of Bread since 1986. At the beginning the dedication is to James Beard. It actually says: "For James A. Beard, an inspiration."

I believe it may be out of print since I could only find it from private sellers on Amazon and it was listed on a couple of other used book sites, but nowhere as available new - except from used book sellers who listed it as "new" which I read as "as good as new." So I'm going to give you the recipe:

1 T active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
2 1/2 cups milk
4 T butter
4 T honey
1 T coarse salt
6 1/2 - 7 1/2 cups unbleached white flour

If you ever find this book, don't pass it by! It is a wonderful addition to a bread baker's library because the variety of recipes in it are so interesting.

Of course I used my own honey from my bees in this recipe.

First you soften the yeast in 1/4 cup warm water in a large bowl. Then you warm the milk and add the butter, the honey and the salt. When the milk is at 110 degrees F, you can add it to the yeast mix in the large bowl.

Mix in the milk mixture and then add the flour, 1/2 cup at a time. After 6 cups, this is what my mixture looked like so I obviously needed to add more flour. I did so, 1/2 cup at a time and switched to the dough hook to do this.

As per Beth Hensperger, I put the dough in a straight-sided container to rise. It had more than doubled in about an hour.

I love turning the dough out of the deep container - it looks so full of energy on the counter!

Next post will continue this bread.
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Sunday, September 6, 2009

Anadama Bread - not BBA Challenge but My Effort

The BBA Challenge looked so interesting to me so I decided to try the first recipe in Peter Reinhart's Bread Baker's Apprentice like the challenge participants did in May when they began. So this weekend while I was deciding how to be inspired for baking going forward, I baked the first bread - the Anadama bread.

The name, by the way, of the bread is supposedly because a fisherman got tired of his wife constantly serving him cornbread and molasses, so he tossed in some yeast and said, "Anna, damn her." At least that is the version that Wikipedia offers!

I put the dough to rise in a straight sided Tupperware container (as per Beth Hensperger - see post earlier). It rose beautifully.

Then I patted the dough into a long rectangle and shaped my loaves. I use my fingertips to seal the roll to the dough remaining below it to assure a pretty slice.

Here's the bread just out of the oven. The recipe says to spray the loaves with water and sprinkle them with cornmeal before baking. I don't have a spray bottle up here in the mountains so I used a pastry brush and brushed a little water on both loaves. Then I sprinkled them with local cornmeal, ground at the Hambidge Center's grist mill.

The bread smelled great, sliced really pretty and tastes wonderful. It's sweet from the molasses but not too sweet and has a little crunch from the cornmeal.

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Too Late for the BBA Challenge, so What Will I Do?

The bread challenges that are going on on the Internet intrigue me, but I'm too late to the party. I read about the BBA Challenge in the Washington Post. It started back in May and is closed with 200 bakers. They are baking their ways through the Bread Baker's Apprentice, a book that I own and would enjoy baking the recipes, but they are four months into weekly baking, so I can't really do that one. It did make me open the book to see the recipes and get inspired, though!

My grandson for whom I started this blog since he and I were baking every week, has moved away from his interest in bread baking. I continue to bake every week and needed some new perspective to inspire me.

So I've decided to pick a type of bread and bake that type of bread weekly for a month to determine which of the four recipes is the best in my opinion. I have lots of bread cookbooks and will have good choices to do this. I'm going to let The Bread Bible by Beth Hensberger be my guide for the first recipe this time because her recipes are always dependably good. (And I want the first thing I try to be really delicious).

If anyone would like to join me in this endeavor, let me know what you are baking and how it turns out - either post a comment or email me (see contact Linda on the left side).

The bread for September, my first month, will be plain white bread. I started week one with Hensberger's White Mountain Bread. She likes the crumb in this bread which is helped with a combination of water and milk in the recipe.

Note: In this work to find the best white bread I will not be varying the recipe from the cookbooks in which I find them so I won't be giving you the recipe. The previous recipes I've posted on this blog are somewhat different from the place where I found them or they were published already on the Internet. I'll hope instead that you'll want to buy the cookbook I am using and have the treasure for yourself!

As per her instructions, I let this bread rise in a straight sided container. I usually use a pottery bowl, but she says that it is better for the bread to rise up rather than out. So this time I used a large Tupperware straight sided container. When you turn the dough out of a straight sided container, it looks like the picture below!

To form the loaves, I divided the dough with a bench knife and patted each half into a long rectangle. I folded the rectangle into overlapping thirds and then rolled it up from the short end, pinching the ends of the roll with the side of my hand.

When fully risen, she says to slice a 1/4 inch deep slash down the length of the loaf. I did this, but I'm afraid that my slash was too shallow because it didn't really separate during baking. Next time I will be braver.

The loaf baked for 42 minutes and looked beautiful. I am not in my usual kitchen this weekend (I'm in the north Georgia mountains) so I didn't know how it would do without my Thermador oven. But it came out lovely and delicious.

This was a great bread for bacon/lettuce/tomato sandwiches - it toasted beautifully and we made sandwiches with heirloom tomatoes from the Farmer's Market in Rabun County.
As Hensperger noted, the crumb on this bread was very nice.

I believe in order to have an end of the month taste test, I'll need to freeze at least a slice of this bread for comparison.

Features of this recipe for White Mountain Bread: active dry yeast, whole milk, no eggs. I mention these because the next week, the bread I'll try will be from the Bread Baker's Apprentice. Peter Reinhart uses instant milk powder, instant yeast and his recipe has an egg in it.

Note: I also baked a second white bread this weekend from The Book of Bread.
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