Monday, July 23, 2007

On Harry Potter

Two days later I'm still depressed that it's all over. I explained to Mrs. Rouftop over lunch:

Imagine you just got the last bag of potato chips in the world. And you have to eat it as fast as you can because there's a hole in the bag that will cause the chips to "spoil" (ha ha). Then when you've finished it, there are no more chips. Anywhere. Ever again.

And you still crave just one more damn chip.

That's how I feel.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Bread Alert: Poppy Almost Wheat

I needed to bake. It had been too long. We actually BOUGHT a loaf of bread last week. How wrong is that? So I finally set up a sponge in the evening, knowing that my hatred of wasting food would overcome my growing slothness. (Slothiness? Slothliness? Slothistry?).

No photos, and I'm blogging from memory this time as the loaves are a couple days old. Worse, I didn't even measure some of the ingredients. Just threw 'em in willy-nilly.

Sponge:
  • 1 packet yeast
  • 1 c all-purpose flour
  • 1 c whole wheat Flour
  • 1 c Water
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup

Mix:
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds
  • 1/8 cup poppy seeds (?)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp salt (see Notes)
  • 2 tbsp wheat germ
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1-2 cups bread flour

Glaze:
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp water
  • poppy seeds

Combine the sponge ingredients and let sit in a warm spot overnight.

Toast the almonds in the toaster oven to bring out the flavor, watching closely to make sure they don't burn. Remove and let cool until they are no longer too hot to touch. Add nuts and poppy seeds to the sponge and stir. Add salt and wheat germ, then water and olive oil and mix to form a batter. Slowly add whole wheat flour until the dough is kneadable, then transfer onto a floured work surface. Knead for 10 minutes, using the bread flour as needed to control the stickiness.

Oil a bowl, plop the kneaded dough in and give it a twirl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, 1 hour.

Oil a pair of loaf pans. Punch down the bread and shape into two loaves. Press into the prepared pans. Cover and let rise until doubled again, 45 minutes.

20 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 350.

Beat an egg with one tablespoon of water. Using a basting brush, lightly coat the top of the loaves. Sprinkle with poppy seeds. Place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes or until the loaves sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.

Notes:
  • I FORGOT THE SALT! This led to the bread rising quite quickly. Desperate, and willing to experiment, I took our salt shaker and shook some onto the dough after the first rising, then kneaded it in. In all I probably only added 1/2-1 tsp of salt. This was not enough, hence the recommendation to add 1 tbsp at the correct time.
  • Maybe due to the humid, rainy weather (or the lack of salt?), this loaf started to show signs of mold after only two days on the counter. I cut off the suspect bits and threw the loaves in the fridge. Not my favorite solution but we don't have any better at the moment.
  • This loaf deserves a second try. We actually have been shaking salt onto the bread before adding other ingredients, as it's a bit bland. But the flavors/textures of the poppy seeds and almonds are quite good.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Bread Alert: Super Wheaty Rye

My mother was in town this weekend, and she's on a strict diet which allows for no white flours. I invented this loaf for her.

Sponge:
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup rye flour
  • 1 packet yeast
  • 1 tsp molasses
  • 1 cup water

Sift together flours and yeast. Add molasses and water and stir to form a heavy batter. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit overnight.

Mix:
  • 1 tbsp wheat germ
  • 1 tbsp carraway seed
  • 1 tsp dill
  • 1 1/4 cup hot water
  • 1 tbsp safflower oil (whatever flavorless oil you have is fine)
  • 1 cup rye flour
  • 3 cups whole wheat flour, approx

Sprinkle the wheat germ, carraway, and dill on top of the sponge. Add the hot water and stir to form a nice wet batter. Add the rye flour and stir well. Slowly add in the whole wheat flour until the dough is kneadable. Flour a work surface with more whole wheat, and knead for 10 minutes, adding whole wheat flour as necessary to control the stickiness.

Oil a mixing bowl. Place the dough in the bowl and give it a spin, then flip it so all surfaces get a little oil on them. Cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm place to rise, one hour.

Punch down the dough and divide in two. Oil two loaf pans, shape the ball into oblongs and press into the pans. Cover and let rise until doubled in bulk. (WARNING: I let this rise for too long. See my notes below. I recommend 45 minutes for the second rising.)

20 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 350. Bake for 30 minutes or until it sounds hollow when tapped. Allow to cool completely before cutting and serving.

Notes:
  • Because of the lack of bread flour, this dough doesn't quite have the elasticity of the others I've made.
  • Oh noez! The bread rose beautifully, but collapsed in the oven. Latest theory -- I allowed it to rise too much before baking. I gave it one hour for the second rising in a very warm room, when 45 minutes would have been enough.
  • The flavor is very rich with this bread. The sheer quantity of whole wheat provides a contrasting flavor to the rye; even though it's technically a rye bread it really tastes more like a brown bread. It would have benefited from an even lengthier sponge.
Photos:
The sponge. Didn't have as pungent a smell as before, but that didn't affect the rising.

After the first rise. You can see that there's nothing wrong with the yeast!

I wish I had a photo before they went into the oven, so you could see how much they had risen. Yet after baking, they fell back to their pre-rising height.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Buns in the Oven: Whole Wheat Hamburger Buns

Sloppy Joe night has been forever changed. From now on, it'll just be called "bun night," and we'll serve the sloppy on the side.

Seriously, this is not any harder than any other bread I've baked. The whole wheat gave them a bit of their own flavor, and they have a touch more heft than your average store-bought bun. This is modified from Bernie.
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 packages yeast
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 2 tbsp room temperature butter
  • 2 cups hot water
  • 3 cups (Approx) bread flour
  • a bit of milk
  • sesame seeds, ideally in a shaker
Stir together the wheat flour, yeast and salt. Add the butter and stir in as best you can -- don't worry too much about getting it mixed in perfectly, just give it that old college try. Add the hot water and stir it up into a smooth batter. Slowly add the bread flour 1/2 cup at a time until kneadable, then move it onto a floured work surface. Knead for 8-10 minutes or so, adding flour as necessary to combat the stickiness. Place the kneaded dough in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic and let it rise to double in bulk in a nice warm spot (30-40 minutes should do).

Flour your work surface again. Punch down the dough, then divide it into 12 equal-sized pieces. Focus on your yogic breathing to prevent kvetching at the impossibility of getting 12 equal pieces from a lump of dough. Shape each piece into a ball, cover all with wax paper or greased plastic wrap and let rest for 5 minutes.

Grease a baking pan. Squish each ball into a small disc, 1" thick and 4" in diameter, and place on the pan. Cover again with wax paper and let rise for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees 20 minutes before baking.

Remove the wax paper and brush all the buns with milk, then sprinkle sesame seeds on them all. Bake for about 25 minutes. Let the buns cool before serving.

Notes:
  • Great fun to make, and somehow really satisfying to see them come out of the oven looking better than Stroehman's.
  • The milk helps to keep the crust soft. Another tip is to place the buns in a plastic bag to cool -- the steam will soften them further. Just make sure that you let the buns cool enough that they don't melt the bag. (I thought of this after biting into my sloppy joe and feeling more resistance than I was expecting. You might like it crustier, though!)
  • Very glad to have remembered to preheat the oven on time, and to use oiled plastic wrap. The latter is key if you don't have wax paper -- you don't want anything to touch the formed, rising dough that might stick to it, because peeling it off can cause collapse. And nobody wants a collapsed bun.
Photos:

Dough. Looks like all dough. This would have made a nice, simple loaf of peasant bread.
My rising spot. Sunny and surrounded by happy plants.
All rise for the Honorable H. Bun, presiding.
12 perfectly equal balls with absolutely no variation at all, just completely perfect. (Lying is okay on the internet, right?)

Ready for the second rising.
Hot buns!

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Bread Alert: Maple Oatmeal Sandwich Bread

I'm so late. I know. Blogging is so hard.

This bread is long gone. Two delicious loaves they were. Too delicious, perhaps.

The recipe is interesting because the first rising occurs before you knead the dough. Not sure why, but I'm not complaining! Thank you, Bernard!
  • 2 1/2 cups boiling water
  • 1 cup quick or regular rolled oats
  • 1 package dry yeast
  • 3/4 cup maple syrup (the real stuff)
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 5 cups bread flour, approximately
In a large bowl, pour the boiling water over the oatmeal and let sit for 1 hour. (I found this a great excuse to make oatmeal for breakfast.)

Sprinkle the yeast over the cooled oatmeal and stir. Add maple syrup, salt, and oil. Stir in 3 cups of flour. The dough will have the consistency of a heavy batter. Cover with plastic and set aside to rise for one hour.

Oil two medium loaf pans.

Add additional flour 1/2 cup at a time until the dough can be lifted out onto a floured surface for kneading. Knead for 10 minutes, adding flour as necessary to control the stickiness, until smooth and elastic.

Divide the dough in half, shape into mini loaves and push into the oiled loaf pans. Cover with oiled parchment paper and let it rise until the dough reaches the edge of the pans, about another hour.

20 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 350. Bake until the crusts are nicely browned, 40-50 minutes.

Notes:
  • Delicious, delicious, delicious. Sweet, but not overpoweringly so, and perfect for sandwiches.
  • The dough is sticky!
  • This didn't rise nearly as much as I thought it would once in the bread pans. In fact, it didn't really get to the edge of my pans. Once in the oven, they ballooned and ripped apart their sides. Go figure.
  • Here's a lesson: never try to make bread on a tight schedule. I had tried to time this so that Mrs. Rouftop and I could have fresh sandwiches for lunch on a work day. Unfortunately, the rise was too slow, so it came out of the oven 30 minutes late. We tore into it as soon as it was out of the oven, whipped up a fast pair of sandwiches, and she was gone.
  • Another lesson: let the bread cool before eating! I know it's hard to resist a hot loaf, but this one actually tasted better after it cooled than before. Plus it was a huge mess to cut.
Photos:

The mix. Mmm, maple syrup!
After the rise -- a big mushy mass.
But after kneading, it looks like any other dough.
Two loaf pans ready to go in the oven. Note, they didn't rise as much as the recipe suggests!
Outta the oven, big and beauteous.
Turkey, avocado, tomato, mustard... and the crust came off on its own. That's the danger of not waiting until the loaf has cooled.

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