Saturday, July 16, 2005

baking bread tips?


Here is my most successful loaf of French Bread so far. I've been intermittently trying to cook a decent loaf for a while. I recently switched from the James Beard bread book to just the one that came with our big mixer which the father-in-law gave to us, and the results have been much better. There are three changes. One is just a slightly different recipe of water, salt, flour, and yeast. Also, I let the mixer do the kneading with the dough hook. Finally, this recipe has you roll out the dough after the first rising to a square. Then you roll it up again. The end result is that I am finally pleased with the flesh of the bread inside. It's nice and airy, rose nicely, tastes good, etc. However, I haven't quite gotten the crust down to a real good crust. My crust is staying too soft to be a good French baguette. From the Beard book, I have been adding a shallow pan of water during baking to get some steam in there. Any one have any tips to make my bread better? Actually, I'd be interested in any good bread baking tips. I now have three passable varieties - the french, a basic white loaf, and a cornbread. Recipes, recipes!!

5 comments:

Serena said...

Try a spray bottle and mist the loaf a few times during baking. That might do the trick if you are wanting a crustier loaf.
Shalom,
Serena

Serena said...

Btw, that loaf looks yummy and beautful. Could I have the recipe?
Thanks!
Shalom,
Serena

pacatrue said...

I will give the spray bottle a try soon. I hadn't been working too much on bread for a while, because little packages of yeast at the grocery store were half the price of bought bread, then I found a huge thing of yeast at Costco which let's me make bread cheaper than I can buy it. Now the key is to try to make it better. Anyway, here is the recipe for this French loaf. It is from the recipe book that came with our 6 qt stand mixer from Kitchen Aid, so props to them.

2 packages active dry yeast (1Tb)
2.5 cups warm water (105-115)
1 Tb salt
1 Tb margarine or butter, melted
7 cups of all purpose flour (or until the dough is 'right')
2 Tbs cornmeal
1 egg white
1 Tb cold water

Disolve yeast in warm water in warmed mixer bowl. Add salt, butter, and flour. Then instructions on kneading with the mixer. I would love to know if you make this loaf kneading by hand and how it turns out. I suspect my hand-kneading isn't great yet. Dough will be sticky - very important! (In my climate, 6.5 cups flour seems to be better than 7...)

Place dough in greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover. Let rise in warm place, free from draft, about 1 hour, or until doubled in bulk.

Punch down dough and divide in half. (I freeze half of it for later.) Roll each half into 12x15-inch rectangle. Roll dough tightly, from longest side, tapering ends if desired. Place loaves on greased baking sheet that have been dusted with cornmeal. Cover. Let rise in warm place, free from draft, about 1 hour or until doubled in bulk.

With sharp knife, make 4 diagonal cuts on top of each loaf. Bake at 450 for 25 minutes. Remove from oven. Beat egg white and water togethr with a fork. Brush each loaf with egg mixture. Return to oven and bake 5 minutes longer. Remove from baking sheets immediately and cool on wire racks.

And that's it. If you ever try it, and if you think of ways to improve it, I'd love to hear.

Serena said...

Thanks for the bread recipe. I make challah(egg bread) about every Friday and have developed my own recipe for that. I also came up with a Rosemary-Garlic Bread recipe that is really yummy and that is what the spray bottle worked on so nicely to make a crust on it. I got the idea from Laurel's Bread Book that I got at the library. I agree that using those little packets is really expensive. When we are able to, I'd like to get a Sam's Club membership again because their yeast comes 2/1lb packages to a package and is only about $2/lb. Right now, I'm buying 8 oz packages at the health foods store for the best price I can find where we live. Do you use whole grains much? I have my own stone grinder and bread from freshly ground flour is soooo good.
Shalom,
Serena

pacatrue said...

Freshly ground flour sounds amazing. I haven't yet ventured past the basic all-purpose bleached stuff. To confess, it is only recently that I have been happy enough with my breads that it seemed worthwhile to to get flour special for this. I would love to get the rosemary-garlic recipe if you have the time. I love almost anything garlic. : ) I also just pulled the other half of the french loaf out of the oven about half an hour ago. I had frozen the dough before rising, and I am happy to say that it rose just fine, though it took longer, out of the freezer. Also, I learned that I have not been patient enough letting the dough rise. I let this one go extra because we went on a walk, and it is better through-out.