Sunday, April 26, 2015

Fail breads, great brownies, and more

It's been a while since I posted, in part because it's no fun to talk about failures. Here's what's happened since I last posted:
  • I forgot to put salt into a sourdough poppy-sesame seed loaf (which I'd never made before).
  • I didn't seat the bread pan well, ruining a sourdough buckwheat loaf (which I'd successfully made before).
  • I made a pretty good rye bread from a new (to me) cookbook.
  • I successfully made super lemon ice cream and chunky raspberry sauce (which I'd made a few times before, but not recently).
  • I found a delicious brownie recipe that features coconut flour, and I made it twice.
Salt. It's the reason I started baking bread. I can't take too much sodium, and most bread has an awful lot of it. So I bake bread with about half the salt the recipes call for (halving the yeast as well), and it usually turns out.

Without salt, bread tastes anywhere from boring to downright nasty. The sourdough poppy-sesame bread tasted nasty. I can't be sure that leaving out the salt was the only reason for this bread's failure, since I'd never made the bread before (much less any recipes from Josey Baker Bread's sourdough section). Here are the problems with the bread:
  • Nasty flavor, making the bread inedible. (Lack of salt was definitely a factor. It's also possible that the poppy seeds were bad.)
  • Failure to develop gluten. The bread stayed wet, the gluten never seeming to develop. (Kneading helps gluten and this was a low-knead recipe, but so is the sesame bread that I've made successfully a few times. Salt makes gluten stickier and stronger, which is what you want in yeast-raised bread. More info: Fine Cooking's article about how to increase or limit gluten development.)
  • Failure to rise in the oven. (This might have been as least partly because I didn't preheat the baking stone for a full 45 minutes; I was in a hurry.)
Here's what the dough looked like when it was supposedly ready to shape:

Here's the outside of the cooked loaf:

Not undercooked (nor overcooked)

Here's what it looked like inside:

Enough of that. I didn't take a picture of the failed sourdough buckwheat loaf, so I'll just describe it. Imagine a tiny ball of bread around one paddle, and a big lump around the other paddle. The tiny ball was hard, the other one seemed a bit compressed, and together they were smaller than when I successfully cooked this bread before. I threw out the bread without eating it.

If I ever hear the bread machine making a racket again, I'll restart the cycle from the beginning, rather than reseating the bread pan and letting it continue.

Here's the rye bread, which was from the Raisin Pumpernickel recipe in Rustic European Breads from Your Bread Machine, by Linda West Eckhardt and Diana Collingwood Butts (p. 175). I took the caraway seed option instead of raisins. I probably halved the salt and yeast... I don't remember.

My first slice attempted was timid, so I sliced again
(as you can see from the curvy line at the top left)

I messed up on the baking a bit, forgetting to decrease the heat from the 400 degree preheat to a 375 degree baking heat. Strangely, the instructions say to bake it "until done...or until golden brown and done through." How are you supposed to know that a dark brown bread is golden brown? I sense cut and paste.

I shaped the dough as a free loaf, covering it for the first 20 minutes of baking. If I make this bread again, I might just use a loaf pan, since the bread crust didn't stay crisp for long. And if it comes to that, why not just bake it in the bread machine?

Here's a picture of the inside.

 Great with tomato, mozzarella, basil, and olive oil!

Changing the subject to ice cream, I made super lemon ice cream with chunky raspberry sauce, from recipes in The Perfect Scoop. I'd gotten a request for birthday ice cream the same morning. For most of the ice creams I make, this would be a problem, since I usually cook one day and then churn the next (so the custard is completely cool). I chose this recipe because it's tasty and it requires no cooking.

As usual, I used lemons from the garden.

You whir up the lemon zest with some sugar, and then you add half and half.

The raspberry sauce was also good, as always.

Ingredients for the chunky raspberry sauce

Finally, the brownie recipe. It's on the back of the Let's Do... Organic Coconut Flour package, and it's very similar to a King Arthur chocolate coconut cake recipe. Moist, deliciously chocolatey... it's a winner. It's gluten free (whatever) but definitely not low in cholesterol or fat—lots of eggs and butter.

I've made these brownies twice, both times adding chocolate chips. The brownies are OK cold, but they're great room temperature or warm. When I make them again, I'd like to try adding nuts or cocoa nibs—with or without chocolate chips.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Sesame bread maker in training + applesauce bread

This week we used up applesauce, and I taught my husband how to make one of our favorite breads, Josey Baker's sesame bread.

Sesame bread: always good!

Josey Baker's sesame bread is an easy recipe, but it has certain time constraints. It calls for mixing the pre-ferment, waiting 12 hours, then mixing in the rest of the ingredients, then waiting 3 hours, and then refrigerating at least 3 hours before shaping the bread. Once you've refrigerated the finished dough, the timing is fluid. All in all, this bread takes 23 hours to 6+ days to make, with the first 15 hours being the least flexible.

We usually like baking the bread Friday or Saturday, so we can share it with friends, but that requires starting during the week. My weekday mornings are not usually flexible, so it was time for Nate to learn how to take my place. I happened to work from home Thursday, so we could make some bathroom remodeling decisions. That meant the education of Nate could start Wednesday evening.

We toasted the sesame seeds, then started soaking the seeds that would go in the bread (as opposed to on it), and made the pre-ferment—some whole wheat, a little yeast, and some water.

The next morning, we mixed the dough. We'd had uneven dough coloring before, but we solved it by mixing the water with the pre-ferment before adding the other ingredients.

Mixing water with the pre-ferment before adding solids made for a uniform color (finally)

Thursday night we shaped the loaf and put it back in the fridge.

When I came home Friday evening, the bread was in the oven. What a treat! It came out well, the only flaw being a couple of big bubbles near the surface.

I started digging at a bubble and couldn't stop until it was a gaping maw

On to the applesauce. Nathan made it last week with the last of our pink lady apples, along with a healthy dose of ginger. I used 2 cups of it in applesauce bread, and Nathan used the rest in applesauce muffins.

Applesauce bread: tasty yet imperfect

The applesauce bread I'd made before. It's based on the applesauce variant of The Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book recipe for banana bread (p. 323).

I made this bread similarly to last time, with the following adjustments:
  • Maybe half the vanilla called for (we were running low on vanilla, and the applesauce was strongly ginger flavored)
  • No spices (because ginger)
  • Hazelnut oil (probably didn't matter)
  • No salt (as usual)
As usual, I used no-sodium baking soda (a bit more than doubling the called for amount) and baking powder. I love these no-sodium substitutes. Real bakers say they aren't quite the same, but they do the job for me. The baking soda substitute has a huge amount of calcium, interestingly.

No quickbreads for me unless they're made with no-sodium leavening,
like Hain's Featherweight baking powder and
Ener-G's baking soda substitute

Unlike last time, I had whole wheat pastry flour, so I used exactly the flour the recipe called for. Instead of walnuts, I used pecans—a full half cup in the recipe itself, with more on top. And like last time, I used giant raisins.

The recipe recommends double-panning, so the crust doesn't burn before the inside is cooked

We cooked the heck out of this bread, and yet it still seemed undercooked on the bottom.

Less cooked the further down you go

We couldn't cook it any longer without burning it. I wonder if you can ever get an eggless applesauce quickbread to seem fully cooked.

The top: plenty cooked

By the way, let me just say that I love my little Oxo measuring cups. Measuring 3 T of oil (1.5 oz), followed by 1/3 cup of honey (80 ml), was no problem at all.

This little beaker makes measuring oil & (afterward) honey easy

I have no pictures of Nate's applesauce-oatmeal muffins, but they were good. We didn't double the topping, but that's not a bad idea. Nuts would also be good added to the batter and the topping.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Ice cream cake (again) and a fallen bread

Last weekend I made an ice cream cake and some black bread. Both were fine, although the cake crust was still too hard, and the bread collapsed in the middle.

Ibrahim's birthday cake

I had marching orders for the ice cream cake. It had to have:
  • chocolate ice cream
  • rainbow sprinkles
  • whipped cream (lots of it, sprayed from a can)
I'd rehearsed last week with a yummy malted milk ice cream cake, and I applied what I learned. Most everything worked, but I'll change a couple of things next time:
  • Make the crust thinner; I tried not packing it as tight and cooking it less, but it was still just as hard as before
  • If I use sprinkles again, use bigger ones that aren't round; the tiny round sprinkles bounce everywhere! (I packed them around the side, which looked nice, and we sprinkled a few more on top of the whipped cream.)
And of course, for anyone but my nephew, I'd insist on a different ice cream flavor. Coffee or toasted almond or malted milk or peanut butter would all be great. Shaved or grated chocolate would make a nice coating for the sides and maybe the top.

Bowed Bohemian black bread

I don't know for sure why the Bohemian black bread fell. It did stay in the bread maker for a few hours after it was cooked (oops), but I'd think by then it would be too late to collapse. Maybe not.

Fortunately, it still tasted great. We used it for sandwich bread and out-of-hand eating, as usual, and also for bread crumbs in Sodium Girl's pork & fennel meatloaf. Yum!