Random Happenings

Random notes and pics about events in the life of a not-your-typical Computer Science grad student. (Yes I am a nerd, but I don't live and breathe the SciFi channel, well maybe Stargate SG-1...)

Monday, January 22, 2007

Lead for bread anyone?

It may look beautiful and rustic, but don't be fooled. Don't be tempted. This lovely little loaf is as heavy as a ton of bricks! It made a resounding thud as I heaved it into the trash can, but I'll get to that in a bit.

This weekend, after a stellar biscuit campaign, I decided to embark on a new journey into the land of yeast. I mistakenly thought that I had finally found the inner baker inside. Armed with my baking guide, I attempted to make some whole wheat sourdough bread.

Everything seemed to be going really well. I had even cultivated my own wild yeast out of thin air in a nice, bubbly sourdough starter. After several days, the starter looked ready with plenty of yeast to make the bread light and airy.

I commenced baking. I first carefully measured out all the ingredients, even to the gram, on my kitchen digital scale. Nerdy yes, but I wasn't taking any chances. I mixed up the dough. It looked unusually wet, not at all like what the recipe described or what I had seen on TV. "Hmmm, that's strange..." I thought. I let the batter rest and hoped for the best.

I returned in half an hour and peered nervously under the kitchen towel where the dough was resting. How would it look? Would it still be too wet? Much to my dismay, it was still a big mass of goo. Well, I wasn't sure what to do at that point, so I just pressed forward. I began kneading the dough/batter in my stand mixer with the dough hook attachment.

After about 15 minutes of stirring, I was getting nowhere. Nathan suggested that I try adding a bit more flour. I added another cup worth. No change. Then another cup. The batter was just beginning to thicken up. Then another cup. I kept adding and kneading until it resembled a dough. I'm not sure exactly how much flour I ended up adding --- I gave up counting after a while. Suffice it to say that it was much much more than the recipe called for. (I should have taken the hint there that it was not recoverable.) Incidentally, the stand mixer started getting really hot, overwhelmed with the dough, so I had to knead most of it by hand. My arms sure got a workout!

I reasoned that I should at least see if it would rise. If it did, then maybe things were okay. It actually doubled in volume in about an hour and a half. "Okay, that's progress." I then proceeded to shape the dough, let it rise again, slash the top, and bake. There was no turning back now!

After 40 minutes in the toasty oven, the house started smelling of warm, fresh bread. It smelled really good. I pulled it out of the oven. The crust looked great! I patiently waited for it to cool before cutting into it. "This actually might work out!" I thought.

Nathan and I both sampled a piece of the bread at the same time. He kind of looked at me, not sure what to say, reading my reaction. I confessed, "Wow, that's pretty terrible. It's really really dense." He let out a sigh of relief that I felt the same as him. "Yeah, not exactly the best." "Well, I could make bread crumbs out of it..." I offered. "Yeah..." Nathan replied.

Later that evening, I walked by the kitchen. The loaf of bread was still sitting there on the cooling rack where we left it staring at me. I put it out of it's misery (and mine) and threw it away in the trash. It may be a little wasteful, but I at least spared us from the torture of having to eat it later reinvented as stale, dry bread crumbs. Oh well. I haven't given up, though. I plan to try again next weekend, but with a different recipe!


Blogger Timmie Smith said...

I think that is the best looking baking disaster I've ever seen. My baking tragedies never even bother to make themselves look presentable. They usually look as bad as they taste. I'd recommend giving the pizza dough a spin next. That's a good recipe and even if it is a little off you've got all the pizza goodies on top to enjoy.

9:30 AM  
Blogger Conrad said...

I'm having the same issue right this very minute with the "Everyday Bread". I think the 16 ounces of starter (along with the water)is a little too much liquid, based on the way my starter has turned out. I, too, added an extra cup of flour and then some (kneading by hand). I know I'm not an idiot, having tried the oatmeal bread recipe on the King Arthur's Bread Flour bag with great results (I recommend it). Since it's basically water and flour here, I think I'm going to cut the water by 1/3 and the starter by 1/3 next time and take it from there.

Incidentally, I had some dough that clung to the rolling surface (don't ask) that I fed a bunch more flour to and rolled into a nice little breadstick, which after it doubled in size (this following one doubling already), I popped into the toaster oven at 325 or so (on a piece of greased aluminum foil!), and it turned out a little dense, but very tasty, so I know there's viability waiting to happen.

Try that King Arthur recipe and see if you have a taste of success, and then you'll have a visual and tactile image to refer to when you try and fix Alton's sourdough brick.

2:17 PM  

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