Monday, August 22, 2016

Bread baking resumes

Out of all the deliciously self-indulgent options I had for filling up two perfect-weather days in the city - I picked 'overhauling the kitchen', for no good reason that I can think of.  It took the entire weekend and wasn't fun until around 3pm on Saturday when I realized I had enough counter space to use the mixer.  Pete kindly went downstairs to buy yeast for me, and I made bread.

I'm also quite desperate to finally make use of the madeleine pans Pete gave me lo these many years ago, but Priorities.  Also, I didn't have all the right ingredients.

I have a great bread recipe (which you can access here) and I used to make use of it once or twice a week, even in the house when I had very little counter space.  But eventually, the kitchen there got so cluttered with front hall stuff, I couldn't clear enough room to do anything ambitious, and when I got everything into the condo where the counters are plentiful? I was WAY too busy with the renovation decisions to do anything home made.

Now I'm remembering why it's better to bake the whole batch at once rather than refrigerating dough for a day or two.  That's the allure and temptation of this recipe: the yeast is very intense and will rise the dough even after a stint in the refrigerator.  So in theory, you can bake a loaf of bread with one third of the dough, and wrap up the other two thirds into separate buttered cling wrap parcels for fresh bread another day.  The first loaf, the one that's never refrigerated, rises really, really high:

This probably looks like an ordinary loaf that wasn't kneaded enough to get the air bubbles evenly distributed but in fact, it is the MOST DELICIOUS loaf of bread ever produced by anyone anywhere at any point in history.  I present the following evidence:

This is all that was left after the initial feeding frenzy (which did not include just me.)

Okay, okay, I will concede that another loaf of bread produced by somebody else is probably just as delicious but after a year downtown with limited good-bakery resources, this one seemed pretty fabulous.

After the refrigerator treatment, the second loaf doesn't do quite as well.  I'm happy just to see the dough clear the top of the loaf pan before it hits the oven.  The picture at the top of the post is the second loaf - attractive, but not overwhelmingly tall by any means.

And on the third day?  WHEW.  I didn't have any cling wrap for this batch so I just flung the extra dough into buttered Ziploc bags, and the air inside morning's bag was so plentiful it was like picking up a foil balloon filled to the maximum.  It was wedged into the top shelf of the fridge hard enough that I had trouble getting it out, and when I started to open the seal there was a huge POP and the Ziploc strip tore itself right off the bag on one side.  The dough itself is quite yeasty, as though it has started to ferment.  So.... sourdough?

It's hard to believe that this sluglike, cold lump could turn into anything palatable, but it did - this is the second loaf when it was fresh out of the refrigerator.  The third loaf didn't even look this good, but it's gone into the oven at very respectable height.

I think when I mix the next batch of dough I'll bake two loaves and one muffin pan's worth of buns, then freeze half a loaf and a few rolls to see how they do.  The only really yummy bread I've been able to find around here is a baguette that goes stale on the second day and it would be great to have a go-to option for fresh bread any time I want it.

Here's the important result of the weekend's efforts though.

Thanks to the miracle of reorganization and expired food removal, I'm using the kitchen again.  I'm treating food preparation as an activity and not a depressing chore.  I'm thinking things like, Hmmmm, what shall I make today?  Meringues, or Madeleines?  and answering, Why not both?

And that is a very nice feeling.  Even nicer than biting into a slice of freshly-baked bread from your own kitchen.

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