Thursday, February 19, 2009

More Bread Tips

A friend of mine called me the other day for some advice. She had just finished making bread dough and had to leave the room for a few minutes. While she was gone her three-year-old got involved and when she came back the bread had way too much flour in it and bread dough was smeared all over the kitchen. Believe me, I know how she felt! Of course after all that work she didn't want to waste the dough, but figured the bread wouldn't turn out if it had too much flour in it. She asked me if I had any ideas. Should she add more water and try to get it back the regular consistency? Or just leave it and hope for the best?

I ruled out the "add more water idea" because in my experience I've found that baking is very much a science. The minute you change the amounts in the recipe, you have a different recipe. Substitutions are okay, but if you change the amounts even by a little you end up with a completely different product.

I've found that out especially recently as I've been experimenting to find a sprouted wheat bread recipe. I've tried three different recipe variations to my regular bread recipe and have had three different complete failures. Oh we ate them alright (all except the last which I made into bread-crumbs, which is a great way to use a failed bread attempt), but they weren't very appealing.

What I've had the biggest problem with is the cooking time. When I change the recipe, like adding sprouted wheat instead of wheat flour, the cooking time changes. I've tried to decrease the amount of water to see if that will help and it doesn't. It's not a predicable thing, at least not for an amateur like me. So anyway, I'm still working on that one. If I ever get it right I'll post it for you all so you won't have to go through what I have... By the way, maybe someone has come up with a Bosch sprouted wheat bread already out there? Anyone want to share?

Back to my story...she also asked me how the cooking time is affected if you make smaller bread loaves. I told her that in my experience the cooking time decreases, the smaller the loaf pan. By how much is the big question. It depends on the size of your loaves. So you just have to keep checking. The problem with that is that I haven't found a good way to check without actually cutting open the bread. Maybe someone has an idea for that one? How do you check to determine if your bread is done without actually cutting a slice (which ruins the bread automatically if it wasn't done)? make a long story short, I suggested to her that she make rolls instead of bread. The nice thing about rolls is that if you cut one open and it wasn't done, you only lose one roll instead of a whole loaf of bread that you worked so hard to make. She sent me a message the next day saying that she let her kids use the dough to make rolls of all kinds of fun shapes - burritos, people, snakes, braids - and they turned out really good! I thought that was a great idea. I'll have to use it next time I have a bread dough fiasco!

So the moral of the story is this: don't change amounts in your baking recipes. Substitutions are okay if your substitution has similar cooking properties to the original ingredient. If you do have a fiasco, look for a way to make the best of it like my friend did and laugh about it! Cooking is supposed to be fun!


Angie said...

I have never really gotten the bread-making thing down. I finally gave up and happily buy healthy whole wheat bread for cheap at costco :)

Heather said...

Thanks for an honest comment Angie. I go for the healthy store-bought options too during the busy periods of my life (when I was in school, pregnant, etc). This past year I've had some time on my hands to really get into bread making so I've found a healthy recipe that my family likes and is quick to make (only takes me about 15-20 min to mix together, 30 min for rising and 30 min for baking!). Now since I've learned how, I think I'll be able to handle making it even during some of those busy times of life!!

Tari McDonald said...

If the bread makes a harder crust, you can tap the bread top to see if it sounds hollow. If it does sound hollow, it's done. I then like to soften the hard crust by brushing the loaf tops with butter. Yum!

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