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Baking Bread

Well it looks like this blog is starting out as a “don’t do what I did” kind of blog. The very first recipe I decided to try was American Loaf Bread from the Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook, pg. 586. I’ve made homemade bread before by hand many times and was excited about trying it in the Kitchenaid. I double checked my measurements, added the liquid to the dry in my Kitchenaid, then my baby started to fuss so  picked her up and brought her out to the kitchen with me. Not long after the machine started to wobble and the bowl jumped out of its locks, the baby started to cry, and that’s when I noticed her diaper had spilled and she had poop all up her back! (I apologize for talking about such things on a food blog but it was necessary to get across the severity of the situation).  Upstairs I went to get her sorted and put her down for her nap. About 40 minutes later I go back to the kitchen to find a hard, rubbery mess that was just beginning to crust over in parts. “Maybe I can salvage it” I said to myself. We never really measure our family bread recipe and it turns out great. I tried kneading by hand and I really needed to put my back into it. 10 min later I admitted defeat. I let it rise anyway to see what would happen. It rose fine and I baked it as directed without a baking stone in the oven, using an overturned cookie sheet instead. It developed a very crispy brown crust and inside it was dense but flavourful and a little sweet despite my earlier challenges. Its aesthetics left much to be desired therefore I will not post a pic of the loaf itself.

I found this great article on www.finecooking.com  about choosing flour and it says all-purpose should make for softer dough than bread flour, so I’m not sure what went wrong. I did substitute hard margarine for butter. Perhaps I over measured my flour? I’ll try the recipe again and leave out about 1/2 cup to see what happens, then quickly knead by hand once the dough comes together in the Kitchenaid. The moral of the story is: never leave unfinished bread dough unattended, and add less flour than you need at first. If it’s too sticky add more until you achieve the correct consistency.

My second attempt on making the American Loaf turned out nicely. I took my own advice and added all but 1/2 cup of the flour, then added the liquids very slowly. I kept the mixer on slow speed 2 and then did most of the kneading by hand. Nothing exploded or flew of the kitchen counter so I was happy. The bread baked a little more quickly then they stated in the recipe so I think my oven runs a little hot. Next time I’m going to try for 30-35 minutes instead of 40-50. Also, the bread was quite dense so I think I will let it rise a little more in the pan too see if it results in a lighter and more fluffy loaf. You know, I think it’s a good idea to try a recipe 2-3 times before you get it right because we have to allow for differences in kitchen equipment and personal tastes. Here’s to trying new things! 🙂

Another couple of tips handed down from our elders back home: knead your dough until he hear it crack like gum. This insures it has the correct elastic texture that you’re looking for. Also, you can tell it’s baked when it you tap it on the bottom and it sounds hollow and if it starts to make crackling noises as it cools.

American Loaf via Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook

1 cup whole milk, heated to 110 degree

1/2 cup water heated to 110 degrees

3 tbsp honey

2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted

3 1/2 cups (19 1/4 ounces) bread flour

2 1/4 tsp instant or rapid-rise yeast (one small packet)

2 tsp salt

1. Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 200 degrees. Once oven temperature reaches 200, maintain heat for  10 min. then turn off.

2. Whisk milk, water, honey and butter together in 4 cup liquid measuring cup. Using stand mixer fitted with dough hook, combine flour, yeast, and salt on low speed. Slowly add milk mixture and let dough come together, about 2 min. Increase speed to medium (2) and knead until dough is smooth and satiny, about 10 minutes., scraping down dough from bowl and hook as needed. Transfer dough to lightly floured counter and knead by hand to form smooth round ball, about 15 seconds. Place dough in large, lightly greased bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap and let rise in warm oven until doubled in size, 40 – 50 min.

3. Grease 9×5 loaf pan. Transfer dough to lightly floured counter and press into rectangle about  1 inch by 9 inches thick, with long side facing you. Roll dough toward you into form cylinder, keeping roll taut by tucking it under itself as you go. Turn loaf seam side up and pinch it closed. Place loaf seam side down in prepared pan, pressing gently into corners. Cover loaf loosely with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until nearly doubled in size, about 20-30 min. (Dough should spring back from poked with knuckle.)

4. One hour before baking, place baking stone on lowest rack, place empty loaf pan or other heatproof pan on baking stone, and heat oven to 3450 degrees. Bring 2 cups water to boil on stove top. Working quickly, pour boiling water into empty loaf pan in oven and set loaf in pan on baking stone. Bake until crust is golden brown and loaf registers 195 degrees, 40-50 min. Transfer pan to wire rack and let cool for 5 min. Remove loaf from pan, return to rack, and let cool to room temperature, about 2 hours, before slicing and serving. (Bread can be wrapped in double layer of plastic wrap and stored at room temperature for up to 3 days. Wrapped with additional layer of aluminum foil, bread can be frozen for up to 1 month.)

If you don’t have a baking stone bake the bread on an overturned and preheated rimmed baking sheet set on the lowest oven rack.

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About heathershomemade

Cupcake obsessed foodie from Ottawa, ON, Canada

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