Thursday, August 20, 2009

a weekend of bread

Back in February I was house/dog sitting for Jay out in Shutesbury and I decided to make use of Jay’s oven, which is much larger and fancier than mine, to bake some bread.

This was the same weekend that I decided to try making sourdough English muffins, which I wrote about previously. It was convenient to make the English muffins the same weekend that I was planning to bake bread, because I was able to really ramp up my sourdough starter and use the excess sponge for the muffins. I ended up making a dozen or so muffins that turned out fairly well. I’ve tried 3 different recipes at this point and haven’t really been satisfied with any of them. My muffins tend to be denser than I think they should be and the dough is always much stickier and difficult to handle than the recipe makes it sound. The first time I followed the recipe’s instructions and patted/rolled the dough out and used a circular cookie cutter to cut the muffins. This was a complete mess. No amount of flour or cornmeal could keep the dough from sticking to the cookie cutter and to the counter. I think the honey was responsible for making the dough particularly tacky. The second time instead of cutting out rounds, I rolled the dough into balls and flattened them into rough circles, then let the dough rise. This was much easier to handle than the cookie cutter technique. The only downside I discovered was that my English muffins weren’t exactly round, but they still tasted delicious so I didn’t really care.

So about the bread; I made four loaves of bread, 2 large and 2 small. I vaguely followed Hamelman’s Vermont Sourdough Rye recipe, with which I have had much success. It was my go to recipe for sandwich bread this winter. I doubled the recipe in order to make four loaves and skipped the rye flour. I also made 3 of the four loaves with cheese, which is something I’ve only experimented with a few times. Jay had a bunch of cheese in his fridge that needed to be used right away, or a trip to the trash can in the near future. I used two soft cheeses, brie and camembert, for two of the small loaves and a big hunk of local cheddar for one of the larger loaves. The fourth loaf did not have any cheese in it. I wanted to try following instructions I had read for a torpedo loaf. The shaped turned out well I think. The technique created a lot of surface tension, which caused the loaf to split in places other than where I had scored it. I think next time I might need to score it differently, but the shape was roughly what I had expected.

I made boules for the two smaller loaves, folded the cheese into the center, and scored them in a cross pattern. The cheese melted as it baked and some of it bubbled out of the top of the loaf, which you can kind of see in this picture. The cheese on the outside of the loaves was crispy and delicious. The cheese on the inside caused the bread to have an uneven crumb with several large pockets where the chunks of cheese melted. It was incredibly good lightly toasted or just sliced plain. I confess I ate most of one of the smaller loaves myself almost as soon as it had cooled standing at the kitchen counter and just tearing hunks off. I managed to save the other one to share.

For the cheddar loaf I cut the cheese into cubes and worked it throughout the bread and put that one in a banneton to rise. Like the torpedo loaf, it split on the side in the oven even though I had scored it. I think that either the bread needed to rise longer or I didn’t score it well/deep enough. Or both! The crumb was a little denser than it often is with this recipe, but I think that actually worked well given the weight of the cheese. I definitely want to try cheese breads again, but I think I’ll find an actual recipe that calls for cheese next time instead of just adding it to a recipe that does not.


I also made black bean chipotle bread at Jay’s once a while back, for which I’ll have to track down the recipe sometime. It was really tasty and had an incredibly interesting color and texture from the purred black beans. The chipotles gave it a really spicy kick that you don’t necessarily expect from a slice of bread!

1 comment:

Amy said...

Looks yummy. I can't wait to see you next month, and to taste some of your breads!