adventures (failures) in baking

15 Apr

Whenever I want to learn how to do something domestic, I generally try to teach myself. This has yielded good results in the past – eg cooking, knitting. I’ve been trying to tackle bread baking lately and the learning curve has been crazy steep though – or maybe now I’m just an old dog and learning new tricks just doesn’t come as easy as it used to. Anyway, I’m not having a whole lot of success trying to follow along with recipes in books. “Knead until dough is elastic and smooth.” Ok, what does that mean exactly? How do you measure elasticity? How smooth is smooth? And so on and so forth. I have no feel for it yet. I also have not yet developed an eye for reading a recipe and knowing if it sounds “right” or not.

For example, here is a bread I made yesterday, a lightly sweet maple bread:
maple hearth bread

Looks pretty, right? But it’s dense and heavy like a brick and even though I “tapped the bottom to see if it sounds hollow” (which it did, I swear), I underbaked it and the center is gummy.

Or how about these whole wheat sandwich rolls:
whole wheat sandwich rolls, baked

I got the impression they were supposed to be crusty – the name of the recipe was “crusty sandwich rolls” fer chrissake – and kind of like kaiser rolls. Instead they are pitifully flat and un-crusty. I also forgot to add the salt. Turns out that salt is kind of a big deal. They are almost inedible as is.

Luckily the spousal unit had the idea to stuff the bread with salty fillings and then cook it in butter with a weight on top, kind of like a panini, which made a huge difference. We might even be able to eat the whole batch this way.

pseudo cuban sandwich

Cornbread? I got it down. Skillet biscuits? No problem. Cookies? In the bag.

Bread? Ahaaahahahaha, hah, ha. No.

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3 Responses to “adventures (failures) in baking”

  1. greenishmonkeys April 15, 2012 at 7:36 pm #

    It takes some time to get into the rhythm of yeast breads, I think. I would pick one recipe and make it several times, without changing any of the variables. I’m wondering about your yeast, looking at the pictures. Did the bread rise well when you made the dough, and then get flat when you baked it, or did it not rise well to start with?
    This light wheat bread is great for sandwiches and is a nice, straightforward recipe: http://smittenkitchen.com/2009/01/light-wheat-bread/
    It’s my go-to for sandwich breads; I have changed it up a bit (different flours) but I basically make four loaves of this every week.

    • Elizabeth April 16, 2012 at 9:38 am #

      That’s probably a really good idea, to pick one recipe to learn on. Right now I feel like I’m kind of flailing around. As for my yeast, I’ve been using a jar of fleischman’s active dry yeast. It seems like the dough rises well enough but then goes flat in the oven. :/

      • greenishmonkeys April 16, 2012 at 10:41 am #

        if your yeast is good, I would wonder about possibly not having let it rise long enough, or having too much flour… the king arthur webpage has a good ” what did I do to my bread” troubleshooting page, too.
        I think once you learn one recipe well, it makes it easier to try new ones– you can eye the basic proportions, your hands have a feeling for when you have kneaded enough. That said I tend towards the lazy and don’t try new recipes often enough. 🙂

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