Friday, August 27, 2010

Life has been busy for blogging and baking, but I'm back!!!

The weather is cooling down, school openings are in a few days and life is already getting chaotic!

I've done some baking and will be posting later today, but I'm not history! Just busy!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Maybe Challah today and talking baking versus store bought

Baking plans for today. The high today is only supposed to get to 73, so it's a perfect day to bake. My mother in law and my oldest son are having digestion issues. I think it must be some virus. Sonja thinks it's something they ate. Since they didn't eat almost anything in kind, symptoms have been for two days, and we ate what Adrian ate and Sven and I are fine, I think it's a bug... So... mild white bread is what I should make - maybe a challah? We'll see.

But, I'm also thinking about the price of baked goods like breads, biscotti and cookies in stores. Cookies especially are outrageously expensive. Maybe everything is so marked up, but we don't realize it because we don't make our own and we never figure costs for making things versus buying? But with breads, especially those we typically buy - plain whole wheat, or simple sourdough, they cost like 50 cents or less to make for ingredients, and about 25 cents for the oven to run and with equipment costs added in for me, about another $1. So, when everything is figured in, I spend about $1.75 a loaf to bake (that price will come down the more I do it as the cost of equipment will be spread out for more uses). Yet, in the store they cost $4 to $6 a loaf to buy.

The equipment cost is one thing bakers oftentimes overlook (that and electricity). Electricity is cheap, so that's not much to figure in, but there are some costs involved in pans, and if you're lazy like me, a nice mixer, but the more you bake, the cheaper it costs to bake your own. I've owned my mixer for 5 years (maybe a bit longer) and a very conservative estimate is that I've used it once a week during that time. (There have been months I haven't used it, and months I used it every other day). That means I've used it about 210 times - that's a $0.92 per use (so far). If I use it for one more year, that's $0.76 cents per use. And that's with using it just ONCE a week.

So, I need to remember to add about $1.25 for every loaf of bread I make for electricity and equipment (for now). Eventually, as I have a good machine and good quality pans, the cost per loaf will be down. In ten years if electricity costs remain the same, cost per loaf will be $0.75 if I still only bake on average once a week.

I ran into the 'not thinking about cost' a lot on a cake forum. People would price their cakes for $15 or $20. They totally didn't factor into their pricing the $300 they invested in a nice mixer, the $200 in baking tools (or more). They would only factor in the cost of ingredients - flour, sugar, vanilla, butter, etc and packing materials (foil, box, etc). I factored in the cost of my organic ingredients, equipment (for over 10 years per use charge), and realized my cakes cost me about $20 to make. MOST of that in ingredients/box alone. That means I would be working for free and making no money if I sold for $20. A cake, start to finish - including clean up (another time factor bakers tend to overlook) takes about 4 hours. So, when I sold a cake for $50, I was basically earning $7.50 an hour - minimum wage.

So, on to a conversation this morning I mentioned to Sven that I should try to make biscotti. The Mandelbread was so easy to make and so inexpensive. Sonja loves biscotti and she'll buy one box for $4-$5 at the grocery store for 8 individually wrapped pieces. He agreed, I should try to make it. Sonja however said, "yes, but you aren't counting the cost of running the oven or mixer." Ah... but I am. There's the other problem. People over estimate costs of running equipment and buying equipment. She though that running the oven for an hour cost about $2. Um, no, it costs about 30 cents. The mixer for ten minutes (and that's a long time for a mixer), a few pennies."  So, about 50 pieces of biscotti with almonds would cost about $5 to make (counting electricity and equipment). Store cost is 50 cents each. Homemade cost is 12 cents each (and probably tastes better). Yes, of course, you can order through or go to costcos to get a gazillion boxes. I saw one for $21 for 96 pieces. But that's still 21 cents each and that doesn't including shipping or taxes.

The biggest factors of baking versus buying is convenience and start up costs. For convenience, I think we have all gotten so used to just picking it up at the grocery store, that we don't even think of it as something we could make quite easily and enjoyably. I started looking at the breakdown of what I spent at the grocery store and I started to realize how much of it went to snack foods and bread (and dairy). I can't do much about the dairy (except venturing into making yogurt), but I can control costs and quality of breads and snack foods.

Equipment cost is another expense and it would be expensive if you got everything at once, but many of us already have the tools we need - we have bread pans and cookie sheets and rubber spatulas and measuring spoons. It's only when you get into the heavy duty mixers and fancy equipment that the costs can really take off, but they aren't necessary either.

Of course, I'm also saying this as a stay at home mom, and not as a working mom, but my hope is that I'll get into these habits now, it will be easy to continue once I start working. And with good equipment, I have incentive to use them too.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

I got some toys for the kitchen yesterday!

I did a very, very quick run to the Leesburg outlets yesterday. I would have loved to have stuck around for more, but, Oh well. However, I am happy with the haul I got yesterday.

First, I was able to find, still in stock at the Crate and Barrel Outlet, the melamine dishes I had picked up over a year ago, right before we learned we were moving. Then we bought 4 place settings to use outside or for gatherings we need to bring our own dishes. Well, now my family has five people and the gathering where people bring dishes to serve a table, needs 6 place settings to sponsor a table. So, I bought another 4 place settings. They are made with recycled materials and can be dressed up or down and are seasonless. We aren't into pictures and designs on our dinnerware (we like to showcase the food on the plate, not the plate itself), so these bring back some retro memories while still remaining 'true' to the keep it simple design (meaning they will never truly go out of style). zak confetti dinnerware

Then, I went to the Pottery Barn Outlet. Since I was there last, they have made it mostly furniture. I didn't find anything interesting, but it was nice to look around. Then I went to the Williams Sonoma Outlet. Now that store rocks. You truly get bargains there. For instance, they are currently selling the all-clad electric griddle for $150. Everywhere I see online sells it for $300. all-clad griddle I didn't get this, but it's a good example. All Le Creuset and Staub are 30% off too. Ah, what a store to have fun in! But I was good!

What I did get though was great! I have been looking and looking for a mulling spice ball. I use them to put herbs for soups in them so that I don't have to go dig out garlic chunks, parsley or peppercorns and bayleaves from soups. Mine, after 5 years of weekly winter use, broke a year ago and I haven't been able to find a replacement. They had the exact same one I had before, but I found one I like even better: mulling spice ball Got that for $7 something.

But the jewel of the trip? I got a sparkling water maker! Right there in the store, they were selling for 30% off (starting price was already cheaper than what I could get elsewhere) the SodaStream Genesis sparkling Water Maker - with starter flavor set. Elsewhere I would pay  $100 plus shipping up to $140. I paid $75. Woot! Here's what I got: Sodastream Genesis starter kit  This means that within 2 months, 3 months tops, it will have paid for itself and is much more environmental friendly. I have really, really missed sparkling water. I gave it up due to plastic waste and being tired of hauling tons of water home every week.

I saw a lot more things I would love to have, but my budget spent and my time gone, I went home happy. Now I can make sparkling water at home and buy refillable carbonators when I need them.

I was trying to find a couple more baking pans, but they were out of the ones I wanted and only had smaller ones left. Next time! But their prices for baking pans was cheaper than Target, so I'll just hold on for another trip out there.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The temps came down and baking resumed!

We were able to turn off the air conditioning Saturday and Sunday - so nice! I really do hate having the house all closed up all the time. Lower outside temps, also meant I could bake.

I seriously needed to make regular bread and some snack breads for the boys. First, I made the banana blueberry bread again as it was an instant hit. Again, turned out great:

Then, I made a bread called a hearty white bread. it's made with white flour, but with added wheat germ, eggs and powdered milk. It turned out OK, but not a favorite recipe. Has a bit of a sweet taste, which is not what we were looking for, but the loaves turned out great. I got great oven spring (probably a bit too much as I probably underproofed a bit) and I was able to get a good slash on it - yay!


Then on Sunday, I made with my two strawberry blonde boys, mandelbread. It's a Jewish style biscotti. The recipe is from a friend. She had made it once and we got the leftovers. I just recently got the recipe (again - after misplacing it the first time). Henry measured all the ingredients and helped crack the eggs and Adrian mixed all the ingredients and helped me roll the dough into logs. I then baked, sliced, and rebaked.

Here is the progress - rolls just after cooking (and I had some SERIOUS doubts as it looked like the dough was melting in the oven, but eventually, as the dough got hot in the interior, it did puff back up instead of turning into a bar cookie). 


And then slicing. I first tried to slice it when it was immediately out of the oven, but that wasn't working as it was smushing and falling apart. I waited a minute or two and then sliced, which worked much better:


Then, we rebaked it to make it crisp and then sprinkled a bit of cinnamon sugar on top. This wasn't in the recipe we got, but noticed it was pretty standard from other recipes, and who doesn't like cinnamon sugar?


We were thrilled! We bought these from a kosher bakery a couple weeks ago and they were $4 for 8 pieces. This entire recipe probably cost $5 to make and it made about 60 pieces:


Best part was making it with the boys. It's so easy and keeps for a long time. I'm sure this will become a family favorite. Next time I'll have to try it with nuts (almonds).

Friday, August 13, 2010

Going to my favorite outlet tomorrow

Tomorrow I am escaping home. I have to run an errand in Virginia - an errand I have delayed as long as I can. I thought about going today, but with the rain and dealing with traffic, or trying to avoid traffic, I just don't want to deal with it. Plus, if I wait a day, I can be alone.

Anyone ever get that way? I don't want a timeline guiding me - just to go and be... eating when I want to eat, stopping when I want to stop and just enjoying window shopping and a casual day.

I hope to find a couple things - I have a cheap dinnerware set that is missing pieces, I can pick those up at the outlet still. I need a couple cookie sheets as we ditched some awful ones with moving, and maybe I'll find something fun for baking. I have a little list of 'wants' that aren't so expensive and would give me the 'pampered' feeling while still being useful. I'm not one to get a manicure or pedicure or massage. (I'm 40 years old and never had any of that). I always feel that's a waste of money (for me).], but if it's something that would make my life easier, but isn't a necessity, that always makes me happy.

My 'cheap stuff' wish list for baking/kitchen items are:

larger banneton
slashing tool for baking/lame
couche linen for baking
silicone lids for bowls
yogurt maker (not one with small cups, but a larger 1-2 quart capacity)

Of course, I have a much more expensive wish list too for the kitchen. I especially want a sparkling water maker.

I am loving the sparkling water maker. Have you seen it? SodaStream Sparkling Water Maker   I love sparkling water. You know, the kind that is just flavored carbonated water? No calories, but fizzy and refreshing? They only cost 69 cents a bottle at the grocery store for the cheap stuff. But two things keep me from buying. 1. they are heavy and inconvenient to bring home. 2. and most importantly, I hate buying plastic water bottles. Yes, I can recycle, but it's still a HUGE waste. I'm trying to figure out costs here a bit. If you buy the pure (plastic BPA free bottles versus glass bottles), and with kids - I'm still going plastic, cost for the unit and 3 carbonators is $190... makes 180 liters. If you take out the cost of the machine, it's $45 for the carbonation to make 180 liters. Which is 25 cents a bottle. It would take about 340 liters of water to pay for the machine. And, in our family, that would mean drinking about one liter of sparkling water a day for a  bit under a year, or 2 liters of sparkling water a day for about 5 months. That latter is much more likely and it's even more likely we would drink even more.  I want one SO BAD... but will try to be good and wait for my anniversary or birthday when I can justify it. Sigh.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

It's been too hot to bake, so musings

Even with AC, some days are just too hot to bake. Now, if I didn't care about jacking up my electrical bill or harming the environment, I would bake, but I do care about those things, so... the oven has remained off (mostly).

Now I should try my hand at baking bread on the grill, but either I'm too lazy or too uneasy about a bread failure, I can't decide which to call it. Even with machines, a lot of time is invested into making a loaf of bread, so having to throw a loaf away is not something I'm up for.

So, I bought a loaf from the grocery store yesterday. It's a nice seeded bread and about the only halfway decent bread I can get in either Safeway or Giant (the grocery stores near us). Normally the bread is $3.99, but was on sale for $2.99. I also always buy a loaf of potato bread for Henry as that's the bread he likes for his peanut butter sandwiches. That is just a bunch of fluff and costs $3.19. The markup on bread is incredible, which is why we make it, however, the price of flour is about to go up for consumers.

With everything burning in Russia, their fields have burned down, which means the demand for American flour will and has gone up. Bakeries are already feeling it quite a bit as wholesale prices have jetted up. For now, since markup is so high on breads, the big companies have just soaked up the cost of the flour, keeping bread prices the same, but smaller artisan bakeries might not be able to do that and I have no idea what it will do to flour sold at grocery stores. King Arthur flour is already $4.85 for 5 lbs, so I'm curious where it will go.

Another musing. My mother in law made an apple strudel for the party we had last weekend. Henry was so happy to see it, he ate 4 pieces. Adrian loves it too, so he had 3. Sonja, seeing how much her grandsons love the strudel, made some more last night.

Now Sonja doesn't make anything that is difficult and her apple strudel is no exception, which is nice as it is good to have some easy snacks/baked goods too. I've watched her make it a couple times and some of the things she does doesn't seem to make sense to me, so, being the curious person I am, I looked up some strudel recipes.

Of course, like so many traditional foods, there are a ton of recipes out there as people didn't use cookbooks - they just did what their grandmothers did.

While searching, I found some great sources. I did find the easy way that Sonja does with phyllo dough and grated apples, but also the traditional way too. I found this you tube video. Subtitles in German, but you can get the idea of how to do it:
For some reason, watching it being made in a German/Austrian home makes it feel more authentic.

But, since I'm an American, and like more detailed instructions, this is a great resource too. Happens to be the exact food processor I have (and this video must be a little old as that food processor is now 14 years old):  Watching the dough stretch is amazing. I've never, ever attempted anything like it, but now I'm intrigued... kind feel challenged to see if I can adopt this skill or not. I have to laugh though, because the sex ed teacher in me thinks, "That dough is thin like a condom". I'm probably the only person who would think like that! LOL

Then, I got excited when I saw this blog with a recipe from the book I ownKaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague by Rick Rodgers:  Applestrudel

Now I really need to try it... But I'll try it while Sonja is in Croatia as I don't want to step on her 'strudel' toes. But, if I get the hang of it, I'll show her when she comes back as she has stories of her grandmother stretching the dough on the table, but then all of a sudden she couldn't do it any more with the thought that maybe the flour changed. She might get a kick out of seeing it done again - that is, if I can get the hang of it.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

How the best of plans can get derailed!

Last weekend I was planning on making a bread common to Croatia and Bosnia. It's typically served with čevapčići (roughly pronounced chey-vop-chee-chee). The ensemble would have looked something like this:


We were planning a party on Saturday evening for my husband's colleagues to come over. All was going well. The house was mostly cleaned up and ready, the food and drinks were bought. All I needed to do was to roll the cevapcici (skinless sausage). Well.... about 20 minutes into doing that, we lost power - at night. I was in a completely lightless kitchen. Sven, my husband, came down to my rescue with a lantern like flashlight and I continued rolling the sausages. We called the electric company hotline for loss of power and found out it wasn't going to come back on until around 3 am.

Well, now we were worried. I was making 300 cevapcicis! I was working with raw, ground meat! I couldn't just put it in the fridge, so Sven went out to the store and got me ice so I could store the meat containers in coolers (which, thank goodness, we already had in the kitchen, cleaned and ready to hold the drinks for the party - and yes, I rewashed them the next day).

It's one thing rolling finger-like sausages by flashlight. It's quite another trying to make bread. So, the idea was scrapped. This bread is a thrice risen dough. I now had no time to do it. Instead we bought some naan and pita. Both of which were subpar, but hey, want can you do!

We were just happy the electricity finally came back on, but it was at 9 am - we were without power for almost 12 hours! Fortunately, it was a cool night and we have a good, new, well-insulated fridge. NOTHING started to melt or rise in temp in either the fridge or the freezer (we have thermometers). In the morning we checked the temps of the meat in the coolers with an insta-read thermometer and phew... they were a cool 42 degrees. SAFE!!!

Party went well too! Our new house is really great for entertaining. Which I hope means we'll do it more often.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Attempt #3 for the Pain de campagne honfleur bread

Today has been a weird day. I feel a bit crappy, but I had this fermented starter in the fridge that was begging to be used before it went bad, so I got my butt in gear and made the bread.

That I didn't feel well, made me rush things, but also it's an experiment of sorts. Since my winging it recipe turned out great, I decided to kind of do that again. I had the starter, which I used in its entirety, and then I added the recommended water and salt. From there I added a bit of bread flour and a bit of white whole wheat flour until the dough had the right consistency. I let that sit for an hour in which time it doubled in size.  I got my brotform, floured it and then let the dough rise again.

What's a brotform (also called a banneton or proofing  basket)? It's a basket for proofing dough. Looks like these in this link: Brotforms (I didn't buy from here, but they show good pictures).There are a couple reasons to use them. The most useful, is that they help keep the dough ball shape/round. Second reason, is that if you use them without a couche, (flour soaked linen), you get interesting designs on your bread. I've had these brotforms for years, but the only time I tried it, my dough got stuck to it, even though it was well floured, and ruined it. I had to punch down and let it rise again. Since then I was afraid to use them. But, as always, there's a trick to keep things from sticking and that is to dust/flour them with rice flour. Rice flour is like teflon, the bread slides right out.

Back to the story. Well, I have two brotforms, but for some reason, I decided to just make one big loaf and put all the dough in one basket. Probably not a good idea as in an unrisen state, it filled the basket about 3/4s. But, I forged ahead anyway. I started the oven, and 30 minutes later, I put the dough in.

I know this is too soon, but my dough was already getting over the top of the brotform. I wasn't feeling well, and the last time I let it rise longer, it became overproofed. So, I got a piece of parchment paper (reused it from last time), placed it over the basket, got my epicurean pizza peel, placed it over the brotform, grabbed the basket from below while still holding the peel, and flipped it all over. I removed the basket, and like magic, it slid out - phew!

Now, to score the loaf. Again, no problem. I can see the loaf is very quickly sliding outwards as it's a really wet dough, but everything is ready, so I quickly get to the oven, slide the bread and parchment paper onto the baking stone, pour one glass of water until the cookie pan below and closed it up to see how it would go.

This is how it looked when I put it in the oven:

Ten minutes later:


And then done:



It looks great, but... I'm a bit worried. This is supposed to make a HUGE loaf - like 12" wide. Mine is 9". This one loaf normally two loaves. It's maybe one and a half times bigger, but it could be only one and a third bigger.

Again the moment of truth is waiting for me - how is the inside? Will I get a brick? Sure hope not! I'll update the results later. Keep your fingers crossed for me.

I was at first convinced it was going to be a brick. Even slicing in, it seemed a bit dense, which it probably is a bit, but it's very tasty and has a very nice texture. The kids devoured a couple slices and my mother in law gave a stamp of approval, so I am getting better with each loaf.



And the crumb as they call it. It's like a memory foam mattress - you squish it, and it bounces right back in a very pleasing way. Though I think it must taste better than memory foam!


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

What got into me? Totally winged it!

Yesterday I was supposed to start working on organizing our basement. It has to be done and I know that. The storage area of the basement (about 1/4) the space has only 1/3 the boxes in it right now. Also, when we remodeled our kitchen and bathroom on the main level, we had them save part of the kitchen and the butler's pantry cabinet. They were in the basement, but weren't placed and of course, are empty. That's a big job. Add to that, we have about 8 boxes of tiles left over from the three tiling jobs (two bathrooms and the kitchen) in the way of putting said cabinets in place AND the entire basement is just FILTHY because when they redid the kitchen and hallway, the had to lift up the entire subfloor (down to the beams)  which meant, all that dust and wood debris just fell on top of everything in the basement. Here's a picture to give an idea of what kind of mess was created down below:


But what does this have to do with baking? A lot. I was procrastinating. I needed to start another bread as we are already out of all the bread I made on Saturday, so I started the preferment/sourdough for the pain de campagne honfleur. Well, that only takes a few minutes to do, so I got another idea. Earlier in the day, I saw a recipe for a banana coconut yeasted bread. So, I grabbed a couple of my bread books to see if there was something similar. In the Bernard Clayton's book there was a Hawaiian bread, but it didn't have bananas and didn't use buttermilk. The recipe I had seen earlier did, but I thought, "Well, maybe I'll try to combine the two recipes". And that's when it started to unravel.

I didn't have the other recipe on hand, but remembered it had buttermilk, nuts, coconut and bananas. I grabbed the buttermilk which I needed to use up before it went bad. I poured it into a measuring cup and saw it's about double what I need, but thought, "Oh well!". I nuked it for a minute to get it warmer. I threw it in the mixer. I tossed in the yeast needed for making 2 loaves of bread (that's pretty standard) and then added a bit of white whole wheat flour and bread flour. I scoured the kitchen. I found the coconut flakes. They needed to be used soon too, so I put in the whole bag, mixed it in. I grabbed two eggs as I remembered the hawaiian recipe calls for eggs. Then I remembered, "Oh yes, I need to add bananas. Huh.. this is going to be bigger than two loaves with all that liquid. Better add some more yeast for three loaves." So, I mashed the four bananas, added them to the mix and then added a bit more yeast, mixed it up, and then added salt for three loaves.

Well, I only had a wee bit of flour in that glop of mess so far, I just grabbed the bags of flour, alternating between the two with the mixer running until it got to a good consistency. I stopped about halfway through to let the coconut absorb some liquid, and then continued until I had a soft dough. Seen here:


At this point, I was thinking to myself, "What are you doing???? You didn't measure anything but yeast and salt? How do I know it's for three loaves or more? Will this even rise?" I waited a couple minutes to see if I could see any 'growth' of this dough and sure enough, I saw it start to puff up. OK, I took it out and rolled in the diced walnuts. I decided to give this a go.

I let it rise for one hour (and yes, I started on the basement) and this is how it looked when I came up:


It looked promising!

I took it out of the mixing bowl and divided it for three pans. I decided to use pans because I have no idea how this will behave in the final rise. I did the nice tight roll I've learned to make to tighten the top, set it aside under wax paper, preheated the oven to 400 and went back to work downstairs.

I came back upstairs and it looked fantastic. My next thought was, "Ok should I try to slash them? My track record isn't too good! But these loaves still might deflate or be mush or a brick... why not try?" I grabbed the razor blade and just like that, I had three slashes on each loaf of bread - so easy, like never before! Go figure!

Alright, into the oven they go. I turned on the oven light to watch and before my eyes I saw oven spring. I snapped this photo after they had risen already a bit. The next photo  you can see even more oven spring growth:



Wow! I had managed to slash loaves and I'm getting great oven spring? On a dough I just pulled out of my butt? What???

I turned down the oven temperature and baked until they reached 205 degrees inside. I pulled them out and this is what I got:



I let them cool while I worked more in the basement - hauled hundreds of pounds of tile, lifted heavy cabinets, unpacked 8 boxes, cleaned tons of dust and assembled storage shelves. And then finally, when I was worn out and it was 10:30 pm, I came upstairs for the moment of truth. How did it look? How did it taste?



Yep, it's fantastic! Unbelievable. Of course, I owe the inspiration to someone else, but I couldn't give you a recipe in detail if I wanted to - I just don't know the measurements! Wow! So what does that mean? My winging it recipe was the most successful I've ever made? I think what it means is that I need to pay more attention to the feel of the dough than what the recipe says - recipes are a guide, but the feel of the dough is the authority.

Wish I could share this bread with everyone today. I've never tasted anything like it and it's divine, truly divine. Hope I can replicate it enough to do it again. Hmmm... maybe I should write down what I think I did approximately, huh?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Time to make the donuts, um scratch that! Time to make the bread!

So, on Saturday, I made 2 loaves of bread, but they werent ready to eat until Sunday. Guess what? They'll be gone after lunch today (Tuesday).

I also made FOUR loaves of banana blueberry bread and guess what? That's gone already! Now, I did give one loaf away, but that's one a day that was eaten! Wow!!!

Now I have to decide, do I make the same daily bread to get it better? Or do I try something new? I think I'm going to give this Pain de Campagne Honfleur one more shot this time around as I've learned so much each time.

For a sweet bread, I think I'm going to make a coconut banana bread, yeasted. Sounds intriguing and it's whole grain bread too. AND another round of the blueberry banana bread as we need to give another bread as a gift for a thank you.  Of course, I'll have my little helper too! He loves it when I'm baking.

I am also going to do an experiment with my scale. Weighing ingredients is way more accurate, and about half my baking books use weights and all my European style books do. However, I learned today that either my scale is 'off' or that my salt is wet. I guess I shouldn't be surprised if my salts are heavy as we were without AC for over a month, and I had the AC off for 3 days with the cooler weather the last few days. Salt especially absorbs moisture. But now I'm trying to figure out how to deal with that in regard to recipes.

Here's the dilemma: let's say a recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of table salt. That typically weighs 18 grams. Well, I weighed my salt by tablespoon 5 times this morning to get an average. First time I got 26 grams, second time 28, third time 32, fourth time 30, and fifth time 28 grams. Which averages out to be 29 grams per tablespoon. That's not just a little variation. That is a huge difference. If it's that my salt is just wet from humidity, then when a recipe calls for 12 grams of salt or 2 teaspoons, if I were to go by weights, that's only a 1 teaspoon and 1/3 of a teaspoon. That much of a difference could make it taste a little salty.

Now, I don't have these issues with liquid measurements or flour measurements. So, now I need to figure out if this is a wetness problem or perhaps my scale isn't sensitive enough at very low weights? (though it had a plate on the scale too). Hmmm...

But, enough experimenting and chitter chatter. I have breads to start and a basement to sort and clean. My oldest is going to just love me today.

Monday, August 2, 2010

The weekend quick breads and French Country loaves

The computer got stuck during importing the pictures, so good thing I had imported some pictures to facebook before uploading to the computer, or else all evidence of baking would be erased!

First, I made 4 loaves of blueberry banana quickbread.

It's a great recipe from "The Sweeter Side of Amy's Breads" which I have checked out from the library. It uses fresh blueberries (can substitute frozen, but would need to add more flour to soak up the juices) and bananas of course, as well as oatmeal and then the usual fare - eggs, oil (not too much),  salt, baking powder, sugar and flour.

It's a really nice quickbread and one loaf was devoured by midafternoon Saturday, one given to a neighbor for their housewarming party. Third loaf eaten on Sunday and now the 4th loaf is being cut into today, Monday.


Saturday morning I started the preferment for the Pain de Campagne (French Country Loaf) for round 2. Maybe this time I could make it better with some tricks that had been mentioned on the bread forum. First, I didn't use hot water, but warm water to mix with the yeast. Second, I didn't let it ferment as long because we had turned off the air conditioning and my kitchen was a warm 80 degrees.

The first rise is stated to be 3-4 hours to double. I let it rise 2 hours (busy making dinner, eating, getting that somloi galuska dessert ready and then eating that!) I looked, and it had TRIPLED in size in those 2 hours. Oops!

I punched it down and shaped it. The next rise was supposed to be 2-3 hours. After 1.5 hours, I decided they should go in. I did the poke test and it seemed right, but when I went to score/slash the tops of the first loaf, I deflated it. Man, I had overproofed AGAIN. So, this time, I punched it down, reshaped it, and let it re-rise again. However, without slashing, I put the other loaf in the oven. After only 20 or 30 minutes of rising, I put the other in the oven too - really afraid it would be a brick.

Surprising to me, I got oven spring - which means my loaf grew in the oven. I haven't had that before... Hmm... interesting. And that loaf didn't lose it's shape. Wow! But was it a brick.

I pulled the loafs out of the oven as they were done and set them out to cool. I would cut into them in the morning to see what we got.

This is how it looked... big difference:


Next day, we cut into both and did a visual inspection, a taste inspection and a texture inspection. Both were good, but we all agreed the rounder one (the one that had been punched down a second time) had a better taste, a slightly better texture, and the shape was great). Made for great sandwiches for lunch:


Even my youngest couldn't put it down (and he's the pickiest eater on the planet):


Those loaves got cut into on Sunday morning, and by Monday morning, one loaf is gone and the other is a 1/3 gone. Which means, I'll be baking again by Tuesday.