Monday, March 8, 2010

Another good weekend!

I didn't get quite as ambitious this weekend as I have recently, but I still made french bread, bagels and glazed raisin bars.

I made the whole wheat glazed raisin bars as found in the King Arthur Flour Whole Grain baking book for our homeowner's association meeting this weekend. I wasn't expecting any difficulties and that was the correct assumption. I am really liking the King Arthur recipes, they seem to be well thought out recipes that work well. The whole wheat was not a distraction from the bars, which is good since whole wheat has a tendency to make things a bit denser and impart a noticeable flavor. I didn't quite have as much powdered sugar as I thought I did so I was only able to make 2/3 of the called-for glaze. It worked out well, though and people seemed to really like them.

I also made french bread. This was surprisingly simple to do. I made the starter on Friday night, let it rest at room temperature, then completed the bread Saturday morning. The starter was a bit pudding-like when I prepped it, just as the recipe said it would be. It was a bit bubbly and bigger the following morning, but nothing too huge. I kneaded the bread by hand and let it rise. The recipe called for one large round loaf. My bread was huge! I shaped it so that it was elongated, but I think next time I will definitely make two loaves out of this recipe. That was my instinct when I was shaping the dough, but since the directions for cooking times and temperature was for a single loaf, I decided to follow those instructions.

I do not have a spray bottle for in the kitchen, so I couldn't spritz the bread with water as the recipe suggested. This would form a nice crunchy crust on the bread. But my husband doesn't like crunchy crusts, so that worked out for the best. As the bread was baking, I noticed more smoke than I expected coming from the oven. This made me very nervous. I guess that wax paper doesn't have the heat tolerance that parchment paper does. The recipe called for lining two baking sheets stacked on top of each other with parchment paper, then dusting the paper with cornmeal or semolina. I don't have parchment, so I just used waxed paper. Not something I will do again in the future.

When the bread came out from the oven, the crust was very crunchy, even without spritzing with water. I remembered from the Cooking Wise book that brushing melted butter on bread makes the crust softer. So I took out some butter and coated the top and sides of the loaf in hopes of softening up the crust. That way my husband would help me eat the bread! The bread turned out great, I am very pleased with it. We had some yesterday spread with a layer of Nutella...that was just a wonderful snack!

So in the future, I will be sure to:
- not use wax paper in place of parchment
- make two loaves of bread from this recipe
- coat the outside of the crust with butter to keep the crust nice and soft.

As for the bagels, they too were somewhat of a success. I decided to use the stand mixer to knead the dough since the recipe said to 'knead vigorously' or use a bread machine or stand mixer. This sounded like the perfect time to try kneading with my stand mixer. I followed the time and speed and the dough came together just like it should have. The dough is a bit tough, so it bounced my mixer around a little bit, just enough that I couldn't get the bowl off when it was done! That was a job for my husband while I held the mixer in place.

I started to shape the dough into 8 balls of equal size, but they seemed too large. So I went back and made each ball of dough 2 oz rather than a bit over 3 and proceeded with the recipe. I started the water bath and the oven for the bagels and just before I was about to start, the power went out. A quick call to the power company said that it would be out for at least another hour. So we went on a very long walk and came back after the power came back on. The bagels had puffed up a bunch. I boiled and baked them per the recipe instructions.

The outside of the bagels were chewy and the insides were soft, the consistency was great. The down side is that they turned out pretty flat. I am not sure if it was from letting them overrise or if I just handled them too much when placing them in the water place and onto the baking sheet. It could also be from making the ball of dough too small in the first place. But overall, it was an encouraging experience.

Next time I make bagels, I will:
- shape the dough into the appropriate number of bagels
- handle them as gently as possible when transferring to and from the water bath
stick closer to the suggested timing (even though it wasn't my fault they sat around this time)
- try to make cinnamon raisin bagels

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