Saturday, January 16, 2016

Wheat Bread

It all started with my buying a big jar of instant yeast. It seemed like such a good idea at the time.. I had visions of myself surrounded with an array of delicious, fluffy baked breads. I would wake up early on Sundays and bake two loaves of bread, that would be consumed over the week. We would never have to buy bread again... This is how I convinced myself that the big jar of instant yeast was a great investment. Sure to pay for itself.

Months slipped by. The unopened jar started back at me every time I opened the cupboard, reminding me of my lofty dreams. Finally, last week, along with the rush of energy that accompanies one during the new year, I decided that I was going to bake some bread.

I wanted to try a whole wheat bread. I've made the caramelized onion bread a few times now, some foccacias, but never a whole wheat bread. Whole wheat yeasted breads can be intimidating. A quick perusal through the cookbooks in my home got me all discouraged at first. They recipes involved complicated steps (start a biga, knead-rest-knead-rest-knead-rest.. I lost track of the number of times and the amount of time for each step). Also, I didn't want to burn my whole weekend baking bread.

This recipe, however, was inviting. It comes from the magnificent Smitten Kitchen, where pretty much every recipe I have tried is a whopping success.

I made some minor modifications to the recipe, that I note here ( I *have* to tinker). First, I made a half batch. Second, I substituted bread flour for part of the whole wheat flour.

1/2 C + 1/8 C water
1/2 C + 1/8 C milk
2 T molasses
2 1/4 tsp instant yeast
2 T oil
1 egg
1 C quick cooking oats
1 1/2 C whole wheat flour
1 C bread flour
1/2 T salt

Heat the milk and the water together in the microwave, until lukewarm to touch. Add the molasses, yeast, oil and egg and whisk together until well combined. It is easier to beat the egg separately and add instead of combining it with all the liquid. Add the oats, the flours and the salt and stir well until combined. Let the batter rest for about 5-10 minutes. After that, mix vigorously for about 10 minutes, starting with a wooden spoon and then with your hands. I was a bit lazy and only kneaded for 5 minutes.

Proof the dough for about 2 hours, or until the volume doubles. Punch out the air at that point, and plop it into a greased baking dish. I didn't bother with the fancy rolling and shaping. Maybe next time..

Let the dough rest and rise again for another hour. Then bake in a 350 F oven for about 45 minutes, or until the bread sounds hollow when tapped. Let it cool before removing from the pan. It came out without much trouble.

The bread tasted great. It tasted of whole wheat, with a hint of molasses. The molasses imparted a fantastic dark brown color, that I loved. During my childhood, my parents regularly bought bread at a fantastic bakery : Universal Bakery on Kutchery Road, Luz, Chennai. This bread reminded me of that. It's not quite there, but similar.

The bread kept well for a week, and was very hearty. May be it is the oats that makes it so filling. I will try this again, but one thing that I had trouble with was the number of crumbs. I had to slice pretty thickly to prevent the bread from breaking apart. Maybe I'll be more diligent about the kneading and shaping the next time.

Wheat Bread with oats, right out of the oven. It smells like a bakery here!
Look at the gorgeous dark brown. It reminds me of the bread at Universal Bakery in Luz, Chennai.


Friday, January 1, 2016

Happy 2016!

Happy New Year!! I have neglected this space for a long time. I'm hoping to be more active this year.

I'll start off with a sweet treat I made in 2015 to give away as gifts. These were incredibly good and easy to prepare as well. I followed David Lebovitz's recipe exactly and that is what I would do the next time as well. I can't wait to make another batch!

Things to note :
a) Watch the almonds like a hawk while they are toasting. Over toasted almonds get bitter!
b) Chop them by hand. This is time consuming, but the effort is worth it.

The buttercrunch cooled for hours before it set completely. It took about 5 hours on a winter evening!

This was unbelievably delicious.