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June 26, 2012

Frustrated by my inability to find bread in the store that's soy free, I've turned to making my own.

While meal planning and dealing with meat are not on my list of things I like to do, baking is another story.  I love measuring and kneading and stirring.  I have no qualms at all about foregoing the spoon and mixing dough with my bare (but clean, of course) hands.  It's FUN.

Until it isn't.  I found a no-knead bread recipe on Pinterest and liked the idea.  Fresh baked bread always an hour away?  How useful!  And cheap!  And better than ingesting all the added preservatives and chemicals.  I know EXACTLY what goes into my bread.

Unfortunately, I could not get my bread to turn out.  I invested in a nice big glass jar to store dough in the fridge.  (I couldn't find a plastic one the right size.)  The first batch actually turned out OK, rose beautifully, even, but was just too salty.  The following batches grew steadily worse.  Or at least, not what I expected.  The main problem was the crust being dark brown while the inside was undercooked, even after internal temperatures had reached the recommended amount.  I had to resort to breaking the loaf because I couldn't cut into it.  So I researched.  And researched.  And got big, heavy, complex books out of the library.  And tested.  I bought a jar of yeast.  I tried a glass loaf pan, a metal bakeware one, and the pizza stone.  I tried an aluminum foil tent to prevent the crust from browning too quickly.  I switched from bread flour to all-purpose.  I suddenly realized the all-purpose was bleached, which apparently makes a difference.  I tried changing the baking times and temperatures.  It became a challenge I HAD to win.  And somehow I couldn't.  The recipe was NOT foolproof like it claimed!  We ate most of them anyway.

So I'm giving it one last old fashioned try.  I went back to the basics with this recipe and am currently waiting for it to rise.  The dough is much drier and easier to handle, so I'm hoping it will be adequate to the cause.  Otherwise I'm giving up on the recipe completely and moving on to other ones.

Update:  Dough looks beautiful, but I managed to set the fire alarm off.  So much for using metal cake pans for steam!  I think the temp was a LITTLE too high for them.  The house smells a little bit like the time I managed to melt the Christmas wreath.

Update 2:  House now smells like warm, fresh baked bread.  Bread came out absolutely perfect!  Rose beautifully, nice and squishy, cooked through, crust isn't too hard or thick, and not too salty, which was a concern in the comments section. I think I will leave it in a full 25 minutes next time.

I'm really excited about this.  I was getting SO frustrated trying to produce decent bread with the other recipe!  Now I know it's not me or the stove!