Saturday, September 10, 2011

What Rosie Did Exactly Two Weeks Ago. Rosie Made Hurricane Irene Wheat Bread. Or What's A Food Blogger To Do?

Rosie started on this blog post two weeks ago today. During Hurricane Irene. She wanted to show you how to make a delicious wheat bread in hurricane conditions, considering all the vagaries of bread bakery. Let's go back in time a bit. Let's go back to Saturday afternoon, August 27, 2011 Two weeks ago. Hurricane Irene is nipping at our nose. I've battened the hatches. Yes, the Hawthornes have hatches. And we like to batten every chance we get. We've done everything we can do to prepare. All we have to do now is wait. Wait for Irene. Watch the willow branches breaking in the winds. Watch the Leyland Cypresses taking a battering. Watch the pines take a beating. Watch the white caps in the canals. Watch the rising water level. WWRD? What Would Rosie Do? RWMB. Rosie would make bread. Just to see if she can. Bread is a weird thing. EVERYTHING affects it. Your astrological sign. The phase of the moon. The tides. Whether you are PMSing or just happily post-menopausal. The alignment of the planets. The gentle tilt of the earth. Everything. But that's the fun part of bread. Making bread is a favorite pastime of mine. I love the feel of the dough. I love working it. I love the finished product. I am not intimidated by bread. I will take any opportunity to make bread and challenge the elements. What better element challenge than a hurricane? Making bread during a hurricane, I thought, would be tantamount to making meringues during a thunderstorm. You definitely can NOT make meringue in humidity, but I found that the bread was do-able.
Now, funny thing about the "recipe." As I conjure up dishes, I always jot down ingredients and amounts (kinda) so I can actually give you something that works. I could never find the recipe for my Hurricane Irene Wheat Bread. Apparently, I never wrote it down. Sometimes I forget things when I'm under Hurricane Pressure. Not a problem. Just use the basic ratios and give it a boost for the low pressure. Don't worry. It's all up here. Rosie taps her head. There is a basic ratio I use for bread that's kinda like 1 part water and 2+ parts flours. Plural for the flours. I use bread flour, whole wheat flour, and/or rye flour. Combinations. Whatever. I like to experiment. It would give me the greatest pleasure if I received a comment from one of my readers who might have been influenced Rosie to actually start a bread quest. Please, someone. Make bread. Experience it. Allow the pleasures of making, baking, and partaking of bread with family and friends. It's heartfelt. Every loaf is different. Every loaf is memorable. Every loaf is a gift.
I make bread from the heart and hands. I know when the dough is "right." This takes practice. It's enjoyable. It's a learning experience. One at which I gladly and gratefully grasp. IF YOU'RE STILL WITH ME HERE, I'M GOING TO GIVE YOU BREAD BASICS. You must first learn the BASICS. That's the science part. I've already given you the heart part. And the heart part is the most important part.
Right now, Rosie is going to give you the Alton Brown Cliff Notes for making bread.
There are 7 Basic Ingredients for bread:
  • Flour.
  • Yeast
  • Liquid
  • Sugar
  • Salt
  • Butter
  • Eggs
#1 Flour. For bread-making, I always start out with bread flour, not all-purpose flour. I prefer using the basic bread flour, then add other flours as wanted. Whenever you read a bread recipe, the amount of flour called for is ALWAYS APPROXIMATE. Depending upon humidity, temperature, and whether your dog is in heat. All these things affect bread making. It's best to start out with a smaller amount of flour and gradually add more during kneading to create a smooth, satiny dough. Different flours absorb moisture differently. And I took this all into account during Irene. I always go easy on the flour. Just add barely enough to incorporate. About those flours. The primary difference is their protein content. When mixed with liquid, certain proteins in the flour form gluten. Gluten is your friend. Gluten gives the elastic quality to your dough. Gluten gives you a framework. It allows the dough to rise and stretch and trap the gas bubbles. As the yeast grows, it gives off gas bubbles. The type of wheat, where the wheat was grown, and even the milling process all influence the amount of gluten. The higher the gluten content, the more volume the bread will have. All-purpose flour, a blend of hard and soft wheat flours is suitable for yeast breads as well as quick breads and most cakes, but I use bread flour because of its high gluten content which results in a high-volume bread. When using bread flour, the dough should be kneaded longer than dough made from all-purpose flour in order to fully develop the gluten. Whole wheat flour contains the entire wheat kernel and adds a distinctive "nutty" flavor to the dough. When using whole wheat flour, you need to add in some all-purpose flour to lighten the dough and give it a larger volume. Rye flour is limited in gluten and needs to be combined with one of the other flours to improve texture and volume. #2 Yeast. Yeast is a living invisible plant which breathes and grows. It is dried and coated with an inactive coating. It is the leavening agent which makes the dough rise. Yeast feeds off the sugar added to the dough, producing a gas which stretches the dough and causes it to rise. And yeast is what makes bread so pleasurable to eat. As I've said repeatedly in my bread-making posts, yeast must first be "proofed" before it's added to the flour to be sure it's active. To proof yeast, dissolve it in a small amount of warm water and sprinkle a little sugar over top to give it a light lunch. Wait about 10-15 minutes for the mixture to become foamy. If it doesn't foam, toss it. It's inactive. I usually use one package of yeast for the loaf size I make (1 part liquid/2+ cups flour). The more yeast, the faster the rise. With less yeast, you have a longer fermentation time during which the yeast feeds and releases gas, allowing the bread to develop flavors, making it even more palatable. #3 Liquid. When liquid is added to a flour mixture and heated, it turns to steam and helps create texture. Water will create a crusty loaf with a fairly dense crumb. Milk renders a softer crust and a tender, rich crumb. #4 Sugar. Yeast needs to eat and sugar is the ingredient that activates the yeast to make the dough rise. In addition, sugar adds flavor, tenderness, and helps the crust brown. When I make bread and add the sugar to proof the yeast, I generally add about a tablespoon of sugar. #5 Salt. Salt regulates the growth of yeast. I never add the salt until after the yeast has proofed and after I start adding the floor. Salt-free bread rises quickly. Too much salt can destroy the yeast action. Salt also enhances the flavor of the bread and gives you a finer texture. Salt is critical for flavor. Without it, your bread will be bland. #6 Butter. Butter, shortening, or oil gives more elasticity to your dough, allowing it to stretch easily. It also makes the bread tender, contributes to flavor, and gives the bread a longer shelf life. #7 Eggs. Eggs add extra flavor and provide extra nutrients. They also aid in gluten development. Kneading. After all your ingredients are combined (still in a gloppy form), I turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board and I start kneading, adding flour lightly as needed. A pastry scraper is an excellent tool to use at the beginning, since the dough will be rather sticky. Kneading develops the gluten in the flour, forming a matrix which traps the gases given off by the yeast. For the kneading, you need to know the technique. Press the ball of dough out with the heel of one hand. Pull it back over with the other hand. Continue a few pushes and pulls. Then give it a quarter turn and continue. You develop a rhythm. If the dough gets too sticky, give it a light sprinkling of flour and continue kneading. It's perfectly fine to stop at any point and just let the dough rest for a few minutes. Let both the dough and yourself relax. You want to keep kneading until the dough is smooth and satiny and elastic. And don't worry. I doubt you'll over-knead a dough by hand. At this point, take the dough and turn it into a large oiled bowl, turning the dough to oil it. I cover it with plastic and it's now ready for its first rise. Rising. A lot of times, I'm in a hurry when making bread, say for pizza dough, where the texture of the dough is more important to me than the flavor, since the pizza toppings would overshadow the dough flavor anyway. For a fast rise, I nuke a damp kitchen towel for about 90 seconds, wrap the hot towel around the dough bowl, and set it all back inside a small enclosed space (Say the microwave, but for heaven's sake don't turn the oven on.). The steam and heat from the towel help to give my dough a quicker rise. For all other breads, I would recommend a slower rise to allow the bread to develop more flavors. Let the dough rise until doubled in size. Then, with a floured fist, punch the dough down in its gut and pull the edges over to the center. During this first rise, the yeast feeds, multiplies, and releases gas bubbles - carbon dioxide and ethanol. The dough stretches from the gas bubbles, but is strong enough to contain them. The carbon dioxide and ethanol not only flavor the dough, but also serve to develop the gluten matrix. During the punch-down (my favorite part), you'll be able to hear the gas as it is released. I then knead the dough a few times on a lightly floured board. This additional kneading continues to develop the protein network which will give you wonderfully textured bread. The gluten structure is developed, excess gas is released, and the yeast is redistributed so it can go to greener pastures, so to speak. The yeast needs a new food supply. Do you have any idea of how much I want to interchange "knead" for "need" and versa visa? Just to mess with those discriminating readers who look for that sort of stuff. And E-MAIL me, alerting me of my faux pas, instead of PICKING UP THE DAMN PHONE and TELLING me. Tout de suite! Merci beaucoup. Andyouknowwhoyouare. Now, it's ready for shaping and its second rise. You could shape it and place it in a buttered 4 x 8 baking dish, seam-side down, or place it in one of those round Corning ware bowls (Do they even make those anymore?) to make a boule, or shape it into a long baguette, or even use individual ramekins for petite loaves. Butter or oil the surface. If you like, add some freshly cracked pepper or sea salt. Let the dough rise a second time in a room-temperature or slightly warm draft-free place for at least another hour. Remember, dough is a living organism until it is baked. And there is a myriad of variables which will affect this complex system - temperature, mix time, knead time, rise time, shaping, and as I always say, phase of the moon, alignment of the planets, tidal conditions, elevation, humidity, barometric pressure (In my case.) and whatever particular mood I happen to be in. Just pay attention to these variables as you practice making bread doughs and you'll be making artisanal breads in no time. Baking. 350 degree oven. I place my loaves in the center of the oven. The heat from the oven causes the yeast to become extremely active, generating more gas. These gas bubbles expand with the heat and this is what creates the rapid growth of the dough during its initial few minutes in the oven. Yeast activity and gas bubble expansion continue until the heat kills the yeast and the protein and starch are solidified. One trick you might want to think about is adjusting your oven environment. By that, I mean adding steam into the equation. When you turn your oven to 350 degrees (I do not like the term "pre-heat." You're heating the oven.), put in a cast-iron pan to heat along with the oven. When the oven comes to 350 degrees, keep it there for about 15 minutes so the pan has time to heat up. When you put the dough in the oven, pour in a cup or two of water in the pan. This creates steam. The steam creates a lovely crust for your loaf. For smaller loaves, I aim for 20 minutes. Maybe 30. The larger the loaf, the longer the time. Knowing when the bread is ready might take a bit of experience. Tap it. Should sound hollow. If you use a thermometer, go about 190 degrees.
Don't let bread-making intimidate you. Rosie's gonna make it real simple for you now. Remember, I'm baking bread during a HURRICANE.
Rosie's mise en place for her Hurricane Irene Bread. maybe 1 cup of bread flour some whole wheat flour, about a cup? more flour to dust while you knead 1 cup warm water 1 TB sugar 2 packages yeast 1 egg olive oil salt and pepper vital wheat gluten with Vitamin C
Remember. This is Hurricane Bread. I'm giving it a bit of an extra boost by the second pack of yeast and the addition of vital wheat gluten.
I added the two packages of yeast to a cup of warm water.
Gave the yeast a little lunch. Tablespoon of sugar.
Stir and wait.
See how the yeast has proofed?
It's poufy.
And bubbly. This is what you want.
Cup of whole wheat flour in.
Cup of bread flour in.
Stir to mix.
Added in about 2 tablespoons of the vital gluten.
Freshly ground salt and pepper and a little more bread flour.
A tablespoon or two of olive oil. I use ELBOO. Extra Light Bertolli Olive Oil. I don't want a heavily flavored olive oil to overpower the yeasty bread.
Add in the egg. Stir to mix.
Go check the weather outside. White caps in the canals.
A few minutes later. Check the water level.
Rising waters. And ducks! I've watched the storm surge. Water will be inside in about 1 hour. Yup. Three feet. Rosie returns to her bread. This is a sticky, gloppy, loose mess right now. That's how you want it when you drop it onto your floured board. Work it. Knead it. Push. Pull. Add extra flour if it becomes too sticky.
After about 20 minutes of kneading, allowing a few rests, I have a soft, elastic, pliable dough, ready for its first rise. I oiled my bowl, rolled the dough to coat, and covered with plastic. I'm ready for a quick rise. After all, this is a hurricane. So I nuked my wet kitchen towel for 90 seconds, and covered the bowl of dough. Put it back in the microwave so the steam and heat will accelerate the fermentation and give me a quick rise. Usually, it takes about 2 hours for the dough to double in size.
My dough is doubled in size and I see something I've never seen before. The dough is rising just fine, but it's released so much gas, that the plastic wrap is domed from the pressure of the excess gas.
I guess that extra package of yeast and the vital gluten did this together to create the excess gas. This is probably not a good thing, since I'm losing the gases into the air and not into the bread. But it's a hurricane, so it's a learning experience for me.
Punch-down time! Flour your fist and punch. Hard. Listen to the rush of the gas in the bread escaping. Roll the edges toward the center. Let rest. Knead for a minute or two, then place seam-side down in a 4 x 8 inch buttered loaf pan. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 35-40 minutes.
Go check on your bottle collection, the pool, and the breaking willows.
Sort of a bubbly, wrinkly top.
Coarse texture. And gas pockets. I assume that would be from the release of excess gases since I put in an extra packet of yeast and added in the vital gluten. Hey! I was in the middle of a HURRICANE!
Perhaps for a more even texture, additional kneading would have helped. Still looks good, doesn't it? And did anyone notice what I perceived as flaws? In spite of my Hurricane Bread's coarseness of crumb and gas pockets, I succeeded in making quite a nice bread. After letting the bread rest out of the baking dish for a few minutes, I sliced off the heel (My favorite part.) and slathered on some LOLUB. Land o' Lakes Unsalted Butter. And toasted it. Oh my goodness! What would I do if I ever heard a Food Network STARRR(!!!) say ELBOO or LOLUB? Remember, you heard it here first. Sorry, but I digest. (Thanks again, Russ, for that one.) Back to the toast and butter. The butter had melted down into crooks and nannies. I drizzled some of Mr. Hawthorne's sourwood honey over top and it was divine. Rosie successfully made Hawthorne Hurricane Bread. Soon, Mr. Hawthorne will use my Hurricane Bread in his Meatloaf Miguel.

No comments: