The 1st anniversary of my bread-making adventure :)

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Today is the 1st anniversary of my bread-making adventure!

And what an adventure it has been 🙂

I first got enticed by commercial yeast by chance, and tried my first loaf without knowing what I was doing 🙂 It was a very tasty, very hearty bread though – I enjoyed it 🙂 

With the confidence coming out of that experience, the week after that I tried baguettes and this time I was very badly defeated 🙂 I have had very serious concerns about whether I would ever be able to bake a decent loaf. This lasted some time, while I read, read, and read about how to best bake a bread. 

It was my mom who encouraged me to get hopeful and try again. And again I tried. It was not an easy period I would say; I often failed and only every once a while I could get a decent loaf. I experimented a lot with autolysing, kneading, stretching and folding, over-night dough risen at room temperature or in the fridge, using a roaster as a substitute for a dutch oven, using milk or water in dough, using pre-heated and non-preheated oven, misting the oven versus not doing it while baking, adding rolled oats or seeds like flax seed to dough, and different types of flour (all purpose flour and bread flour).

I got intrigued by wild yeast and sourdough, hence I also experimented with it 🙂 I attempted four times to get a decent starter and eventually got one with a whole wheat flour. It is my Monster starter that has been working just great since last August-September. I almost every single weekend bake a loaf or two using this starter, and I must say every week I notice a subtle progress and development in it. It is a living organism alright 🙂

So I found that while I am still far away from the “perfect loaf”, stretching and folding really works and develops the dough, over night dough is the best, there is no need for pre-heating or misting the oven, or using a dutch oven/roaster to bake a good loaf. All you need is love, patience, and paying attention to dough. If you do this, you will get a great loaf each time after a while. Guaranteed.

Today, on this very special anniversary, I tried sourdough with rolled oat with a recipe similar to this (and without the flax seed). What a beauty 🙂

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my sourdough loaf is “crowned” with rolled oat today to celebrate this important anniversary 🙂

Here are select loaves I have baked within the last year, starting with the first ever loaf I baked. Looking at them literally makes me happy.

If you are intrigued or interested at all, I would say go for it and try a loaf or two. Baking your own bread is very healthy, satisfying, and most importantly, an exciting hobby 🙂

Happy baking!  🙂

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The first loaf  🙂

I am gonna make that bread thing work

I am feeling discouraged by the unsuccessful baguette trial today.

I made my first bread last week without knowing much about bread-making. I did not measure water or the flour; it included egg and vegetable oil (as I thought bread would contain these), it was 100% whole wheat flour (which rises slowly and usually yields hard breads), and I only raise the dough once and only for 45 min  and at room temperature (it was supposed to raise twice and rest each time around 2 hours at a warm place. At least that is what others are saying) and then baked in the oven at an arbitrary temperature (325 F) until I thought it looked alright.

Then I read a lot about bread-baking and watched I do not know how many videos, and I tried my second bread today. I admit I forgot many things that I had learned (kneading well and making a solid dough, not a sticky batter), adding seeds on top, etc. but, I thought I was more knowledgeable this time and would end up having a great loaf.

Alas….

Anyways… While I was excited to have my dough risen today, I was quite discouraged after the baguettes I made today, but I am not letting this bread making saga leave my hand yet. I will follow recipes if I must. I will watch more videos, read everything I read again, and I will follow my guts. I will make this work.

This being said, I wonder whether sometimes reading/learning too much confuses us or makes us more and, perhaps even falsely, confident (my second bread)? Maybe improvisation and listening to our guts can prove to be better sometimes (i.e. my first bread)?

Anyways. I know that like anyone else, I am capable of making breads. I also learnt by experience now (knead the dough, make a dough not a batter, rise the dough less, add seeds on top and apply egg mixture, etc.). Maybe I will  not become an expert of all bunch of different ones in a short time. Maybe I should focus on replicating my whole wheat bread recipe (the first bread) until I get confident that at least one type of bread I can make without failure. I then can move on with the recipes.

You know that I will be baking another bread next weekend, right?

The hearty baguettes (failed attempt)

Baked my second ever bread today! Yay!

I have been excited the whole week after I have baked my very first bread, quite randomly and without much of a thinking or knowing what I was doing. It turned out to be hearty and lovely loaf 🙂

After watching countless of videos, reading blogs and other written material on the internet, and contemplation, I have decided that this time I would have a better chance of experimenting, recording, observing, and most importantly, achieving a nicely risen bread.

I also decided to go with basic bread today (i.e. no veggie or seeds added) – wanted to see whether I could do this.

I recorded time, amount of ingredients, and poking/kneading activities I have done during the making of this bread. Ahem, I also had lots of thoughts and feelings going thru me; they are too dully noted.

Here they are:

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Yeast mixture

Ingredients: 1 pkg of traditional dry yeast (8 grms) and 1/2 table spoon of white sugar mixed with 200 mls of warm water. I generally followed the instructions on the package – nothing fancy here.

Procedure, observations, and feelings:

1) This time water was really warm, but not hot (I checked with my finger and it was not an annoying temperature). Mixed well with a spoon and let stand for 10 minutes. I twice mixed the liquid with the spoon in between for a consistent mixture.

Through the end, the mixture started to give its distinct, nourishing, and lovely smell 🙂

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Dough mixture

Ingredients: 400 mls (211 grms) of whole wheat flour and 400 mls of enriched all purpose flour (the conversions are based on an internet site; I do not have baking cups or a balance to weigh the flour; but I do have a liquid measuring cup. So I went with this rather simple measurement).

Procedure, observations, and feelings:

1) I mixed the flour well in a container with my hands and making sure that the flour gets “air”. I then added the yeast mixture and mixed them all lightly. It very easily formed a nice and smooth dough. It was a little bit sticky but not too much. A little bit of extra flour helped get rid of the dough from my hand.

Surprisingly, I did not need to add flour or water – looks like I just got the right amounts 🙂

2) I then formed an imperfect and round dough to which I also added salt, and put aside for a minute or so. (They say that salt can inhibit the action of yeast- that is why I added the salt at the end).

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Rising of the dough

Procedure, observations, and feelings:

1) I turned on the oven for a minute to make it a warm environment for my dough to rise. I immediately turned it off after making sure that inside temperature was warm. I placed the dough in the oven, which I had covered loosely with cling wrap.

2) Half an hour later, I took the dough out and tried “pull and fold” technique I had seen in multiple places. This is supposed to help with the formation of “gluten” protein. The pull and fold technique is rather a gentle procedure to prevent from breaking the gluten.

The dough had risen a little bit and was sticky and did not fold well, but I pulled it 3-4 times. This almost brought it back to its original size. I was saddened a little bit, thinking that I have done something wrong 😦 and put it back in the oven, this time also placing a clean towel on top of the wrap).

I also sprinkled the top of the dough with some flour (mom told so – thank you mom!).

3) As someone who is intrigued and not sure what she is doing, I admit I took the dough out around 5-6 times during the 2-hours in-oven rising saga, and checked whether the dough was rising. And the great news: Yes, it was!

Each time I did that I was also aware that the temperature in the oven would have been lost, so I made sure that the container was still warm – and to my surprise it was okay the first 1.5 hours. After that I left the oven light on to keep it warm

I took a picture 1 and 2 hours of rising. 1 hour rising was really cool 🙂 

4. After 2 hours of rising in the oven, the dough had risen so much that I could not even believe that someone like me (who does not like cooking or is patient enough) could help make such a wonderful thing. What a beauty 🙂 🙂 🙂

I was also not sure whether it rose too much – I read somewhere that it was not good for the loaf :((

As recommended, I gently pressed down the dough to let gas out and moved on with shaping the loafs.

But wait…. The dough went down to its original size pretty fast… Did I do something wrong?? Will it rise again?? Is this tears in my eyes and disappointment that breaks my heart??

Considering the small volume of the dough, I decided to make baguettes.

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Shaping the baguettes

Procedure, observations, and feelings:

Dough was stickier than I expected. So, after collecting myself and telling myself over and over that there was still life in the dough :), I added a fistful of flour to the mixture and I rolled/kneaded it gently on a floured surface.

Then I cut it into 4 pieces with a bread knife. I rolled the dough pieces with my hand until they became long and thin, pressed them down a little bit with my hands (well… maybe I pressed them too much….), wrapped around with a dry towel, and let the mini baguettes rest for 60 min again in the oven with the lights on.

I really hoped that they would rise again; they were so tiny….

So after 25 min in the oven with lights on, I checked them and they were not rising!  😦

The oven was not warm enough, I thought – so I turned on the oven for a minute or so until it reached 120 F and let them rest for another 85 min (total 1 hour 50 min), checking in between to see how they were doing.

At around 1 hour of the rising, I noticed that some baguettes (well covered) rose more than one other and were more moist. I also noticed that they were getting a little bit dry – so I sprinkled water on them with my finger tips.

And, boy! They rose  little bit again! 🙂

I believe moisture helped them rise- good thinking 🙂

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Baking the baguettes

Procedure, observations, and feelings:

1. Awed by the rising success, I joyfully slashed the surface of my little beauties 5 times (not too deep).

2. Mixed 1 table spoon of olive oil with equal amount of water and brushed the mixture on top of the baguettes.

3. I sprinkled an oven tray with cornmeal and placed the baguettes in it. Baked at 375 F for 50 min (they recommend a higher temperature and less baking time, yet I am a little bit chickened of high oven temperatures).

4. During this time, I took the baguettes out and sprinkled water 3 times (each time around 20 ml/baguette) on top of them to achieve the crispy texture. I also did that after I took them off the oven and covered with a clean towel to keep them moist.

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Lessons learnt

1. Use more flour next time – may be 500 ml of each type (whole wheat and white flour) to have a larger dough.

2. Baguette shaping is important.  Try a more regular folding/shaping technique. Also, I guess it is better to rest the baguettes on the oven tray rather than on another surface -the transfer after the rise to the oven tray caused thinning of some parts of the dough.

3. The first rise was satisfactory, but the second rise was a little bit less than awesome. I wonder whether with a larger piece of dough and better handling, this could have been achieved.

4. Oven rising works. Moisture helps rising. Cornmeal prevents sticking of the dough to the oven tray, but next time I can use a little bit more.

5. I might have pressed the baguette too much while shaping prior to the second rise. They kind of lacked depth 😦

6. Have adequate amount of butter at home!! After the baguettes were done, I could only have a couple of slices of baguette with butter melting in them….. One should have more 🙂

7. Follow a recipe – they are there for a reason.

 

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