Tuesday, February 7, 2012

TWD - BWJ #1: White Loaves


The whole reason I started reading blogs and blogging myself is the sense of community. I love reading about David Lebovitz's goings-ons in Paris and seeing Anita Chu's latest pastry masterpiece. That's why I could barely contain my excitement when I recently found out about the group Tuesdays with Dorie, a group of people who bake and blog their way through a Dorie Greenspan cookbook. They finished Baking: From My Home to Yours about 5 weeks ago, a project that took them 4 years to complete. This week they started Baking with Julia, and I'm excited to say that I've joined in.

Over 300 bakers on 6 different continents have signed up to participate. How amazing is that? Men (all four of them) and women from all over the world coming together to share something they love to do, trying new recipes and forming friendships by laughing together over their triumphs and setbacks.

The first recipe is a relatively simple one: bread. As I've already mentioned in my post about flatbread pizza, I am completely and utterly intimidated by bread. Or at least I was. After this project, I can genuinely say that I've conquered my fear.

Not only was this bread amazing but it was pretty easy. So easy that I already foresee myself making it again next weekend.

White Loaves

Per the rules of TWD, you can find the actual recipe on the blog of one of this week's hosts, Jules, but I've recounted my adventure with it below.

I assembled the ingredients: flour, butter, sugar, salt, yeast, water...
I used Bolivian Rose salt in place of regular salt; I happened to have some sitting around and it didn't change the taste, just upped the potassium a bit. It was so pretty sitting there all pink, so I figured why not. Don't worry, the bread didn't come out pink or anything.

...let the yeast sit in the water...

...and mixed in the flour, sugar and salt.
At this point, I thought my stand mixer was going to explode. It got very warm and rocked back and forth and smelled a bit funny (yes I'm sure it was the mixer, not just the yeast). Apparently the manual specifically says not to go above setting 2 when making a yeast dough (this would have been helpful information before I made the bread, but now I know for next time).

Then I added the butter...

...and as the recipe foretold, the dough promptly fell apart and had to be beaten back into submission. Ha ha. I crack myself up.

I formed it into a ball...

...let it rest for about an hour...

...until it doubled in size...

...and then I formed half of the dough into a rectangle.
The dough isn't totally smooth here and I do wonder if it would have come out more uniform if I'd used a rolling pin instead of just my fingers to shape it. Or if I'd let it continue to knead in the mixer for a bit longer.

I folded it over once...

...and again...

...tucked in the ends...

...and put it in the loaf pan.

I repeated the process with the remaining dough in 3 batches to make some small loaves.

I could probably pretend that I did this because I thought it would be fun, but I only had one large loaf pan. And of course the little ones are super cute, and easily gift-able.

 
 
 
The dough had to rest. Again. *sigh*
Since I didn't have any place particularly warm in my apartment, I set my oven to warm for 10 minutes, then turned it off and left the oven door open for a bit to bring the temp back down to about 80 degrees F. The pans (covered with buttered plastic wrap) rested in my oven for about 45 minutes...

...before I pulled them out to preheat the oven for the actual baking.

The mini loaves were really smooth but the full-sized loaf was, well, craggy. It was a bit concerning, but at that point there really wasn't anything to be done except continue onward and see if the texture was inconsistent inside as well as outside.

Longest. Hour. Ever.

I wanted the sides to brown a bit so I popped the loaves out of their pans 3/4 of the way through the baking time.
When I turned the loaves out of their pans, the felt pretty hard. Rock hard actually. I wondered if I'd done something horribly wrong.

Letting them cool for a while was such a test of patience, but the recipe was very explicit--they should be "just warm" before you cut into them.

And it was totally worth the wait. All of it. As it turned out, I liked that the top of the big loaf ended up a slightly textured. It didn't taste any less delicious and I think it gave the bread some personality so when I make it again I'll probably score the top if it comes out super smooth, just to get a bit of texture.
     
Not to go off the deep end about it, but this bread truly was amazing. We ate more than half the loaf the day I made it so I totally understand why Dorie says that you'll never buy store-bought bread again. One of the great things about this bread, to me, is that it's perfect with a minimal swipe of butter or on it's own. Too much butter overpowered the bread and the taste of it was completely lost.
I also used it to make Alice Medrich's Tropical Cinnamon Toast for breakfast the next day and I definitely wasn't disappointed with that, either. While the butter mixture did overpower the bread flavor (as it's supposed to in a recipe like this) the texture of the bread was still really nice here.

Tropical Cinnamon Toasts

Adapted from Alice Medrich's Pure Dessert

Ingredients
  • 4-6 slices of bread
  • 4 T raw sugar (I had turbinado in my pantry so that's what I used)
  • 4 T butter, room temperature
    Note: Alice's recipe calls for unsalted butter but I used salted it was just fine. If using unsalted butter add a pinch of salt with the sugar.
  • 1/2 t ground cinnamon
Directions
  1. Position an oven rack near the top of your oven and preheat your oven broiler.
  2. Mix the butter, sugar and cinnamon (and salt, if needed) until well combined.
  3. Cut the bread slices on the diagonal.
  4. Spread the butter mixture onto the pieces of bread and place on a baking sheet.
  5. Broil the toast until the edges turn medium-dark brown, about 1-2 minutes.

Things I learned from this project:
  1. When making yeast dough, never turn your Kitchen Aid stand mixer above setting 2. It's not pretty, just pretty nerve-wracking.
  2. Homemade bread is so worth the time and effort.

61 comments:

  1. Ooooooh! Thanks for the bonus recipe, that looks delicious! I love your little mini loaves! I am going to have to dig out my KA manual. I have a Millenium Edition and really after 12 years you'd think I'd know how to use it properly lol.

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    1. It really was pure happenstance that I came across it, especially when I did. On a whim I took the KA recipe booklet on an overnight dog-sitting trip the night of the morning I made my bread (where left one of the mini loaves for my mother). Sadly, it wouldn't have occurred to me to check the booklet for info on making yeast dough on purpose.

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  2. I'm going to have to make those toasts, they look great, and so do the loaves :)

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    1. The toast (and the bread itself) was so tasty. I really can't say it enough. I'm quickly discovering that I love any Alice Medrich recipe. She has this ability to almost distill certain flavors so they really stand out in her recipes. Quite magical.

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  3. wonderful :) my salt-less bread made wonderful french toast this morning. i put some homemade spaghetti sauce on it (with meatballs) for lunch and that turned out good too :) i love seeing the different breads that was made, and the different problems we all had. :) this is a blast, and i am really glad i joined the group.

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    1. I thought about making french toast with my bread the next morning, but I was already baking about 30 cupcakes for my husband's birthday so the Tropical Cinnamon Toast was just easier. I'd love to know how your blueberry version goes! And I'm so glad I joined this group, too. So much fun!

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  4. bread looks great and so does your kitchen counter!....
    I forgot to lock my Kitchen Aid...and it was dancing all over my counter...

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    1. I can just picture that. Too funny. In retrospect at least. I've gotten a couple of comments on my kitchen counter, which is funny to me because it's just the standard apartment countertop.

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  5. Your tropical toast looks delicious!

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    1. It really, really was. I ate that entire plate by myself. My husband had to get his own.:)

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  6. Good job, and welcome to TWD! This baking group is awesome, you will learn new skills, make yummy food and most of all make new friends.
    We loved this bread, it did give my Kitchen Aid a good workout!
    Your cinnamon toast looks delish, I've got to try it soon.

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    1. Thank you so much! I'm really excited to be part of a group like this. And I'm finding that anything by Alice Medrich seems to work out well for me. Her Cocoa Fudge Sauce (used as a frosting) was so good I litterally ate spoonfulls in between icing cupcakes!

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  7. oooh, that cinnamon toast looks good. I am also excited about baking with everyone! It's gonna be a blast! :)

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    1. The raw sugar in the Tropical Toast gives it a deeper flavor than the regular granulated sugar that I've always used since I was a kid. It really is fun to have all these people baking and blogging together!

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  8. That toast looks amazing! Great job as welcome to the group!

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    1. Thanks so much! The toast was awesome, but it was also SO EASY. Sunday morning easy was sort of a necessity since I was about to bake 30 or so cupcakes.

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  9. I love the mini loaves, they're so cute! I was going to use my mini loaf pans as well since one of my two large loaf pans is dark and non-stick and usually ends up over-browning my breads, but I just decided to use it anyways, but now I wish I'd used the mini ones, lol. I look forward to seeing more of your TWD posts :)

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    1. Haha the minis are definitely cute; they're tucked away in my freezer until I finish the large loaf (later today I'm sure). Minis are just really handy for a 2-person household. I have to say, I was cracking up laughing when I read your post. Can't wait to read more from you.

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  10. Looks great!! I love the mini loaves! I need to get some mini loaf pans. I was wishing I had some so I could give some of this great bread away!!

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    1. That's exactly what I did. I left one of the minis on my mom's counter Sunday morning for her to find when she got home. This was the first time I'd used my mini pans--they were a total impulse-buy at Bed, Bath and Beyond a couple of weeks ago but they were exactly what I needed when I realized that the recipe made two loaves instead of one!

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  11. I wish I'd been creative with my second loaf...the minis are a really good idea.

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    1. I actually wish I'd been more creative, too. The minis were 100% out of necessity since I didn't realize the recipe made 2 loaves until I was litterally about to start. Not sure how I missed that...

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  12. Loved this post! It is crazy how we all had similar experiences. What fun! Love the sense of community comment. Perfect!

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    1. Isn't it though? I swear as I was reading some of the other bloggers' posts I was laughing because I remember feeling the exact same thing at the exact same point in the recipe.

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  13. I think this was a perfect recipe to start out with, don't you? Great job on the bread - and it will get easier each time!

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    1. This was definitely the perfect starting recipe. It was something that a lot of us are intimidated by, but easy enough to actually accomplish. Talk about a confidence-booster!

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  14. Your bread looks great! It was the perfect recipe to start with, and my Kitchen Aid did the same thing, I thought it was a goner!

    Nice to see a fellow Texan...I live in Arlington :-)

    Colleen

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    1. Definitely the perfect recipe to start with, I just wish I'd read the direction about keeping the mixer speed low BEFORE I made the bread. Would have saved me some anxiety! And I'm so glad to meet another DFW TWD baker! I knew there must be others!

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    2. It WAS a great recipe to start with. I live in Arlington, too.

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  15. I've made lots of cinnamon toast with my bread! We really enjoyed this recipe.

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    1. It's such a great bread because it's wonderful on it's own, but it can still be used for other things like sandwiches (and cinnamon toast!). I'm already planning to make it again soon.

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  16. I love your post, especially the mini loaves. I look forward to baking together in the future!!!!

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    1. Though it wasn't exactly by choice, the mini loaves turned out to be a great idea since it's just me and my husband. It occurred to me tonight that it would also be really good for young children since it's smaller, smaller portions, etc. I'm definitely already looking forward to the next project!

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  17. Such a great idea to make cinnamon toasts with it - I'll try that next time!! How much cinnamon did you use?

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    1. Thank you so much for catching that! I used 1/2 t regular ground cinnamon and I've updated the post. The raw sugar really made this version something special.

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  18. I think your large loaf had character - it looked rustic and was just asking to be eaten. Great post!!

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    1. Thanks! I think so, too. It was what I call a Humphrey Bogart--not traditionally handsome, but very charismatic and still attractive in it's own way.

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  19. Great cinnamon toasts, but I just love, love, love your mini loaves!!

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    1. Aren't they just adorable? Anything miniature is somehow made inifitely cuter just by the small proportions--like baby clothes and teacup pomeranians!

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  20. Ohhhh...I have countertop envy...love those beautiful granite countertops. Your loaves are beautiful! Great photography too.

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    1. Oh you're not going to believe me, but they aren't granite. I have the (I wouldn't say CHEAP, perhaps mid-range) standard apartment countertops with the plastic coating. But they are a lovely imitation! And thanks! I've been trying really hard to improve my photos. Anita Chu at Dessert First (http://dessertfirstgirl.com) is totally my food photography inspiration. I love your photos as well. Especially the one of the sink! Now THAT'S brave!!!

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  21. You are so brave to show the world the inside of the oven.
    This was the perfect first challenge - it looks like yours came out wonderfully.

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    1. Haha it wasn't that bad, was it? We've only lived here a few months and I haven't had any major disasters in there yet. Besides, I realized as I was about to close the oven door on the bread that I had forgotten to take the photo; I didn't want to pull it back out! This really was the ideal recipe to start with, especially for new TWD bakers. Intimidating, but not overly difficult, and a huge confidence-booster when it comes out right!

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  22. First, I agree with Cher, I'm terrified to show the inside of my oven! Yikes:) Secondly, I started blogging because I love food, travel, etc. and wanted to share with friends - I had no idea what a terrific blogging community there was out there or how much inspiration it would bring. I'm sincerely looking forward to getting to know you through the blogging community. Oh, and your bread looks terrific - the large loaf has a very artisinal quality to it! :)

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    1. Oh Christy, I hate to say it, but ovens are like cellulite or bad hair days--we all have them! I'm so glad that you've found blogging to be more than you thought it would be. It's such a wonderful community of people sharing thoughts and lessons learned. Many of us who had Kitchen Aid issues have already bonded over the shared horror of it. I'm looking forward to getting to know you and the other TWD bakers as well!

      My large loaf was my favorite of the 4 as well. I'm very much about texture in my cooking (and eating). I absolutely share your love of travel--my husband and I are going to Spain in just a few months (yea!) and I can't wait to eat absolutely everything!

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  23. Thanks for sharing your recipe for your French toast! Will try it out soon :-)

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    1. It's fantastic. The raw sugar gives it a caramel undertone that I had never tasted in cinnamon toast before!

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  24. wow.. bolivian salt.. did it alter the taste?? amazing effort!!

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    1. I've been playing with salts a lot recently (mostly in my salted caramel concoctions) so I happened to have just the right amount left to use it in this recipe. I like to buy small amounts of different salts in the bulk section of my grocery store so I can try them out in different ways. For many of them, the difference is mostly aesthetic (except in the case of smoked salts) and mineral--rose salt gets it's pink color from it's high iron content. No, I don't think it altered the taste in this recipe, it just lowered the sodium by about 20%, increased the iron and potassium, and upped the pretty factor of the flour mixture. :)

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  25. I loved that you added a recipe at the end for using your beautiful bread.

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  26. Your cinnamon toasts look delicious! I have one of my loaves in my freezer, I may pull it out to make those. Congratulations on conquering your fear of bread, very exciting.

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    1. It was very exciting. There might have even been a few fist pumps when the bread came out and was absolutely perfect. I actually made the cinnamon toast for dessert last night with a few slices of one of my mini loaves; I have a feeling I'll be making it often for the foreseeable future. Let me know how you like it!

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  27. Your dough looks just like mine did! It wasn't pretty, in more ways than one! :), but the bread was so good. Nice to be baking with you!

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    1. Oh I loved the texture of your crust! But I'm a texture person. It was so good I'm making it again tonight! I guess that means I'd better get a second loaf pan... It's nice to be baking with you, too!

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  28. generally if your dough looks that ragged, letting it rest so the gluten can relax, covered for 10-15 mins, that tends to help quite a bit. And you can keep kneading a little and reelaxing the dough a bit until it becomes more smooth and pliable :) great job though!!!

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    1. Thanks for the tips! I'll be making some more bread tonight so I'll definitely put them to use!

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  29. Love the little loaves. I used cake pans so my slice came out long a skinny. Still yummy!!!

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    1. I'm 100% on board the "as long as it's yummy, we can work on prettiness" train. Some of my creations haven't been all that pretty on the first go-round, but as long as they taste good I'm willing to keep working on the that.

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  30. Great looking bread! I love all your step-by-step photos. I wish I had taken a video of my mixer dancing all over the counter-it was a hoot! Thanks for the tip on not setting the mixer above 2 for dough-maybe that will help next time.

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  31. Ahhh, the little ones are great! So cute :D

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  32. Beautiful job. I like bread with a little character, myself.

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