Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Y-Word

Inspired by my recent trip to Beehive Bread Co., I began to think that it might be time to finally attempt to overcome my fear of yeast.  That's right, I call myself a baker (albeit amateurish at best) and yet I have never made bread from scratch. Moreover, I have never actually made ANYTHING that involves yeast. No pizza dough.  No cinnamon rolls. No pretzels.  Pretty much, whenever I scan a recipe, if I happen to see yeast in the ingredients I immediately move along.

I decided to use a recipe from my Baking At Home tome from the Culinary Institute of America--because those people must know what they're doing, right? Honestly, I think their excellent recipe and tutorial were the only things that salvaged my loaves because they came out just this side of passable.  Ultimately, I don't think the yeast got incorporated well enough, it didn't rise enough (or more likely, I got impatient and didn't let it rise enough), my oven temp was too high (per usual) so the crust was over-baked (why didn't I just tent the pans with foil??) BUT it tasted amazing! And that's what really matters, right?  At least, that's what I told myself when eating my lunchtime turkey sandwiches on tiny slices of bread for the next three days. : )

This is another example of trying to run before I could walk; the recipe included an extra, optional step called "autolyse" that professional bakers supposedly "swear by" for a deeper flavor.  Obviously, because I have SO much experience baking bread, I thought it would be a fabulous idea to try this out.  Let's just say that when you're already going out of your comfort zone to face your paralyzing fear of all things yeasted, then maybe attempting the extra, optional steps with scary names like "autolyse" may not be the best idea. 
I'll be honest, this was very time-consuming.  But otherwise it was not labor or ingredient intensive, and doesn't really require any artistic skill.  If you think you'd like to take the bread plunge, I would definitely recommend this recipe because it doesn't involve any fancy bigas or sponges (don't worry if there are alarms going off in your head right now, we can discuss these things later), and it can be made in one day.  Yes, there are breads that actually take more than one day to make.  At the very least, maybe like me you'll finally be able to break out that dough hook for the first time. 

Dough hook. Arrrrrr.

Honey-Wheat Sandwich Loaves
4 Cups Bread Flour plus extra as needed
1 Cup Whole Wheat Flour
2-1/2 tsp Active Dry Yeast
2 Cups Whole or Low Fat Milk, Boiled and Cooled at Room Temperature
1/3 Cup Vegetable Oil plus extra for greasing
1/3 Cup Honey
2 tsp Salt
Cooking Spray for greasing
Egg Wash (1 large egg whisked with 2 tbsp cold milk or water) or milk for brushing

1. Combine the flours and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Add the milk, oil, honey and salt and mix on low speed until the dough forms a shaggy but even moistened dough, about 2 minutes. Increase the speed to medium and knead until the dough feels satiny and elastic, about 5 minutes.
2. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, turn to coat, cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel, and let rise in a warm place until nearly doubled in size, about 1 hour.
3. Fold the dough over on itself, pressing gently to release the gas. Turn it out onto a floured work surface and cut into 2 equal pieces. Round each piece into a smooth ball, pulling the outer layer taut and pinching together the excess dough at the base of the ball. Place the dough seam sides down on a lightly floured work surface. Cover the dough and let rest until relaxed, about 20 minutes.
4. Coat two 9 inch loaf pans lightly with cooking spray. Stretch each dough ball into an 8x12 inch rectangle. Fold each short end of the rectangle toward the center of the dough to keep the sides straight and the corners square. Fold a long edge into the corner and use the heel of your hand to seal the edge to the dough. Fold the dough in half length wise and use your fingertips to seal the 2 edges together; keep the seam straight. The dough should be about 10 inches long. Roll the dough into an even cylinder 12 inches long. Push the ends of the cylinder toward the center until it is 10 inches long and place seam side down into the loaf pans. Brush with egg or milk wash. I used a milk wash. Use an egg wash for a shiny crust.
5. Let the dough to rise in a warm place, uncovered, until the pans are three quarters full and the dough springs back slowly to the touch, 1 hour. Meanwhile preheat you oven to 400º degrees.
6. Bake until the loaves have a rich golden brown crust and the sides of the bread retain their structure when pressed, 40-50 minutes. Remove the bread from the pans immediately and let cool completely on wire racks before slicing and serving.

1 comment:

  1. Congrats on getting over your fear of yeast! If you have time, I strongly recommend checking out Bread in a Crock - it is the easiest and most fool proof bread recipe I've ever tried and always gets rave reviews!