Tag Archives: baking

Bread Check

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Remember how I said I was going to start making bread on the regular? Well, so far so good. I would guess that I make about 60% of our bread (this is an average because L eats way more bread than I do and buys bread to keep at the lab; I eat almost entirely homemade bread, unless I’m feeling lazy and then I just go to the bakery), which is not too bad.

Mostly I’ve been making the overnight, no-knead French loaf, which is a really easy staple as long as I’m on the ball enough to plan ahead.

I tried something a little different the last time I made this and substituted a half cup of flour for a half cup of flax meal. It added a really nice nutty sort of flavour and still rose beautifully.

But, because there are mornings when I get up to discover all the bread has disappeared overnight (or something), and I need bread for something before tomorrow, I’ve started trying some other recipes (as I said I would). I bought a very nice bread pan (tin?), and the first right-now loaf I made was Honey Wheat Bread, which is an easy and delicious loaf for sandwiches and whatever else you might use bread for.

Not bad for a first attempt, I thought. And not too sweet, either.

The recipe is for two loaves, but I only have one pan (for now), so I halved it thusly:
1 cup lukewarm water
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/4 tsp yeast
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup canola oil
2-2.5 cups all-purpose flour (I actually ended up using just under 2 cups)

I followed all the other directions as-written, except, obviously, dividing the dough into two equal portions. The results were awesome, but I will have to work on my rolling technique in the future, as I ended up with a large air pocket just under the upper crust. Otherwise, though, I cannot recommend this recipe highly enough. Next up, I think, will be this Light Wheat Bread, which takes a little longer, so it will have to be made on a day when I’m kicking around the house.

After that, I’m not sure. What are your bread standbys? Any chance you have a great raisin bread recipe you wouldn’t mind sharing?

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Bread Dilemma

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French bread

That’s what we’ve been having here in the last month or so. It all started because I work afternoons/evenings, and thus I pack a lunch dinner to eat at my desk. Because I’m a little lazy, this means I eat a lot of sandwiches at work. Don’t get me wrong – I love sandwiches. I love sandwiches so much (and especially grilled cheese sandwiches) that my sisters joke that I’m not a vegetarian, I’m a bread-and-cheese-atarian. I take exception to this, because I eat fewer grilled cheeses than people think. Anyway, that’s all an aside. Basically, I eat a sandwich for dinner almost every day and therefore, I like to at least have good ingredients, such as bakery bread, to use. There is only so many times you can use grocery store bread before you start dreading dinner.

So, I started buying bread from the bakery around the corner (there are are more bakeries within 30 seconds of us than is healthy). It was delicious bread, so we ate it quickly, so we bought more, so bread expenses went up. For me, this was okay, a sort of business expense, if you will. For L, it was extravagant (he eats dinners at home, after all). Anyway, we talked about it and I offered to start making bread, which would mean I still go nice bread for my sandwiches, but it would be far less expensive. I was raring to go and then L bought two loaves of bread in a row, so it was a bit of a false start.

French bread

I have not managed to take a picture of a full loaf. They just don't last long enough.

Nonetheless, we’re back on track now and I’ve made three loaves of bread this week. One was a housewarming gift for Wendy and her boyfriend (don’t worry, we don’t eat that much bread), but the other two were for us, and both turned out very well. I plan to experiment and try some new recipes, but for now my go-to is a no-knead, night-rising French bread that is too good not to share – I mean, this bread pretty much makes itself, you just have to plan ahead.

No-Knead French Bread
3 cups flour
1/4 tsp instant yeast
1.25 tsp salt
1.5 cups water

Mix everything together in a big bowl until it resembles a wet, shaggy, sticky dough (you will know what I mean when you see it). Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and  let it rise for 12 or so hours (I make it before bed, but you could just as easily make it before work in the morning).
Punch it down, cover it back up, and let it rise for another two hours or so.
About a half hour before baking, heat a dutch oven (that is, a solid – NOT glass – dish with a lid) at 425-450F until fully warm (I just leave it in there for a half hour because that’s easier). Turn dough into warm dish (no greasing or flouring necessary) and bake with the lid on for a half hour and then with the lid off for 15 minutes.
Bingo. Bread.

I am convinced that this recipe cannot be messed up. I’ve let the dough rise for 48 hours; I once had dough that didn’t rise properly (not enough water), so I punch it down and let it rise for another day and it was fine; I’ve baked it at 350 instead of 450 and even though it took a little longer, it was still fine. Seriously. If you have never made bread but are curious about it, this is your gateway bread.

Daffodil

The unfortunate quality of this photo is courtesy of my phone. Nonetheless, a daffodil! In full bloom! In March!

Also, there are daffodils out. In March. What the heck is going on here? I keep trying to not get my hopes up that winter is really and truly over (I’ve been disappointed by March before), but I don’t know. Daffodils. That’s really something.

I Can Feel the Seasons Changing

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Hot Cross Buns
Crocuses – a sure sign of Spring.

Crocuses – a sure sign of Spring.

I can always tell when spring is here because overnight my mood shifts. Last week, for example, I was anxious and frustrated and simultaneously bored with and all-encompassed by my projects. I couldn’t wait to finish Almondine, but I also couldn’t stand to look at them anymore; the apartment needed cleaning but the sight of the broom made me chafe, etc. On Monday, this funk was transformed into a super-productive get-shit-done mode. I finished my book. I finished Almondine. I finished a tea cozy that had been languishing since January. I cast on something new. I cooked. I baked. I went for a big walk in sneakers with my jacket sleeves rolled up.

This spurt of positive productivity (that is, getting stuff done that I wanted to get done – not just doing what I had to do, but enjoying it) definitely coincided with a shift in the weather. It has been gorgeous in Toronto this week and, although I know it’s March and therefore, more snow is likely, I can’t help but be excited by the prospect of spring. L and I went biking on Sunday and it was glorious.

So, that’s one reason I know it’s Spring. The other reason is that for the past two weeks I’ve been craving hot cross buns something fierce. It’s weird, because the rest of the year I don’t think about them (I’m also someone not tempted by shortbread unless it’s Christmas), but something trips in my head when the weather perks up and I get into Easter mode. I’m not religious, nor am I a super fan of pastels, nor do I have children excited for an egg hunt, all of which means that what I love most about Easter is the food, and particularly the baking.

Hot Cross Buns

Hot Cross Buns, fresh out of the oven and right after the lemon glaze went on.

Thus, yesterday I made hot cross buns – my first of the season – and half the batch is almost gone. When I was making them, L (who is not a super fan, but will indulge a bit) sand “Hot crossed buns, hot crossed buns, see how they run” and then stopped, because he knew he’d gotten mixed up somewhere in there (obviously his nursery school failed him). Anyway, these are Lemon Currant Hot Cross Buns, from the LCBO Food & Drink magazine from Spring 2009 (yes, I keep all the issues stacked on my shelf) and they are delicious! I didn’t have currants, so I subbed in raisins and pecans and they worked out perfectly; next time, though, I will find some currants because they really are delicious.

Primroses

I don't have a garden, so I bought some primroses to keep me company inside.

What signs of Spring have you noticed? Have the seasons changed for you yet?