Let the baking begin! Today I made the very first recipe for The Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge, and it happened to be one I haven't made before, Anadama Bread. (You can find the recipe here.) It's a nice airy loaf with a hint of molasses and a surprising bit of texture from the cornmeal. The caption on the photo was added by my husband, who apparently liked it. I think it would make wonderful toast, (will know for sure in the morning), and also a nice sandwich.
I made a couple slight variations to the recipe in the book. First, I added a Tablespoon or two of liquid whey to the soaker. This serves the purpose of neutralizing the phytic acid in the corn and unlocking more nutrients. (Phytic acid is an anti-nutrient found in whole grains, nuts, and some beans. It binds nutrients, making them difficult to digest. Soaking the grains in water with a bit of whey, yogurt, buttermilk, etc. makes them much more digestible.) Secondly, I didn't have the "light" molasses called for in the recipe, only blackstrap. I used about half molasses and half honey so the molasses wouldn't overpower the flavor. I'd say it came out just right. Also, I freshly ground dried corn, and the course setting on my grain mill still made it come out more like a fine cornmeal than like the polenta called for in the recipe. I thought it added a very nice little crunch nonetheless.
I decided to bake only one of the two loaves tonight, and left the other one, shaped, to proof in the refrigerator for a couple of days. I like experimenting with "time and temperature" and will be interested to see how the bread differs after an extended fermentation. I'll update this post and let you know after I bake it.
Update on Second Loaf: I had intended to bake the second loaf on Wednesday, the third day after mixing the dough. However, I didn't get to it until Thursday. I was a little concerned because by Wednesday evening the refrigerated loaf had fully risen and begun to collapse. I took it out Thursday morning, left it out for a few hours, and it rose fairly well. It baked up beautifully, and while I don't think it ever rose quite as high as the first loaf, I think I preferred it. It was a little more sturdy, but not at all dense, and had a more developed and complex flavor.
I'm excited about trying new recipes, and my family is excited about eating them.
Finally, I thought I'd share a few things I've learned that are helpful in baking excellent bread.
- If you have a kitchen scale, weighing your ingredients is more accurate than scooping them into measuring cups. All of the recipes in BBA list weights. Use them, if possible.
- Use filtered water for your bread, as well as for your steam pan and spray. The less "taste" your water has, the better your bread will be.
- I prefer to use SAF Instant Yeast. You can buy it in a large-ish package at a restaurant supply store and it's much cheaper than buying the little jars or packages at the grocery store. Also, you don't have to pre-soak it in water; you can add it directly to your dough.
- Buy an oven thermometer and check your oven temperature. Mine tends to be off by about 25 degrees, and that's helpful information. (If you're going to be using steam, take the thermometer out so the glass doesn't crack. Ask me how I know!)
- I usually preheat my oven to 25 degrees hotter than the recipes calls for, than turn it down after putting the bread in; this compensates for the heat lost when opening the oven door, and allows for a more even baking temperature.
- If a recipe tells you what the internal temperature of the finished loaf should be, use a meat thermometer, instant read if possible. This is a much more accurate test of doneness than time (or thumping.) Set your timer for at least 5 minutes earlier than the cooking time, and check then. Better to give it a few more minutes if it's not done than to overbake it.
- Finally, the waiting is the hardest part! But, allowing the loaf to cool really does improve the texture and slice-ability of the bread, if that's important. Then again, there's nothing like a warm slice of bread thickly spread with melty butter.....