The water crust is fabulous. Too fabulous, almost.
It certainly heats faster than regular baking. Burnt the first loaf, just barely avoided burning the top of the second loaf…The inside was still soggy, though…

Why the recipes call for so much water, when you can’t bake it out in a reasonable amount of time is beyond me…

So, while at the Flea Market this weekend, I bought an Oster Bread Machine…WITH its Original Manual. $12, talked down from $15. Yes, it’s admitting defeat, but I have beaten my head against this wall for long enough, now, that I simply want to make some decent, NON-SOGGY bread, and I don’t have the patience to reduce the recipe by a tablespoon at a time to work it out.

My Beloved Hubby Unit (BHU) made the first loaf, as I was hesitant to “cheat.” I thought I had pointed out the “Basic White Bread” recipe out to him, but on the facing page was the French Bread recipe, and somehow, that was the loaf he made. He didn’t start until about 6 pm, and went to bed before it was done. I ate the bottom heel, and could not believe how good that bread came out. His FIRST attempt, and he hits it out of the ballpark…Poop.

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Published in: on May 19, 2009 at 12:35 pm  Leave a Comment  

Well, another day, another bread adventure…

As I await the arrival of Bread Science, I decided to throw caution to the winds, and go techno…My mom had a WelBilt Dough Machine, which I bought her in the mid-1990s to help her make pasta dough. It has an “automatic” and a programmable yeast bread cycle, so I figured I have nothing to lose by letting a machine knead my dough, since I know that if I touch it, it’s doomed anyways…

I also came across a recipe for Cuban Bread, which is supposedly like French or Italian bread, but the baking technique makes it unique. You put the dough in a cold oven, with a pan of boiling water on the rack beneath it, and let it rise the last 10 minutes in the steamy oven. You then turn the oven to 400 and bake for 45 minutes to an hour…

The loaf DEFINITELY rose more than it ever has with my feeble efforts thusfar, so much so, that I had to pull a cast iron pan to bake it in, as I didn’t want to disturb it by putting it in my bread cassarole dish…I’ve just turned the oven on after the 10 minute steam bath, so am looking forward to 2 hours from now (1 to bake, and 1 to cool…) It looks like an Artisan-type bread. Hopefully it will turn out and taste like one…maybe not soggy…(keeps fingers crossed)…

Published in: on May 16, 2009 at 11:32 am  Leave a Comment  

When is Cornbread not Cornbread?

Cornbread.
Think about it. Taste it in your mind.

Grainy, mealy, chewy, odd, sandy stuff…Not necessarily all that appetizing, and somewhat limited in accompanying dishes.

Now give it a makeover.
Instead of hard, grainy cornmeal, substitute cooked, and fluffed Yellow Corn Grits.
Instead of a dense flour and baking powder suspension for the corn goodness, substitute fine semolina flour and bread machine flour in a 50/50 mix, with a packet of yeast and 5 oz. of the “King of Beers” as the leavening agent…

And this is what you get. (picture coming!)

It still suffers from “Somewhat Soggy Syndrome,” but that is a detriment I’m willing to suffer as I continue to work out the kinks for my “mix it, forget it, bake it” system of bread baking. I tried over the weekend to knead another loaf of the Winter Warlock, to which I had added some raw, hulled sunflower seeds. And, at the mention of the word “knead,” the dough went flat as a rock and heavy as one, too. I made my first loaf of “Almost no-knead” with Budweiser, dumped straight into the pan, with no second rise, and it came out quite well. No pics, because I was disgusted by it’s ugly brother, who was brutally hacked into chunks and thrown out for the squirrels, who pronounced it yummy, no matter its density or weight. I just hope none of them went swimming afterwards…lol!

~Kizzle

Published in: on April 28, 2009 at 8:08 am  Leave a Comment  

Beer Bread, Round 2

Haven’t heard back from the mailman about his mini-loaf, but the big loaf is almost gone. The heel will make a very petit French toast for breakfast.

I’ve started another batch, but have discovered that 4 am is not necessarily the best time to be throwing ingredients into a bowl. My hand slipped while measuring the vinegar, so it’s a bit more than a tablespoon…So I then thought to compensate by in creasing the beer to water ratio a bit, in case it’s too sour…(Dur. Isn’t sourdough bread SOUR?), so instead of eliminating the spoonful of sugar, I kept it, and then thought to add a teaspoon of italian herbs for “interest,” since I read an article about someone raving over a bread with italian herbs in it…So now I have an Oatmeal Stout Sweet and Sour Italian Herb load in the bowl…Should be an interesting loaf, to say the least…lol!

Update: Well, the herbs are basically unnoticeable (I didn’t put an awful lot in, maybe a half tablespoon), but the overall loaf is one of the best yet. The BHU is already wanting me to start another, so I am using the last of the WW left in the bottle, and have started another loaf with 4 oz. of the “King of Beers,” and actual light lager…

~Kizzle

This is what I mean about recipe tweaking…

First Rising

First No-Knead loaf, sliced

First No-Knead loaf, sliced

Well, here I am. Writing of my trials and tribulations, my hopes and dreams, my failures and successes.

All about bread…Or at least baked creations of a bread-type nature. Who knows where the future will lead?

To give you an idea of just how “wet behind the ears” I am as a bread baker, my 4th loaf, evah (a Cooks Illustrated “Almost No-Knead” loaf with 3 oz. of an Oatmeal Stout beer for flavoring), is currently on the kitchen table, completing its first rise. Now, I’m soon to be 52 years old, and 3 of 4 loaves of bread have only come into existence by my hand within the past fortnight. The remaining loaf, the one that caused a 20-year exodus from all things yeast risen and home baked, was a sad creature from a fraudulently encouraging newspaper article that stipulated the use of a rolling pin during the kneading process. That poor abused loaf, the root of this blog’s name, came out of the oven an inedible, semi-flat, tough as stucco, lump that almost bent my bread knife as I tried to slice it. The personal sense of shame and embarassment at not even being able to craft a “simple” loaf of bread, which my local grocery store cranked out by the truckload on a daily basis, was enough to scare me off. Let THEM beat the hell out of stiff, sticky, dough, and make it so I can eat it. It wasn’t worth the time, effort, electricity, and resulting tears for the alien clod I ended up with…

Fast forward to early April, 2009. While searching on the web for cast iron muffin recipes to use with a vintage iron pan I had bought from E-Bay, I came across the NYT article about No-Knead Bread. Intrigued, I clicked on the link, and before I knew it, I was at the store buying flour and yeast…

My no-knead load came out okay. No giant holes, a bit heavy, and a bit bland with just the flour and salt, but it was STILL a “for realsie” loaf of bread that could be eaten without a chisel or dental damage…No kneading, and my rolling pin never even came into the kitchen from the closet where it has been banished for lo, these many years…

Now the damn has broken. If making bread can truly be THIS easy, and still be edible, I want to learn MORE. I want to learn to make rolls that crunch on the outside, but are melt-in-your-mouth fluffy on the inside, without the tons of butter that the french use for croissants and the like. I want to learn to make a fluffy cornbread that can be eaten, instead of used for ballast when consumed with chili. I want to make a loaf of bread like my Beloved Momma made when I was little, with a crisp, crunchy outside, and a fragrant, holey, inside that looks nothing like what passes for bread from the store…

Of course, good bread baking IS an art, and one that can take a lifetime to master. I don’t have the time or the patience for that. I don’t believe in re-inventing the wheel any more than you have to in order to get it to fit your particular axle. So I am scouring the Web, picking up any tips and techniques I can, and trying to come to some sort of consensus of how to easily bake a good loaf of bread. Since mankind has been baking bread in one form or another since the Neolithic Period (the last period of the Stone Age), the techniques must be out there, I just have to re-discover them for myself, hopefully with a minimum of Trial and Error disasters.

We will see…

~Kizzle

Published in: on April 24, 2009 at 3:36 pm  Comments (1)  

Winter Warlock No Knead At All

Having gotten a taste of making actual bread that could be eaten, and better yet, having the BHU (Beloved Husband Unit) eat most of the loaf by his lonesome, I am encouraged to continue my studies…

On the web, once you get past all the No-Knead basics, you start finding references to Cooks Illustrated and their “jazzed up” version of No-Knead, which they aptly entitle, “Almost No-Knead.” It is the basic NYT recipe, except that the amount of liquid is reduced to 10 oz. from the 12 oz. of the original recipe. 3 oz. of that liquid is now beer, and a tablespoon of vinegar is added. These changes are to impart more of a “natural” sourdough-y taste to the loaf.

I try very hard to stick to a basic recipe when I first try it, making substitutions after I’ve gotten one result by following instructions. Unfortunately, I seldom succeed. Whether by accident or intent, I always manage to “tweak” a recipe just a bit here or there, for better or worse. This Baking Adventure is no different…

Instead of the “mild flavored lager” in the recipe, I used 3 oz. of Winter Warlock

(http://www.bristolbrewing.com/our_beers.asp?brs_id=11
and you can read reviews here:
http://beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/848/2883)

W.W. is an oatmeal stout that the BHU really likes, and is often described as having strong “chocolate” and “graham cracker” flavor tones to it. I also added a teaspoon of sugar to the bread to give the yeasties something more to eat.

Shaggy looking dough after 16 hours fermentation

Shaggy looking dough after 16 hours fermentation

Instead of the cast iron Dutch Oven, or even my Awesome Covered Casserole dish, I decided to try using a silicone bread pan I found at the local thrift store…Upon further consideration, I realized that I could possibly kill a couple of birds with one stone, if I used the silicone pan as a no-stick proofer that could go directly into the oven…Hmmm. Of course, a lid needs to go on top to seal in steam for the initial baking period…I have a covered glass Fire King bread dish that I had been planning to try a batch of bread with…

Ah, no luck. The silicone pan (a piece from the “Smartware” Collection hawked on TV) was too big. But the lid fit…I then found that the silicone pan fit almost perfectly in my no-stick meatloaf pan (Yes, there IS a difference, a meatloaf pan is a bit wider and shorter than a bread pan ~ Height is always a consideration for bread, but not so much for meatloaf). This provided support for the glass top. Hooray!

The bread dough looks like it might be a bit much for the pan, though (I’m still not real confident on just how big a one and a half pound loaf should be…). I decide as I prepare to put the pan into it’s “rise before baking” stage that I will cut a chunk off for a mini-loaf to give to my long-suffering mailman. He’s had to haul a good number of cast iron baking pan packages to my front door. I think it only fair to treat him once in awhile to my experiments…He’s been our carrier for decades, so he’s used to me leaving him foodstuffs with the flag up…

I put the mini-lump onto a piece of Reynolds Release foil, that I had previously shaped to fit my bean pot, thinking I would be cutting off a larger chunk. After a half hour, I turn on the oven to 400 degrees (knowing that the thermometer I bought and hung from the rack will read about 435, and then decide to go ahead and use the high heat to re-season a cast iron meatball pan that I purchased (I NEVER can trust the seasoning on my pans, and have to reseason them when I get them…)

Dough, Release foil, and Silicone pan

Dough, Release foil, and Silicone pan

The pans ready to pre-heat in the oven

The pans ready to pre-heat in the oven

When the timer went off, I opened the oven, took out the pans, dropped the silicone pan in with no effort, and popped the glass lid on (after spraying it with Butter Flavor Spray, in case of overgrowth…), wet my hand (a tip I found on the ‘Net) and flipped the mini-loaf out and then into the mini breadpan, which I had sprayed with the “Baker’s Joy” flour and oil spray, then covering it with the foil, and back into the oven!

Pre-heated pans just before putting dough in

Pre-heated pans just before putting dough in

Dough directly into the pans, NO kneading at ALL.

Dough directly into the pans, NO kneading at ALL.

I totally skipped the “minimum” or “almost” kneading part, because I wanted to de-gas that bread as little as possible. For right now, I don’t want a smooth textured, small and even crumb. I want Artisan-style bubbles and holes. And I want them in a loaf that is shaped like a “for realsie” loaf of bread, not some saggy-looking, “free form,” round loaf, ciabatta slipper, or baguette roll. Since you de-gas the loaf everytime you mess with it, I’ve decided not to mess with it.  I did flip the mini-loaf upside down before putting it in the pan, though, to give the gas bubbles a chance to come up from the bottom of the loaf.

We  will see.

At 20 minutes, I peel the foil back from the mini loaf, and brush the top with egg yolk. It’s a big depressed in the middle, possibly  due to who knows what… The big loaf looks luscious, but I won’t brush it for another 15 minutes, when I take out the mini-loaf. I’m totally guessing here for the mini-loaf, since there are no real instructions about them, much less as no-kneads. I lower the oven temp to “375” (I have GOT to move that oven thermometer so I can see it!), and let the mini loaf brown with the foil off 5 minutes after brushing it with egg…Most all of my “scientific” and measured actions is now gone, and I am “winging it” big time…Removing the lid from the big loaf and brushing it with egg, I see the mini loaf is still a bit pale. I’ve lost tons of head taking pictures (dummy!), so decide to give mini-loaf a few more minutes…

Ready to take mini-loaf out of oven after brushing big loaf with egg yolk.

Ready to take mini-loaf out of oven after brushing big loaf with egg yolk.

I am extending the loaf to 55 minutes, because of the silicone pan. The Winter Warlock gives the bread a beautiful color, but makes it a bit harder to tell when it’s done, since it has a lovely beige tone as raw dough…

Well, everything is out of the oven (except the meatball pan, it can cool in there…). For once, it’s fairly easy to resist the urge to cut the bread before it has fully finished cooking (which is why you are supposed to wait an hour after you take it out of the oven). The mini-loaf goes to the mailman, and the large loaf is awaiting the BHU’s arrival home from work…

The mini-loaf baked to give to the mailman, golden and yummy!

The mini-loaf baked to give to the mailman, golden and yummy!

The large loaf in the Silicone pan, fresh out of the oven!

The large loaf in the Silicone pan, fresh out of the oven!

The large loaf, out of its pan, cooling on the rack.

The large loaf, out of its pan, cooling on the rack.


The smell is fantastic. It DOES smell like chocolate and graham crackers! I can’t wait to see how it tastes!!!
Update: Ooooh. No Artisan crumb with the big holes, but OH! What a BEAUTIFUL, smooth texture…And the taste…WOW. Indescribable. I found out NOT to use an egg wash, color be damned. It makes the crust too chewy. The bottom of the loaf is exquisitely crunchy, though. And it’s NOT soggy! YAY ME!
Gotta start another batch of this one tonight, and see if I can get the same yummy loaf twice in a row. No mini-loaf for the mailman next time, ‘tho!

~Kizzle

Published in: on April 24, 2009 at 2:42 pm  Leave a Comment