Portuguese Sweet Bread

Ahhhh, take a deep breath, my friends.

Do you smell it?

That gently yeasty buttery wafting smell…the smell of home, family, and fresh baked goodness.

Oh, yes, it is finally bread baking season!

Here’s an easy, sweet tasting bread for all occasions.

The Recipe:

Portuguese Sweet Bread, adapted slightly from King Arthur Flour

1/2 c milk

4 T butter, cut into pats

1/3 c sugar

1 1/4 t salt

3 1/4 c bread flour

1 T yeast

grated peel (zest) of 1 medium lemon

2 large eggs + 1 large egg yolk, white reserved

2 t vanilla extract

Combine the milk, butter, sugar, and salt in a saucepan. Heat to lukewarm, stirring to soften the butter. Set aside.

In a mixing bowl, the bowl of your stand mixer combine the flour, yeast, and lemon zest; stir to combine. Add the milk mixture, (stirring first to make sure the sugar and salt aren’t left in the bottom of the cup or pan). Add the eggs, yolk, and vanilla. Mix and knead until the dough is cohesive and smooth; it’ll be very sticky at first. (If you’re using a stand mixer, beat with the flat beater for about 3 minutes at medium-high speed; then scrape the dough into the center of the bowl, switch to the dough hook, and knead for about 5 minutes at medium speed. It will have formed a ball somewhat, but will probably still be sticking to the bottom of the bowl.)

Lightly grease a mixing bowl, round the dough into a ball, and place it in the bowl. Cover, and let rise until very puffy, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Lightly grease a 9″ round cake pan. Gently deflate the dough, and round it into a ball. Place the ball in the prepared pan, and tent the dough gently with lightly greased plastic wrap. Let the dough rise in the pan for about 2 hours, until it’s nicely puffy. Toward the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350°F.

Mix the reserved egg white with 1 tablespoon cold water, and brush some onto the surface of the loaf; this will give it a satiny, mahogany-brown crust.

Bake the bread for 15 minutes, then tent it lightly with aluminum foil. Bake for an additional 20 to 25 minutes, until it’s a medium golden brown and its internal temperature registers 190°F on a digital thermometer.

Tips and Tricks:

Whenever I place bread dough in a bowl to rise, I put it in the greased bowl, and then flip it over. so that the top is greased as well. That seems to keep it from drying out on top.

The Results:

I made this bread to go with our chili from the previous recipe. I wanted something sweeter to counter the savory of the chili. I thought it worked wonderfully.

Additionally, this was a super easy recipe to make and it seemed pretty full-proof.

Everyone enjoyed the bread, though Hubs thought the lemon flavor was a little much. I thought it was very similar to a Hawaiian bread recipe and found it worked well with the chili – and on it’s own as a dessert. 🙂 The kids all liked it, so I call it a success.

IMG_4429

And it’s pretty, too!

Pregnancy Craving #2: Banana with Peanut Butter {Peanut Butter Banana Bread}

Ahhh, the oven is fixed!

And I’m back in business.

This week’s recipe is brought to you by my craving for anything that combines the flavors of bananas and peanut butter.  (Best brought to my mouth by simply dipping a banana into, you guessed it, peanut butter – I have my own dedicated tub for just that purpose, by the way.)

Anyhow, when I saw this recipe, I knew I needed to make it.

The Recipe:

Peanut Butter Banana Bread, adapted from Joy the Baker

3 ripe bananas

1/3 c vanilla yogurt

1/3 c crunchy peanut butter

3 T butter, melted

2 large eggs

1 t vanilla

1/2 c granulated sugar

1/2 c brown sugar

1/2 c whole wheat flour

1 c all-purpose flour

3/4 t baking soda

1/2 t salt

1/2 t cinnamon

1/8 t ground allspice

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.  Grease and flour a 9×5-inch loaf pan.  Set aside.

In a mixer, beat bananas until light and creamy.  Add yogurt, peanut butter and melted butter. Blend in eggs, sugars, and vanilla.  Mix until no sugar lumps remain.

Add all dry ingredients, and fold together with a spatula until no more flour bits remain.

Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan and bake for 55 to 65 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan for 20 minutes before running a butter knife along the edges of the pan and inverting the bread onto a wire rack to cool completely.

The Results:

Well, this is certainly great banana bread… but it’s not nearly as peanut buttery as I’d really hoped.  (Hubs didn’t even realize there was peanut butter in it.)

I could taste the peanut butter, myself, but it was a very subtle undertone instead of the salty burst of flavor I was looking for.  Not that this stopped me from eating it at all.  Somehow, I perservered. 😉

Anyways the texture is super moist with an almost barely crunchy crust, which delighted my senses.  And, honestly, you can never go wrong with a good banana bread regardless of what you’re craving.

IMG_1793

So, I still recommend trying this – but if you want the pb and banana combo, I think I’d double the amount of peanut butter.  Or just spread some on top.

Happy Hump Day!

Apple Cider Muffins

I was craving a warm, tasty apple muffin.

(Darn Pinterest and all the autumn treats floating around.)

But we didn’t have any apples – and I couldn’t get out of the house because of the napper.

We did have some apple cider and some applesauce, so I decided to see what I could do…

The Recipe:

Apple Cider Muffins, adapted from Lehighvalley.com

1 egg, room temperature

1/4 c applesauce

1 c whole wheat flour

2/3 c all-purpose flour

1 c apple cider

2/3 c sugar

1/2 c butter, room temperature

2 t baking powder

1 t cinnamon

dash of ground nutmeg

dash of ground cloves

1/2 t salt

Preheat oven to 350.  Grease or line 12 cupcake wells.  In large bowl, cream together butter and sugar.  Add egg and applesauce, beating well after each addition.  Whisk together flours, baking powder, spices, and salt.   Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the butter/sugar mixture, then 1/2 of the cider, and repeat, ending with the last of the flour and mixing only until incorporated. Pour into prepared cupcake pan, filling each cup 3/4 way full. Bake 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cupcake comes out clean.

{Printable Recipe}

The Results:

Well, these certainly hit the spot.

And I think I did a pretty good job of taking a very sweet cupcake recipe and mellowing it out a bit into a muffin, with a couple healthier substitutions (though I did leave the sugar and butter alone).

I especially enjoyed the slightly dense texture that was full of the cider-y spice flavor.

I think if I were to make these again, I would add some apple chunks to give it that little extra ‘something’ to make them even better.  (And it would NOT use the cupcake liners – these babies stuck hard to the liners, so beware.)

Oh, and if you want another take on Apple Muffins, check out Smidge’s Saucy Apple Spice Muffins… hers look divine!  (And proof that great minds think alike.)

Whole Wheat Oatmeal Bread

A month.

(Actually over a month.)

That’s how long it’s been since I baked a loaf bread.

Withdrawals had commenced.  Cravings had been squashed.  Life had seemed to move on…

But then I cracked.

Oh, well… at least I made a somewhat ‘healthy’ bread.

(That’s what I’m telling myself as I enjoy slices slathered with butter for dessert.)

The Recipe:

Whole Wheat Oatmeal Bread, adapted from White On Rice Couple

1 c water

1 c milk

1 T active dry yeast

1 T honey

2 T unsulphured molasses

3 c whole wheat flour

1/2 c wheat germ

1 c bread flour

1 c rolled oats

4 T butter, melted and cooled slightly

1 T sea salt

On low heat, warm milk and water to about 115 F.  Combine water, milk, yeast, honey, and molasses in the bowl of a standing mixer.  Stir to dissolve yeast.  Add remaining ingredients and use the bread hook to mix for about 6 minutes on medium speed (or knead by hand for about 10 minutes).  Dough should form a ball around the hook – if it’s sticking to the sides, add an additional tablespoon or two+ of flour until it forms a ball.  Place in greased bowl, cover, and let rise in a warm place for about 1 hour or until doubled in size.

Lightly grease 9x5x3 bread loaf pan.

Punch down dough and knead into loaf shape on a lightly floured surface.  Place in loaf pan, cover, and let rise for an additional hour or until it just begins to puff up over the sides of the loaf pan.  (While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 400 F.)

Bake for about 40 minutes, rotating halfway through.  The loaf is done baking when the crust is dark brown and sounds hollow when tapped.  Remove the loaf from the pan and allow to full cool on a baking rack.

{Printable Recipe}

The Results:

I know it’s been awhile since I’ve made bread when I start to question my own gut-knowledge of bread baking and instead rely on parts of a recipe that just don’t sound exactly right…

First off, in the original recipe, they have the dough rise in the mixer bowl, from just where it’d been mixed.  So I did it… and remembered why you move it to a greased bowl: the rising dough gets sticky again and attaches itself to all the sides of the bowl, making it hard to dump out and knead.  (I did change this in the recipe above).

Secondly, it is suggested to add some oats onto the top for decoration.  But they don’t suggest this until after the second rise and right before baking.  So, as I sprinkled my oats on top and gently pressed them into the dough, I collapsed the middle of my bread.  And then they all fell off anyways after baking.  Grrr.  If you’d like to make a pretty topping, I suggest adding the oats right before the second rise, so they can embed themselves in the bread while rising.

I just hate that I knew better in both instances, but I doubted myself since it’d been a while.

Oh, well.

Even with a collapsed center, it still looks pretty good.

The good news is, neither mistake caused any issues with the flavor of the bread at all.

It’s definitely a wheat bread, but its got a sweet undertone from the honey and molasses.  It’s also a little dense, so not as light as most of the white breads I’ve made in the past – but it’s not dense in a bad way.  Overall, it’s so much better than any store-bought bread – plus you get the bonus of the aroma of freshly baking  bread in the house… which is worth it’s weight in gold to me.

My happy place…

And it’s my new favorite treat – with butter, no less.

(Can I just take a minute to share that this is the first time we’ve used butter in this house in a month!  Before that, I was buying a new box of butter at least once a week.  Yikes!  Probably a good thing we’ve cut back.)

Now to plan out my next bread adventure…

(Because I’m not giving bread baking up.  I just can’t do it.)

Have a wonderful end of the week!

Sandwich Rolls

I think I’m pretty good at finding the humor in my cooking adventures.

(For the most part.)

And I’ve been pretty open about my issues with math.

But today’s recipe wins for pure math stupidity.  (I mean, I completely messed up simple division.)  It didn’t ruin the recipe… just the results.

And it caused a pretty good laugh around here.

The Recipe:

Sandwich Rolls, adapted from food.com

2 pkgs active dry yeast

1 1/2 c water, (110-115 degrees), divided into 1/4 c and 1 1/4 c

1 T sugar, divided into 1/2 T and 1/2 T

2 T vegetable oil

1/2 T salt

4 -4 1/4 c bread flour

In a mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast in 1/4 cup warm water add 1/2 T sugar and then let stand about 5 minutes.

Add remaining water and sugar.  Beat in oil, salt and 2 cups flour until smooth.  Stir in enough flour (another 2+ cups) to form a soft dough.  Turn onto a floured board.  Knead until smooth and elastic for about 6-8 minutes.  Place in a greased bowl turning once to grease the top.  Cover and let rise 45 minutes.

Punch dough down. Turn onto a lightly floured board, divide into 8 pieces.  Shape into ovals.  Place 2 inches apart on a greased baking sheets.  With scissors cut a 1/4-inch slash across the top of each.  Cover and let rise 20 minutes.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Bake for 13-18 minutes until golden brown.  Remove to wire racks to cool.

{Printable Recipe}

The Results:

When I found this recipe, it was originally set to make a ton of rolls.  Food.com is kind enough, though, to have a calculator tool that can change the ingredient amounts based on the yield of results you’d like.  I quickly had them halve the recipe for me.

The only issue with this tool, is that it does not affect the narrative part of the recipe at all.  So, you need to go back and forth between having the correct amount (from the ingredients) to having to halve items (from the directions).  It’s very confusing – especially if you’re corralling little boys at the same time.

(By the way, I completely fixed this in the above recipe – so no tough math for you all.)

Anyways, let’s just say I made it through the mixing and rising just fine – no mistakes.  It was once I hit the dividing the dough into small loaves that my brain went out the window.  I do not know what I was thinking, but I decided to divide the correct yield (8 loaves) in half – and only made 4 loaves.

4 large loaves… for sandwiches, they were a bit of an overkill.

Gigantic sandwiches, anyone?

At this point, all I could do was laugh… and brainstorm how to cut it to make it work.  I ended up cutting the bread in half to make two long pieces and the cutting through the middle to make a top and bottom.  (I hope that makes sense.)  Crisis averted!

The best part: using the bread for some prime rib french dips a la Hubs.

This bread was absolutely perfect for french dips.  Hubs grilled the pieces with a little butter to get that outside crunch – and the inside was super soft, begging to suck up some au jus.

And we used them later in the week for some pb&j for the boys.  (And maybe us, too.)  They held up well in those, too.

I’m just thankful my lack of numerical skills didn’t ruin this one – because we’d surely have been missing out.

Maple Bacon Biscuits

I’m kind of late to all the cooking trends out there.

I only started eating quinoa about a year ago.

I still sometimes mix up macaroons and macarons.

And whenever I hear about chia seeds I still think of the, um, inappropriate Chia Pet we had growing in our dorm room.

So, it’s not surprising that it took me until Summer of 2012 to finally give in to the maple-bacon craze.  (Hey, I’m only about two years behind, right?)

I figured Hubs deserved a decadent breakfast for Father’s Day since his birthday meals were pretty much a bust.  Plus, we’d saved all those calories by throwing out the cheesecake… so ooey-gooey maple bacon it was.

(Plus it was one of my New Year’s Resolutions.  Who knew I’d be just as bad at remembering delicious foods to make, than if I’d resolved to work out?)

The Recipe:

Maple Bacon Biscuits, adapted slightly from Eat, Play, Love

Syrup

1/2 lb bacon, cooked until medium brown

1/3 c brown sugar

1/4 c all-purpose flour

1/4 c maple syrup

2 T melted butter

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees.  Lightly grease a 9” round pan (a springform pan is helpful but not required).  Chop the cooked bacon into bite size pieces and then combine with the remaining syrup ingredients.  Stir until thoroughly combined and spread over the bottom of the prepared baking dish.

~~~~

Biscuits

2 c all-purpose flour

2 1/2 t baking powder

1/4 t baking soda

1 t salt

1/4 c shortening

2 T butter

3/4+ c low-fat buttermilk

In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and sift together.  Cut in the shortening and butter with a pastry dough blender.  Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the buttermilk.  Gently blend the dry ingredients into the buttermilk forming a ball of dough.  Add additional buttermilk as needed – one teaspoon at a time.  Drop oversized tablespoons of the biscuit dough over the syrup in the pan until covered. Bake for 10-15 minutes at 475 degrees and then turn the oven off.  Leave the biscuits in the oven for another 5 to 10 minutes, until golden brown.  Remove the biscuits from the oven and immediately turn the pan upside down onto a serving platter. Lift off the pan and scrape any remaining syrup over the biscuits.  Pull apart to serve.  Best served warm.

{Printable Recipe}

The Results:

Okay, let’s just go over the main ingredients again… we have maple syrup, we have bacon, and we have homemade biscuits.  Is there anyone out there that thinks this is a bad idea?  I mean seriously – when you take several very tasty items and put them together, of course you are going to end up with something exponentially amazing.

You need a close up?

I thought so.

Anyways, I think I ended up using a little more bacon than called for, but really, not a bad thing.  The combination of the sweet maple-y sauce with the salty bacon and butter-y biscuits… wow!  It certainly perked us all up first thing in the morning.

(I also have to add the stand-out ingredient for me was the biscuits.  We all absolutely loved them – and the next time we have a down-home meal, they’re going on the menu for sure.)

Maybe there’s actually something to all these culinary trends… 😉

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Be sure to enter my giveaway for a Williams-Sonoma gift card – go to this post for more information.  🙂

Sheepherder Bread Rolls

I think I may have mentioned the base recipe before.

In fact, I do believe I’m mentioned it twice.

Mostly because this is in fact the best bread recipe ever.  (It comes from my grandma – how can it not be amazing?)

It’s not difficult, and obviously easily adaptable for many things.

(Like these.)

The Recipe:

Sheepherder Bread Rolls, adapted from my grandma’s recipe

1 1/2 c very hot water

1/4 c butter

1/4 c sugar

1 1/4 t salt

1 packages active dry yeast

approx. 4 c bread flour, unsifted

oil

In a large bowl, combine water, butter, sugar, and salt.  Stir until the butter melts and let cool to warm.  Stir in yeast, cover, and set in a warm place until bubbly, about 15 minutes.

Add 2 1/2 cups of flour and beat with a heavy-duty mixer or a wooden spoon to make a thick batter.  With a spoon, stir in enough flour, about 1 1/2+ cups, to make a thick dough.  Turn the dough onto a floured board and knead until smooth, about 10 minutes, adding flour as needed to prevent sticking.  Turn dough over in greased bowl, cover, and let rise until double in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours.

Divide dough into 12 to 15 equal pieces, depending on the size roll you wish.  Roll into balls, smooth side on top.  Place on a lightly greased cookie sheet and let rise another 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until tops are golden brown.

Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly before serving.

{Printable Recipe}

The Results:

I love a recipe that I’ve mostly made before, with just a tweak to make it new again.  Mostly because I go into it completely confident in the results.

And I needed the confidence this time.

These rolls were not just for my immediate family… they were for the extended family and guests.  Yep, I was making them for a dinner party.

Thank goodness everything went smoothly, since I made them right before everyone arrived.

And you can’t beat the smell of fresh bread when you walk in the door.

Anyways, I’m pretty sure these were a hit – and some people even went back for seconds!

Who could blame them?  These are just as good as the original Sheepherder Bread recipe… sweet, yeasty, and perfect when served warm with a dab of butter.  They definitely take me to my happy place.

And they’ll take you to yours, too, I guarantee it!

Happy Wednesday!

(This is post 199… coming up next, a giveaway!)

Cream Cheese Banana Bread

Yeah, I went to a bad place.

As Hubs so eloquently put it, “You take something that’s not too bad for you, add something, and make it a thousand times worse.”

He’s right, of course.

But it’s worse in the best way ever.

The Recipe:

Cream Cheese Banana Bread, slightly adapted from What Megan’s Making

3/4 c butter, softened

8 oz cream cheese, softened

2 c sugar

2 large eggs

1 1/2 c mashed bananas (about 4 medium)

1/2 t vanilla extract

3 c all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 t baking soda

1 t salt

In a large bowl, beat butter and cream cheese at medium speed until creamy.  Gradually add sugar, beating until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating after each addition.  Add in the bananas and vanilla, mixing until combined.

In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, beating at low-speed just until combined.  Spoon batter into 2 greased and floured 8×4-inch loafpans.

Bake at 350° for 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out with moist crumbs and the sides pull away from the pan.  If necessary, cover with aluminum foil during the last 15 minutes to prevent over-browning.  Cool bread in pans on wire racks 10 minutes.  Remove from pans, and cool completely before slicing.

{Printable Recipe}

The Results:

What’s so great about this bread is that the cream cheese is just a subtle note in this fantastically flavored bread.  It’s barely there (and if you didn’t know about it, you’d never guess).  What that cream cheese does, though, is to make this banana bread super, super moist – and brings out the full sweet banana flavor.

I’d have to say, hands-down, this is the best banana bread I’ve ever had.  (And Kristy, if you guys were still doing your best banana bread search, I SO would’ve submitted this one!)

So go out and start your week right (and a little wrong) – and make this scrumptious bread.

Have a fabulous Monday.

(I know I am – the sun is finally out!)

Chocolate Bread

Yep, you read that correctly.

I found a recipe that combined my two most favorite cooking things ever: bread and chocolate.

I needed something pretty spectacular to celebrate getting back in the kitchen, and I was really stoked to be able to use my giant counter-space to knead my dough.

But I think my expectations were a little too high…

The Recipe:

Chocolate Bread, from David Lebovitz

3/4 c whole or low-fat milk, heated until just tepid

1 envelope active dry yeast (1/4 ounce or 2 1/4 teaspoons)

6 T  sugar

4 T butter

3 oz semi-sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

1 1/2 t instant coffee

1 large egg

1/2 t vanilla extract

3/4 t sea salt

2 cups bread flour

1/4 c unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder

3/4 c semi-sweet chocolate chips

In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the milk.  Add one T sugar, then set aside in a warm place for 10 to 15 minutes, until bubbles form on the surface.

While the yeast is activating, in a small saucepan, melt the butter and 3 oz chocolate over a pan of barely simmering water.  Stir occasionally, until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.  Remove from heat.

Once the yeast mixture is frothy, mix in the remaining sugar, the instant coffee, the egg, vanilla, and sea salt.

Stir in half the flour and cocoa powder, then the melted butter and chocolate, then the remaining flour mixture, stirring until well-incorporated.  If using a stand mixer, attach the dough hook and beat for five minutes, until smooth.  If making by hand, mix vigorously with a flexible spatula for the same amount of time.  The dough will seem quite moist, resembling sticky brownie batter when ready.

Cover the bowl and let rise in a warm place for 2 hours.

Butter a 9-inch loaf pan.

Stir in the chocolate chips.  Then use a spatula to fold the dough over on itself in the bowl for about thirty seconds, then transfer it to the buttered pan, pressing a bit to spread it to the corners.  Let rise in a warm place for one hour.

Ten minutes before you’re ready to bake the bread, preheat the oven to 350ºF.

Bake the bread for 35 to 40 minutes, until it feels done and sounds hollow when you tap it.  You can stick an instant-read thermometer in the bottom if you’re unsure; the bread is done when the temperature reads 180ºF.

{Printable Recipe}

The Results:

I’m not sure exactly what I was expecting…maybe something sweeter…maybe something yeastier.  I’m not sure, but what I got was something completely different – not in bad way, mind you, just in a different way.

Anyways, let’s go back to the beginning when I kept making some (minor) mistakes.

First off, I misread tablespoon for teaspoon as I started to add my yeast – but I caught myself after one tablespoon.  And I figured 1 tablespoon is 3 teaspoons, which is pretty close to 2 1/4, right?

(Let’s just say if this happens to you, keep your eye on the rising dough – it may be ready sooner than expected.)

Secondly, I let my bread raise on top of my warm oven…which seemed to, um, make the dough warm up and toughen a little (I’m thinking it was a little too warm with it being in the metal bowl as opposed to the glass bowl I usually use).   It ended up fine, but I think my bread would’ve been lighter if this hadn’t happened.

Oh, and as an added benefit, because the dough was warm, it melted a bunch of the chocolate chips I’d added.  Awesome.

Thirdly (which technically wasn’t a mistake, just a disappointment), I was so excited to knead my dough on the counters.  It was the main reason why I went with bread for my first recipe back.  And when looking at the pictures on David Lebovitz’s site, it shows him kneading a dark, chunky, chocolate loaf.  Only after I had gotten halfway through the recipe did I realize that that was a picture of one of his ‘test’ recipes and that his final recipe was all done in the bowl.  I was really bummed.

Anyways, even with all those things happening, the bread turned out pretty good.  Now, it’s not the prettiest bread in the world (in fact, Hubs referred to it as looking like a big, um, insert bathroom related word here.)  It is very chocolately – dark chocolately, that is.

I’ll let you decide for yourself what you think it looks like…

It really is a loaf of bread, that is chocolate flavored.  Not a quick bread or sweet loaf – a real loaf of chocolate bread.  It’s kind of overpowering in flavor on its own, but with a tiny dab of butter, everything mellows out and tastes great.  I’m thinking, also, that I might try using it for french toast tomorrow.

Nobody else really liked it except me, and it wasn’t my absolute favorite (which made me sad), but it wasn’t bad.  And I’m excited to try the slices in some fun and different ways (maybe even a pb&j sandwich), just to experiment a bit.

Oh, and don’t feel bad for the counters… Hubs inaugurated them properly with some flour and pizza dough.

(And I got to wipe them off, straight into our new undermounted sink.  It was amazing!)

(And yes, I know it’s probably sad that that makes me so happy, but I don’t care.)

Have a fantastic weekend!

Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread

My streak of amazing bread baking had to end at some point.

(Not that this turned out bad, it just wasn’t up to my usual standards.)

I’m not going to blame the recipe.  (Though it was certainly the most complicated bread that I’ve made so far.)

I’m not going to blame the fact that I was short on a couple of ingredients.  (Though I think I did a pretty good job coming up with substitutes.)

I am going to blame my inability to add – more specifically, my inability to add minutes into hours.

I’ll get back to my issues in a minute.  Here’s the recipe, because I’m pretty sure it’s a good one… if you do it right.

The Recipe:

Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread, adapted from America’s Test Kitchen

Biga:

2 c bread flour

1 c warm water (100-110 degrees)

1/2 t instant or rapid-rise yeast

Soaker:

3 c whole-wheat flour, plus extra for kneading

1/2 c wheat germ

2 c whole milk

Dough:

1/8 c honey

1/8 c molasses (the original recipe just calls for 1/4 c honey, but I didn’t have enough, so I added the molasses)

4 t table salt

2 T instant or rapid-rise yeast

6 T unsalted butter, softened

2 T vegetable oil

bread flour for work surface

The night before:

For the Biga: Combine bread flour, water, and yeast in large bowl and stir with wooden spoon until uniform mass forms and no dry flour remains, about 1 minute.  Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature overnight (at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours).

For the Soaker: Combine whole-wheat flour, wheat germ, and milk in large bowl and stir with wooden spoon until shaggy mass forms, about 1 minute.  Turn out dough onto lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth, 2 to 3 minutes.  Return soaker to bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight (at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours).

The day of:

For the Dough: Tear soaker apart into 1-inch pieces and place in bowl of stand mixer fitted with dough hook.  Add biga, honey, salt, yeast, butter, and oil.  Mix on low-speed until cohesive mass starts to form, about 2 minutes.  Increase speed to medium and knead until dough is smooth and elastic, 8 to 10 minutes.  Turn out dough onto lightly floured counter and knead 1 minute.  Shape dough into ball and place in lightly greased container.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap and allow to rise at room temperature 45 minutes.

Gently press down on center of dough to deflate.  Holding edge of dough with fingertips, fold partially risen dough over itself by gently lifting and folding edge of dough toward middle.  Turn bowl 90 degrees; fold again.  Turn bowl and fold dough 6 more times (total of 8 folds).  Cover and allow to rise at room-temperature until doubled in volume, about 45 minutes.

Adjust oven racks to middle and lowest positions, place baking stone on middle rack, and heat oven to 400 degrees.  Spray two 8 1/2 by 4 1/2-inch loaf pans with nonstick cooking spray.  Transfer dough to well-floured counter and divide into 2 pieces.  Working with 1 ball of dough at a time, pat each into 8 by 17-inch rectangle.  With short side facing you, roll dough toward you into firm cylinder, keeping roll taut by tucking it under itself as you go.  Turn loaf seam side up and pinch it closed.  Place loaf seam side down in prepared loaf pan, pressing gently into corners.  Repeat with second ball of dough.  Cover loaves loosely with plastic wrap and allow to rise at room temperature until almost doubled in size, 60 to 90 minutes (top of loaves should rise about 1 inch over lip of pan).

Place empty loaf pan or other heatproof pan on bottom oven rack and bring 2 cups water to boil on stove top.  Using sharp serrated knife or single-edge razor blade, make one ¼-inch-deep slash lengthwise down center of each loaf.  Pour boiling water into empty loaf pan in oven and set loaves on baking stone.  Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.  Bake until crust is dark brown and internal temperature registers 200 degrees on instant-read thermometer, 40 to 50 minutes, rotating loaves 180 degrees and side to side halfway through baking.

Transfer pans to wire rack and let cool 5 minutes.  Remove loaves from pans, return to rack, and cool to room temperature, about 2 hours.

{Printable Results}

The Results:

Okay, I’m going to be completely honest with you here… I have no idea what a biga or a soaker is – just that they are the things I mixed beforehand to make this bread.  (I’m sure you could look them up, but I’m on a limited time schedule and this could take a while.)  I just trust ATK, so I went with it… or at least tried to.

So, the night before I got all excited and made the biga.  As I went to make the soaker, I realized we were completely out of milk (which is probably the first time in about ten years that this has happened).  Anyways, I was already in my pj’s, and I knew we’d have our milk delivery in the morning, so I decided I could just make the soaker then.

In case you were wondering what a happy biga looks like.

The next morning is where my math skills come into question.  See, the soaker needed to rest for at least eight hours before starting the dough.  And the dough needed several rises of length, in addition to the actual bake time.  And we had a t-ball game later that afternoon.  And I needed to use the biga before 24 hours were up.  All that information went swirling into my head, and I thought I had worked it out so I would be finishing the bread just in time.

It was about 5 minutes into the first rise, when I realized that I the bread would be ready an hour later than I had thought.  So, I started using some of my ‘happy rising dough’ tricks (which include a damp towel to cover the bowl and a slightly warm oven).  And it was working great.  I was able to cut out 15 minutes of rise on the first two rises.

It was during the third rise, in the bread pans, that things started to go wrong.  I was following the directions as closely as I could, and I had turned my oven up to 400 degrees as directed.  Unfortunately, I did not think through what that would do to my bread loaves.  Instead of uniformly getting bigger, the front (away from the back vent of my oven) rose beautifully, but the back stayed short and started to cook instead.

Need a visual?  Here’s what the finished loaves ended up looking like:

As you can see, one end is much shorter and more cooked than the other.  (And let’s just ignore the crazy flour on the loaf to the right – another long story – and I think one long story is plenty for a post.  🙂 )

Okay, the moral of this story, for me, is to follow the advice I would give my students if they were doing a math story problem about this: show your work!  (Aka: write it out, so you can double-check your math, and know you will be done at the right time, and therefore, will not be scrambling and using speed up techniques that can backfire.)

The flavor of this bread is exactly what was advertised, very similar to whole wheat bread you can find pre-sliced in the stores.  It wasn’t my favorite flavored bread (possibly because I was so disappointed with the process), but Hubs adored it.  The texture was a little dense, especially at the ‘bad’ ends – and I think going for the full rise times would have helped immensely.

As a stand alone, the bread didn’t do too much for me.   But I did try it in a pb&j sandwich – which I ended up really liking.  So, I don’t know what to tell you.  I don’t think I’ll be making this again – it just seemed like a lot of work.

I do believe, though, if you love wheat bread and actually follow their instructions, it has the possibility of being great.

(Now off to go practice some math.  Grrr.)