Monday, March 9, 2009

When Two Become One, Part 1

I was never a fan of the Spice Girls, but I couldn't help but think that was a catchy title for this post. I was feeling crafty this weekend, so I decided to try to make two different kinds of bread from one dough: off-white sandwich bread and cinnamon-raisin bread. I mean if I'm going to work my way through four rises (including the starter), I might as well get as much out of it as possible.

I just started to get into baking bread, so I picked up some books at the library and decided to try a few loaves this weekend when I was relatively un-busy. I really liked the no-knead bread we made a few months ago, but I wanted to try something a little more practical. (And by practical, I mean something I wouldn't just tear chunks off of and eat while standing in the kitchen. Because now that I'm done marathon training for the time being, there is no excuse for that many carbs.) In the Bread Bible, I found a recipe for basic white sandwich bread, which made two loaves, that I figured I could adapt for the ingredients I had on hand (i.e. real not dry milk and active not instant yeast). After scanning through the rest of the book, I noticed that the cinnamon-raisin bread recipe was almost identical up until the point where you add the raisins (duh), so I decided to try to divide the dough and make both.

I was really impressed with the results, especially the sandwich bread--which became off-white because 1) I ran out of white flour, and 2) I always feel better about myself when I use a little wheat flour in my baking. The sandwich bread was amazingly soft, softer than any store-bread I have bought in a long time, but that might be because I only buy the whole-wheat stuff that is sort of like cardboard. It also has great flavor, due in part to that wheat flour I threw in.

The cinnamon-raisin loaf was also delicious, but my method for incorporating the raisins was a little flawed. Because I only wanted raisins in half the dough, I waited to add them until right before I formed that half of the dough into a loaf, instead of mixing them in between the starter and the first rise. I tried to just sprinkle them on with the cinnamon sugar and roll them up, but I think it would have looked better and the raisins would have been better distributed if I had kneaded them into the dough. So you go ahead and do that.

All-in-all, I think this is a pretty solid, basic bread recipe. The results were great, even if the process was a little fussy. I'll definitely use it again--next time I might try dried apricot and cardamom instead of the cinnamon raisin--but if I want to ever get to the point where I make all my own bread, I'm going to have to find a technique with fewer steps.

I'll post how to turn this sandwich bread into cinnamon-raisin bread tomorrow, along with instructions on how to make a loaf of each from the same dough.

Off-White Sandwich Bread
Adapted from the Bread Bible, by Rose Levy Beranbaum
Makes two loaves.

for the starter
1 3/4 cups warm water (105-115 degrees)
2 tbs. plus 1 tsp. honey
3/4 tsp. active dry yeast
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/4 cups plus 2 1/2 tbs. all-purpose flour

for the dough
2 cups plus 3 tbs. bread flour (you could substitute all-purpose, it will change the texture slightly)
1/4 cup skim milk, scalded (brought to a simmer), then cooled to 105-115 degrees
3/4 tsp. active dry yeast
9 tbs. unsalted butter, softened
2 1/4 tsp. salt

twp 8.5X4.5 in. loaf pans, lightly greased with cooking spray
two baking sheets
stand mixer, fitted with a dough hook (this could probably also be done in a food processor, but I haven't tested it myself yet, you could also do it by hand but that's just insanity)

-In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the warm water and the honey, then sprinkle the yeast on top. Let sit for 5 minutes until the yeast froths. If the yeast doesn't get foamy, dump it out and start over with new yeast.
-Add the 1 cup whole wheat flour and 1 1/4 cups plus 2 1/2 tbs. all-purpose flour to the yeast mixture in the bowl, and whisk until very smooth to incorporate air, about two minutes. The starter will be the consistency of pancake batter. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
-Sprinkle the 2 cups plus 3 tbs. bread flour (or all-purpose flour) on top of the starter. DO NOT MIX. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit for 1 to 4 hours. After the first hour, the starter can be put in the refrigerator to ferment overnight. The sponge will bubble up through the loose flour as time goes on, like in the picture above.

-After the starter is finished fermenting, take the scalded milk (105 to 115 degrees) and sprinkle the 3/4 tsp. yeast on top of it. Let it set for 5 minutes until foamy.
-Add the milk-yeast mixture and the butter to the dough and mix with the dough hook on low speed for 1 minute or until the dough is well combined. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rest for 20 minutes.
-Add the salt to the dough and knead the dough on medium speed for 7 to 10 minutes, or until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl and forms a ball. The dough should be smooth, shiny, and slightly sticky. If it is not stiff, add a little flour. If it is not sticky, add a little water.
-Spray a large bowl with cooking spray. With an oiled spatula, scrape the dough into the bowl. Spray the top of the dough with cooking spray (or lightly oil), cover with plastic wrap, and let rise at warm room temperature for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until doubled in size.

-When the dough has doubled, scrape the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Flour your hands. Gently form the dough into a rectangle. Try not to deflate it. Pull the dough out to make it into a longer rectangle, then fold it like a business letter. Pull the dough out the opposite way, and fold it like a business letter a second time. (This video demonstrates the folding process quickly.)
-Set the dough back into the container, oil the surface, and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise for another 1 to 2 hours, until doubled.

-When the dough is done the second rise, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Cut the dough in half.
-Shape each half into a loaf by pressing it into a wide rectangle with the long side facing you. Press down on the dough with your fingertips to deflate any large bubbles. Fold over the right side of the dough to just past the center. Fold over the left side of the dough to just overlap it. Press the overlapped section to seal the dough.
-Starting at the top of the dough, roll it over three or four times until it reaches the bottom edge of the dough. With each roll, push the dough away from you slightly on the counter to tighten the outer skin of the dough.
-If the loaf is not as wide as the pan, roll it back and forth with your hands working gradually from the center to the edges to widen it. Tuck the sides under, and place in the loaf pan.
-Spray a piece of plastic wrap with cooking spray and cover each loaf. Allow to rise until the center of the loaf is about 1 inch above the side of the pan, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. When you press the dough with your finger, the dough will not spring back quickly.

-Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with one rack in the lowest possible position, and the other rack just above it. Place a baking sheet on each rack. (If you have a pizza stone, place that on the top rack.)
-Set the pans on the top baking sheet. Toss 1 cup of ice cubes into the baking sheet on the bottom rack and immediately shut the oven door. Bake for 50 minutes or until the bread is golden brown and the internal temperature is 210 degrees. Halfway through, rotate the pans.
-Remove the bread from the oven and let it rest on a wire rack until cooled. Remove from the pan and cool completely, about 1 hour, before slicing.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I LOVE cinnamon raisin bread! The problem is that every time I make it - I eat a whole loaf! Haha. Looks delicious!