Monday, December 10, 2007

A stab at bread

About three weeks ago, I made my first stab at bread outside of pizza dough. It was also the first real bread I made that wasn't an inedible brick. And all the better that it was cinnamon swirl bread. It was so good, I made the recipe twice more.

The original recipe called for 8 cups of flour - something impossible to do in the average Hong Kong kitchen. Cutting it down to a manageable 2 or 3 cups required some tricky math and futzing around with the measurements: I need a little more water to proof the yeast, so a little less milk to balance it out? And I can't do 66.6% of an egg. Throw the whole egg in, and use a little more flour? I'm not really sure if I did the right thing, as the science of baking is a complete mystery to me. I also have little idea whether my substitution of ordinary plain flour for bread flour (the latter being expensive in Hong Kong), and vegetable oil for butter (trying to avoid saturated fats) made any real difference. The recipe also called for scalded milk. I don't know why this would be different from unboiled milk. Oh well, just do what it says.

But it did rise, it wasn't rock hard, and it tasted pretty good. The loaf just looks rather flat in the photo because my baking tin was too large. I knew a guy in college who routinely made bread without the benefit of a recipe. He just threw things together until they kneaded up roughly at the right consistency. It worked.

The first attempt was a bit thin on the filling. It said to just sprinkle a lot of cinnamon sugar and a few drops of water on the rolled-out dough and roll it up. I guess I didn't use enough.

The next time, I over-compensated by adding raisins, little chunks of apple, and apple sauce (which I have to make myself - you can't buy it here except in ridiculously tiny baby food jars), but there must have been too much moisture because the bread came out a bit doughy.

The third time, I eliminated the apple and apple products, used a lot more cinnamon sugar, and kept the raisins. And the imaginary Goldilocks looking over my shoulder, that picky picky girl, smiled in satisfaction.


MooCow said...

Yay, another convert to the wonderful world of bread!! Next time, Kea, you can figure out how to make any sized recipe by using the Baker's Percentage to calculate the ratios of every ingredient in the recipe relative to the flour. Look it up on the internet, and if you need help, shoot me an email!

As for scalding the milk, "raw" milk contains enzymes that kill yeast, so by scalding it, you denature those enzymes and allow your yeast to do its job. I've heard people tell me that they can make bread without scalding, but that may have something to do with how pasteurized their milk is, so to be on the safe side, just scald it. An easier alternative is to use nonfat dry milk. It may even be cheaper. Good bread reference for basic, inexpensive and easy-to-understand recipes is the Tassajara Bread Book.

Lana said...

Moocow would know better than I, but doesn't bread flour contain more gluten, which is what the carbon dioxide your yeast produces pushes against in order to make the bread rise? That is, I suspect the bread might rise better with bread flour, as opposed to regular flour.

It looks like your bread turned out fine, though!

greeeenwithenv said...

We've got some serious bread and microbe experts here! All's I gotta say is that looks yummy for your first stabs at bread.

Kea said...

I think Lana's right, at least that's what I read on the internet. One of these days I might splurge on it, to see how much of a difference it makes. The bread I made was a little dense and bagel-like, but still very nice.