Girl Versus Dough

Sifted Words — Tablespoon, part deux.

Mom's Zucchini Bread

Friends!

I forgot to tell you (OK I didn’t forget, I just haven’t gotten around to it. There, I said it. Confession.) — I’m posting recipes on Tablespoon again. So far: Blueberry Muffin Bread, Avocado Quick Bread and today, Mom’s Zucchini Bread (yes you, Ma. Love you!). And there will be more, even yummier recipes on the way. So you should check out the blog every week for what I’m up to over there (or, if you’re here already, click on that nifty little box in the right column. The one that reads “Featured Tablespoon Blogger,” in case it’s been a long day and you still don’t get it.).

For now, a happy day to you all. It’s the weekend soon, so cheer up! Life is dang good, isn’t it? Indeed.

Round Thirty Three — Oat Flour Bread

Oat Flour Bread

I’d noticed that I’ve been a little fancy lately with my recipes. Nothing over the top but, you know, none of those basic loaves. It’s just been a while.

So I thought I’d go back to a simpler time, when a handful of ingredients mixed together and left to rise makes the most amazing, tasteful bread on Earth.

Unfortunately, this is not one of those times.

You see, as you can tell by my life story (heavily abridged, of course), this blog is about both the good and the bad. The beautiful and the ugly. My triumphs and my failures. Some days we win, some, we lose. And I was one big loser this time around.

After all these months (nearly a year, actually, egads!) you’d think I’d know what makes a bread rise or not. Confession: I don’t. Luck, perhaps? A tiny plea for success? Crossing your fingers as you pour the yeast into the batter? Clicking your heels together before the bread is left to proof? In my short but adventurous bread baking experience, I still haven’t figured it out.

I know a few things. I know that warm water and room temperature ingredients help out a lot. I know it’s best to keep the yeast fresh, sealed and tucked in the back of the fridge. I know that sometimes, instant yeast is SO much easier to work with than active dry yeast. I know that putting the dough on top of the fridge seems to always help out the rise. Don’t ask me why. Don’t ask me how I know. I just know. You pick these things up along the way.

And yet… after knowing all those things, sometimes, a loaf will turn out as ugly as this one. Boring, lifeless, barely risen and with a hard-as-a-rock crust.

Was it old flour? Was it the fact that I put the dough in the fridge after the first rise because I was leaving to go camping for the weekend, and therefore had no time to wait for its second rise (though the directions stated clearly that the dough can be stored at this point for up to 10 days)? Was it cold yeast? Was it the fact that I thirded (yes, thirded, not halved) the ingredients and perhaps overly trusted my shoddy math? Who knows.

So here it is, folks. The seedy underbelly. The dark side of the bread baking world. A catastrophe. And yet, a tasty one at that. Because despite the hideousness of its exterior, the inside of this loaf is quite delicious. Well hand me a knife and slap me on some buttah, there is always a silver lining.

Debrief: I like to think this entire post was a debrief. I have no idea what went wrong here (I’m guessing it had something to do with the refrigeration, as that never seems to work well for me). Maybe you can venture on this recipe and let me know how it turns out for you.

Oat Flour Bread Courtesy of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

(I’m going to give you the full version of the recipe in case my math was wrong, but, I did third this recipe because I have so many dang loaves in the fridge, the last thing I needed were triplets added to the bunch.)

Makes three 1 1/2-pound loaves. The recipe can easily be doubled or halved.

3 1/4 cups lukewarm water 1 1/2 tbsp granulated yeast (1 1/2 packets) 1 1/2 tbsp salt 1 cup oat flour, plus several tbsp extra to thicken the dough (about 3-5) 5 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour Cooking spray or oil for greasing the pan

Directions:

Mix the yeast and salt with the water in a large bowl. Set aside. Mix the flours, without kneading, into a heavy duty stand mixer with the dough hook attached. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and knead with dough hook until a soft and smooth dough forms and pulls away from the sides of the bowl, about 6 minutes (here is where the extra tbsp of oat flour may come in, depending on how sticky your dough is). Place kneaded dough in a lightly greased bowl and cover and let rise until doubled, about 2 hours. The dough can be used immediately after the initial rise, though it is easier to handle when cold. Refrigerate in a lidded container and use over the next 10 days. On baking day, lightly grease a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan. Dust the surface of the refrigerated dough with flour and cut off a 1 1/2-lb. (cantaloupe-size) piece. Dust the piece with more flour and shape it into a ball. Drop into the loaf pan. all to rest and rise for 1 hour and 40 minutes (or just 40 minutes if you’re using fresh, unrefrigerated dough). Twenty minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F, with an empty broiler tray on a shelf below the bread. Place the loaf on a rack near the center of the oven and just above the broiler pan. Pour 1 cup of hot tap water into the broiler tray and quickly close the oven door. Bake for 45 minutes or until deeply browned and firm. Allow to cool before slicing or eating.

Sifted Words — The 4th.

The 4th

Happy belated Fourth of July, all! I celebrated the weekend with my crazy — er, wonderful family on a camping adventure. We had a fantastic time playing bean bag toss, Bocce ball, Catch Phrase and Uno (yeah, we kind of like games) while sipping Coronas and watching the sun go down late at night. We also had a lot of fun with sparklers.

Hope you had as blessed of a weekend as I did.

P.S. A new post is coming up oh. So. Soon! Just you wait. It’ll rock your socks off. Or knock. Whatevs.

Round Thirty Two — Braided Lemon & Cream Cheese Bread

Braided Lemon Cream Cheese Bread

Yesterday was the husband’s and my very first anniversary. A year ago, on June 26, he and I both said, “I do.” And that’s that.

I have to say, I’m pretty dang lucky to have this guy in my life. He makes me happy every day. And he’s a fun roommate.

But enough on that. Let’s talk about this bread.

Yesterday was a crazy busy day. I was simultaneously baking this bread, this cake and this bread (for an upcoming Tablespoon post… eee!) all afternoon while watching (and/or yelling at) the TV while USA kicked a ball around with Ghana. USA lost. I was bummed. But then I realized I had cake, and I was happy.

But once again, back to the bread. I’ve been planning to make this lovely creation since I first saw it on King Arthur Flour’s blog, but then life got in the way I guess and, lo and behold, it popped up on Smitten Kitchen days later, with a much simpler approach that I am grateful to say made my life yesterday easier.

There’s not much to say about this bread, other than the fact that within its lovely braid there is a concoction of sugar, cream cheese and lemon curd, and therefore it is undeniably amazing. It’s also not as intimidating as the directions may at first suggest, especially because they’ve been adapted so people like me, who don’t see why it would be impossible to transfer a 10 x 15-inch rectangle by hand from counter to baking sheet (let me tell you, it IS nearly impossible), don’t end up with a mess. If you don’t have parchment paper (and preferably a bench scraper, as well), get thee to the nearest grocery and buy one, especially if you plan to bake often. They are handy and nearly necessary tools.

I had a lot more to say about this, but it’s been a busy weekend, and all I can think about right now is this. Yum.

Debrief: The original and adapted recipes call for pearl sugar sprinkled atop the braid, but I didn’t have any and really don’t see when I would use it ever again, so I opted out. It probably makes the bread look prettier, but I think the braid speaks volumes itself. The egg wash is still necessary though, in my opinion, as that’s what gives the loaf that glossy, ever-so-slightly crusty crust.

Braided Lemon Bread Courtesy of Smitten Kitchen, adapted from King Arthur Flour

Yields: 1 loaf

Sponge: 6 tbsp warm water 1 tsp sugar 1 1/2 tsp instant yeast 1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

Dough: Sponge (above) 6 tbsp sour cream or yogurt 4 tbsp unsalted butter, softened 2 large eggs, 1 beaten for dough, 1 beaten with 1 tsp water for egg wash 1/4 cup sugar 1 tsp salt 1 tsp vanilla extract 2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (optional) Pearl sugar or sparkling white sugar for sprinkling

Lemon cream cheese filling: 1/3 cup cream cheese, softened 2 tbsp sugar 2 tbsp sour cream or yogurt 1 tsp lemon juice 2 tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour 1/4 cup lemon curd

Directions: Make sponge — In a small bowl, combine the sponge ingredients. Stir well to combine, loosely cover with a towel, and set aside to proof for 10 to 15 minutes.

Make dough — Combine the sponge, sour cream, butter, egg, sugar, salt and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add flour and mix with the paddle attachment until you have a shaggy dough. Switch to the dough hook and knead until a soft, smooth dough forms, about 5 to 6 minutes. Place the kneaded dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover with a towel and allow to rise for 60 to 90 minutes until doubled. (Dough can also be made by hand, incorporating all ingredients in a bowl and using your hands to mix and knead. Kneading by hand will take about 5 to 10 minutes before smooth and soft.)

Make the filling (while dough rises) — Mix together all the filling ingredients (except the lemon curd) in a small bowl until smooth (no lumps). Refrigerate the filling and set aside lemon curd until ready to fill the braids.

Prepare bread — Gently deflate the dough and roll it out on a well-floured counter into a 10 x 15-inch rectangle. Transfer rectangle to a large piece of parchment paper, folding in quarters and then unfolding once transferred (quickly, or it’ll stick together!). With the side of your hand (in a karate-chop fashion), lightly press two lines down the dough lengthwise, dividing it into three equal columns. Spread the cream cheese filling down the center section, leaving the top and bottom two inches free of filling. Spread the lemon curd over the cream cheese filling.

To form the braid, cut crosswise strips one inch apart down the length of the outer columns of your dough (the parts without filling). Make sure you have an equal amount of 1-inch strips down the right and left sides. Be careful not to cut your parchment paper (now is when that bench scraper comes in handy). Remove the four corner segments (shown here on KAF). To “braid”, begin by folding top flap down and bottom flap up over the filling. Lift the top dough strip and gently bring it diagonally across the filling. Repeat on the right side, and continue down the entire braid, alternating strips until you are out. You can tuck the last couple over or under the end of the braid (I chose over, and you can barely tell the difference).

Carefully transfer the dough and the parchment paper to a baking sheet. Cover loosely with plastic and set it aside to rise for 45 to 50 minutes until puffy.

Bake bread — Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Brush the loaves with your egg wash, and sprinkle with pearl or coarse sparkling sugar if desired. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the loaves are golden brown (or a mere 17 minutes for me, as my oven is a beast). Remove from the oven and cool for 15 to 20 minutes before serving.

Extra punches: The dough can be set aside and refrigerated at nearly any point in the preparation process. Just take the dough out of the fridge when you’re ready to work with it again, and let sit until it reaches room temperature. Then, proceed.

Sifted Words — Home, PB & J and Fancy Food

Sifted Words

This weekend, Elliott and I ventured home to the great village of Grayslake, Ill. My roots, if you will. We had a wonderful time (minus Elliott, who had to study all weekend. Dang school.) catching up, watching movies and of course, baking.

Let me tell you, it was not my original intention to bake this weekend. In fact, I was planning to take the weekend off from baking entirely. But then my mother (who’s elusive face will not appear here per her request, though she looked just fine) decided to up and get herself surgery on her foot while also volunteering to bake cookies for a dear friend’s baby shower that she obviously could not attend. The nerve. So who was then bequeathed the obligation to make enough cookies for 70 women? Me. Sigh. It’s a good thing I love baking and cookies, Ma. (This is about the time when she would respond with something the likes of, “Smart ass.”)

Luckily, I happened to happen upon a delicious, very simple recipe for Peanut Butter & Jelly Cookies from one of my favorite blogs, Joy The Baker. This is about the second or third time I’ve baked something from her blog and posted about it here, and though this is not an issue of credit (because I always give credit where credit is due, thanks to that famous song from “My Fair Lady.” Or is it “The Music Man?” Yes I did just bring it back to high school theater days.) it is getting borderline creepy how much I love love love her recipes. Love. But I do. That is all.

But back to the baking. Despite a few setbacks, my mother and I managed to produce two batches of these lovely, flourless cookies. And once again, I baked only enough for the women who would snatch them from me. Thank goodness a couple of them turned out ugly (but still very tasty), because I was able to indulge in at least a few nibbles of this mess.

As for the rest of the weekend, I spent it resting, then cooking, then taking a gazillion pictures of food. Because I have no friends. But seriously, because I love food, and I love my new camera, and I love taking pictures of food. I should have taken more pictures of people, I know.

But I did get a snapshot of this guy.

Round Thirty One — Valencia Orange Quickbread

Valencia Orange Quick Bread

I am going to tell you a story. Get ready.

This is Ashley. She is my best friend. She came to visit me this weekend from the faraway land of Chicago. Lakemoor, more specifically. She is not proud of this.

Ashley got to bake with me this weekend. First, we had some reading to do.

Then, we had some improvising to do. I ran out of regular flour. So I had to add in some wheat flour. Whatev. That’s how we roll.

Oops! We were a little messy.

Now for the ingredients! First, some tasty sea salt. (Does not supply iodide? Is this really something people care about?)

Then, add a smidgen of grated orange rind. I used Valencias. You can use whatever kind you fancy. I won’t judge.

This orange was getting a little jealous of all the fun we were having, so we let it hang out for a while (to be used later in our sangria! Sucker!).

Um, if this mixture of sugar and orange doesn’t make you want to bake this bread immediately, shame on you. Shame. On. You.

Ashley was very helpful by taking photos whilst I worked. She is an excellent contributing photographer.

After the pouring, whisking. And after the whisking…

Mixing! Check out those mad skillz, yo.

And then…

Bread! (Yeesh, I need a tan.)

Check out that beaut. It’s awfully yummy, too.

He he. She’s going to hate me for this one.

Debrief: This bread is mostly made up of ingredients you have right in your kitchen, making it economical. Plus, it’s a quickbread, making it easy. I also think you could improvise a lot with this bread, adding in pistachios with orange or changing up the citrus altogether, perhaps with lemons and blueberries. It’s cheap and simple enough to make a mistake or two before you figure out your favorite version.

Quick Orange Bread Courtesy of The Joy of Cooking

Yields two 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaves

Ingredients:

3 cups all-purpose flour 3 tsp double-acting baking powder 1/2 tsp salt 1 tbsp grated orange rind 1/2 to 3/4 cup sugar (use more sugar for a more cake-like consistency. I chose the former.) 1 egg 1/2 cup orange juice 1 1/4 cups milk 2 tbsp melted shortening

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Sift flour (or a mix of all-purpose and whole wheat, as I did), baking powder and salt together in a large bowl. Combine and add grated orange rind and sugar. Combine and add egg, orange juice, milk and melted shortening. (Optional: add 1 cup chopped or broken nutmeats.) Pour the liquid mixture into the bowl. Combine all ingredients with a few swift strokes. Stir lightly until barely blended. Bake the bread in two greased loaf pans about 40-50 minutes or until done.