Just in case I wasn't crazy enough already, I've taken on a new baking project - the Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge. A blogger named Nicole of Pinch My Salt started the whole thing with a simple "tweet" on Twitter, asking if anybody wanted to join her in baking through Peter Reinhart's book, The Bread Baker's Apprentice. Well, the idea took off like wildfire, and by the time of the sign-up deadline, there were an even 200 bakers from around the world, all ready bake bread. Luckily for me, there aren't a lot of rules and regulations that come with the project; in fact the only rule is to bake each recipe in the book in order. Nicole (and most of the other bakers) will be baking weekly, but I knew that a weekly pace would be hard for me to maintain, given the other bread- and non-bread-baking that I need to fit into my schedule. So a couple of my bloggy buddies, Food From Books, The Tortefeasor, A Singleton in the Kitchen, Grandma's Kitchen Table, and I, are going to bake "together" and post every other week. At this leisurely rate we should make it through the book in somewhat under two years. And learn a whole lot about bread in the process!
The first interesting thing I learned is that the book is arranged alphabetically by name of bread. How cool is that? Very cool, but an arrangement by degree-of-difficulty might have been a bit more reassuring for a somewhat-novice baker. Luckily the uber-tricky sourdough recipes are all in their own group at the end, so by the time we get there I can
First up in the challenge is the Anadama Bread, a classic New England bread, and a charming domestic tale underlying its name. You can read the lore and get the recipe here. The bread is made with molasses and cornmeal, so it's a bit sweet with a touch of crunch (or grit, depending on the coarseness of the cornmeal used)
- The recipe calls for coarse ground cornmeal. By some fluke I happen to have 4 different brands of cornmeal in the house, none "coarse grind". I couldn't see buying any more cornmeal just for this recipe (those thrifty New Englanders who made this bread recipe certainly wouldn't have), so I used 4.5 oz of the coarsest cornmeal I had and 1.5 oz quick grits for a little North/South fusion.
- The cornmeal is mixed with water and becomes a "soaker" which sits for awhile before being joined by flour, yeast, and more water and turning into a "sponge" after it in turn sits on the counter.
- When the soaker-now-sponge is joined by molasses, flour, salt and butter, it becomes dough. You can knead it by hand or with a mixer, but I used my food processor. In short order, the dough passed the "windowpane" test (could be stretched until translucent) and registered between 77 and 81 degrees on my instant read digital thermometer.
- For half of the flour I used white whole wheat.
- I had been tempted to make half a recipe but "all the other kids" were making a full recipe, so I did too. The recipe makes two 9x5 or three 8.5x4.5 loaves. I split my dough in half. With one half I made two small loaves (which I planned to give away) in my 7.5x3.5 pans. The other half of the dough produced one 8.5x4.5 loaf and two 4-oz rolls.
- I dusted the bottoms of my pans with cornmeal to help with releasing them later.
- The dough rose very quickly.
- My loaves got a few false starts in the oven. I pulled them out to take photos (really, sometimes I question my own judgment) and to mist them and dust them with cornmeal (which I'd totally forgotten).
- The loaves had no oven spring (hmm, do you think the in-and-out of the oven had anything to do with it?) and actually flattened out a bit. That's OK, the crumb was pretty nice, so I was happy.
how we ate it:
Well, I have to confess that we did, in fact, eat it all. My husband, Jim, is a big toast person, so the bread was great to add to his morning rotation. We also made two dinners out of Anadama sandwiches.
The first night we had "Farm Box special" themed sandwiches--
1. duck egg salad w lots of salt and pepper + tomato + arugula (above)
2. roast chicken + tomato + arugula (from our garden!) + mustard (below)
The duck egg, tomatoes and roasting chicken were from the farm box! (and the potatoes for the potato salad)
sandwiches, round 2:
The second night, the sandwiches were "New England meets Sweden"--
smoked turkey, Vasterbotten cheese (from Sweden), sliced Granny Smith apple, lingonberry preserves (also Swedish) (below)
Well, given the fact that the two of us polished off this load of bread in less than a week, you can say this was a keeper recipe for us. Although it has molasses, we didn't find it particularly sweet. Nor did the molasses flavor stand out for us (although it did for some of the other bba bakers). This bread was fantastic for sandwiches, and was a great accompaniment to a variety of flavors. I was very sorry that I only made 2 buns. Jim liked it even better as toast, though! The toaster really brought out the crunch of the cornmeal.