Saturday, March 12, 2011

Buffalo Barn Raisers Wheat Bread

Do you love surprises? I think it's fun to plan and give a gift that is totally unexpected, but my husband usually falls in the opposite camp. He knows what he wants, and doesn't like to wait or be surprised. That doesn't stop me from trying, however. Every now and then I manage to find a gift that both surprises and delights him.

This Christmas, the tables were turned. My husband presented me with a grain mill and a selection of different wheat varieties. I had never even considered a grain mill, but it was a perfect next step for my two-year bread baking journey! We wanted to grind the wheat and bake the first loaf together, but our schedules have been a little crazy, so it took a couple of months before we found a free weekend for baking.

Meanwhile, our daughter ALE has been baking up a storm in her kitchen in Western New York. She blogs about her life and creative adventures - including her bread baking - here, and when I saw her post about the bread she baked at a Buffalo Barn Raisers workshop, I tried it out immediately. It produced such a nice loaf that I knew it was a perfect recipe to inaugurate the grain mill.

n.o.e.'s notes:

- We decided to use hard red wheat, and ground a bit extra to use in other baking projects.

- My husband set up the mill and did the actual milling of the grain. He did such a good job that I think I need him around every time we need freshly ground flour!

- I modified the bread's method just a bit, incorporating some rest time before kneading the dough. I've learned that technique from baking so many of Dan Lepard's loaves. The recipe, as I baked it, is below.

- We doubled the recipe so that we would have plenty of bread, and used two 8.5" x 4.5" pans.

- I usually bake bread with weight, rather than volume, measurements. For the flours I assumed 4.5 ounces per cup.

- I had saved some of the dough from the first batch of this bread in the fridge, and we added it as a pre-ferment to this batch.

- My husband had baked yeast breads before he met me - over 30 years ago! - and it was fun to show him how I bake, with a digital scale, dough rising bucket, bench scraper and digital thermometer.

the verdict:

The bread had a firm, sturdy crumb that made the loaf perfect for toast or sandwiches. The best part was the flavor of the freshly ground wheat. This recipe will be a definite repeat for us.

the recipe:

Buffalo Barn Raisers Bread (borrowed and slightly adapted from the recipe my daughter posted here)

3/4 t instant yeast

approximately 1 cup of warm water

1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour

1 1/4 cup white flour

1 t salt

2 T honey or sugar

1 T olive oil

Prefermented dough (optional)*

Combine dry ingredients with yeast in large bowl. Add water, honey, oil, preferment if using, adding more water if necessary, to form a cohesive ball.

Knead on floured surface for several minutes, adding more flour if necessary, until dough feels lighter than when it started, is only slightly tacky, and approaches the windowpane test (it’s whole wheat, so it might still be more tear-y).

Let rise in a rising bucket or bowl in a warm place until doubled in size.

Shape into loaf and let rise in loaf pan.

Slash the top with a knife and bake at 350 until the interior temperature is 190.

Messing around: Play with proportion of white to wheat flour, add herbs, or make into a pizza: after the first rise, when doubled in size, roll out into a circle or stretch over the backs of your hands, top as desired, and bake at 450 until crust is crisp.

* The Barnraiser recipe introduced a technique I haven’t used – reserving some of the dough from one batch of bread, letting it slowly develop in the fridge, and adding it to the next batch of dough. If this is a bread you’d be interested in making more than once, try reserving part of your first batch to add to the second and see whether it makes a difference!

I'm submitting this bread to Yeastspotting, a wonderful weekly showcase of all things yeasty, baked in kitchens around the globe. Stop by on Fridays to see all the delicious breads!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

James Beard's Oatmeal Bread

For nearly two years I've baked our bread. On the odd occasion that we've bought a loaf, I've felt guilty. And the purchased bread - even from a bakery - hasn't tasted nearly as good as what comes from my oven. I have my stand-bys, and Dan Lepard's Simple Milk Loaf is my make-it-in-my-sleep recipe for morning toast.

I'm always up for trying a new bread recipe, though. My favorite soft dinner rolls are from James Beard, and I figured it was high time that I tried another of his yeast recipes. I paged through several possibilities on the James Beard Foundation website before deciding on his Oatmeal Bread. Actually, there are two different Oatmeal Breads on that site, but the headnotes for this particular recipe won me over. It was one of Beard's favorites; he loved making onion sandwiches on this bread.

n.o.e.'s notes:

- The recipe, from Beard on Food, can be found here.

- Rather than the active dry yeast specified in the recipe, I used 3.5 tsp of instant yeast, which I added with the dry ingredients.

- It's been a while since I've baked bread from a recipe using volume rather than weight measurements. The recipe calls for 5.5 cups of flour. I assumed a weight of 4.5 oz per cup which made a total of 24.75 oz of flour. I used roughly 60% bread flour, 40% all purpose.

- This recipe is essentially a no-knead bread; the flavor is developed by retarding the dough in the refrigerator for 2 to 4 hours. That is an advantage from scheduling standpoint also: the bread is baked in two two-hour time periods, separated by the chilling time.

the verdict:

This bread was not only simple to bake, it produced terrific toast; in fact it might beat out the milk loaf in that department. We finished off the loaf in record time, as my husband, daughter and I toasted slice after slice. Because of the molasses, the bread was brown, like a whole wheat bread, but it had a loose, soft crumb, and a subtle sweetness.

I did sneak half a slice to make a tiny onion sandwich in James Beard's honor. It was surpisingly good! That man certainly knew his food, and he definitely knew his bread.

If you bake this bread, go ahead and double the recipe. It disappears quickly.