Tuesday, September 1, 2009

BBA Challenge #1!!!!!!

I recently stumbled on the Bread Baker's Challenge, a group of bakers who have committed to go through Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread and to bake each of the 43 breads in order. Most of the bakers started in May or June, so I seem to be about a dozen or more breads behind, but it seemed like fun so...better late than never!

Soon after I discovered the Challenge, I ordered the book. Being the cheapskate that I am, I chose the free shipping option, which means I've been champing at the bit to get it for almost two weeks...and then there was a shipping snafu so it took even longer. I finally got my book, but being the diligent and obedient student that I am, I had to read through his detailed first sections before I could bake. This included the Twelve Stages of Bread, 80 pages or so on the math and science behind brilliant bread baking.

And finally here I am! Baking the first bread: Anadama Bread.

Whew, they're not kidding when they say that baking a la Peter Reinhart is an all-day experience (or rather two days). I started my soaker last night, and then had to coordinate all of the steps today around work, nap time, dinner, and bed time. We'll see...at this point, I'm typing up a quick update while my bread is proofing and I'm listening to, "Mooooommmmmmy, where arrrrrrrrrrre youuuuuuuuuu?" coming repeatedly from the monitor. I guess nap time is over.

As I said, I made my soaker last night. When I got home from work today, I added my flour, yeast, and some water, and left it for the yeast to do it's thing. After an hour, I compared my picture to Nicole's from Pinch My Salt, and wasn't sure mine was quite as bubbly as hers.

But when I pulled off the plastic wrap to look more closely, I could actually hear it bubbling (that was kind of cool) so I decided to proceed. I added the rest of the flour, the salt, the butter, and the molasses.

I didn't have the golden molasses that he recommends in the book, so I'm hoping the flavor isn't too strong, as I'm not a huge fan of molasses. I intended to use my stand mixer, but decided at the last minute to attempt this first one entirely by hand. So, I mixed away.

And then I began to knead. Like Nicole, I had to add a lot of extra flour (maybe 1/2 - 3/4 cup), but finally I decided to be brave, and (as Deb from Smitten Kitchen suggests) to not get too hung up about the sticky dough on my hands (I hate that feeling!). I continued kneading without adding more flour and realized that although the dough remained quite tacky, it stopped sticking to me when I pulled my hand away (thanks to this post for explaining the difference between sticky and tacky). I kneaded for about twice as long as Peter Reinhart says you'll have to (that always happens to me...and I was reassured by his statement that it's nearly impossible to over-knead) in order to reach the required temperature. And, excitingly enough, while I've always had trouble with his windowpane test in my previous attempts (the bagel recipe I make is Reinhart's), I was actually able to achieve it with this bread! (couldn't get a picture since I'm the only adult home)

Anyway, the dough is in its bowl, hopefully rising away, and I'm off to get the children up from their nap!

....The dough only took a little over an hour to double in size.

I divided and shaped them. I'm not sure I've ever shaped a loaf before, so it took me a while and they didn't look perfect, but here they are:

And here is what was happening in the kitchen while I was dividing and shaping:

I put the loaves in the oven to bake and checked them after the minimum suggested time (40 minutes), but I guess maybe I should've checked them earlier because I'd made the smaller loaf size...? They were supposed to register 185-190 degrees and mine were well over 200, one loaf even close to 210. I'm hoping they're not too dry! They're cooling now.

...Well, the verdict is in: this is pretty darn tasty bread! The hubby and I each tried a slice with butter (yum!), and he is now eating it toasted with butter, using it to mop up his scrambled eggs. According to him, it is some mighty fine toasted bread.


  1. LOL! This is what my kitchen often looks like, too! Anyway, it's a nice bread, isn't it?

  2. That kitchen floor picture is funny! I remember the nephews...