Saturday, March 18, 2006

Out and about...

... not doin' nuthin special.

Susan takes a blog break to make bridesmaid dresses and a (beautiful!) quilt.
Samara takes a blog break and- gets married!
Jessica takes a blog break, and... doesn't do anything much. I've sewn a bit; a skirt for my mom, a shirt and a skirt for myself, a jumper and a skirt for my sister... Planned more things for spring wear... And I'm ever learning about starting/managing/advertising a home business... But I haven't even tried any new recipes! Well, I take that back. I think in the time I've been away I did manage to try a couple of bread machine recipes.

I did a spelt loaf that rose so high, it doubled the height of the pan! Forget the whole "one inch above the top of the pan" thing. This was so high and light and yummy! And I did a spelt-oat bread which had a wonderful flavor. Oh, and a multi-grain loaf made from 10-grain cereal, whole wheat, spelt, and barley flours.

Our bread machine pan is an odd size that makes for a short, tall loaf. Yes, short and tall. : ) Short in length; tall in height. So instead of baking in the machine, I've found that a more managable loaf can be produced if I do the dough in the machine as if I were going to bake in it, and then after the dough is "punched down" (check your instruction manual for this time and set another timer accordingly) I remove it from the machine and shape it, then place it in my regular greased loaf pan. Then I put this pan in the middle of our toaster oven (turned off of course, with the rack removed) and heat two coffee cups of water in the microwave for about a minute. I put the cups on either side of the loaf pan in the toaster oven. With the door closed, this makes for a perfect little bread dough greenhouse. I set a timer for the loaf to rise the amount of time it would have risen in the machine (again, check your instruction manual for your machine's times), minus 10 minutes. When the timer goes off I preheat the regular oven for 350*. Then once the oven has preheated, or ten minutes have passed since the timer went off (or whenever the bread has sufficiently risen!), I -carefully!- place the loaf in the oven, being sure not to jar the pan, and set a timer for about 40-45 minutes. Some breads take longer to bake than others, but I like to check on them all at about 40-45 minutes. Whenever I can smell the bread and the top is nicely browned I take it out of the oven to check on it. The loaf should sound hollow when tapped, and a meat thermometer is helpful to determine if the loaf is actually done. A thoroughly baked loaf of bread should have an internal temperature of at least 200*, and the thermometer should rise to this temperature quickly. If it's not quite done, just another 5 to 10 minutes in the oven is usually sufficient.
Once the bread is done and out of the oven I place it on a wire rack and butter the top crust. Then... here's my super-secret secret for a soft crust: (you ready?)
Wrap the loaf in a dry tea towel (one with no fuzzy terry cloth). Then wrap the loaf again, this time with a slightly damp tea towel. (I dunk a folded towel briefly in clean water and wring and wring until it's damp but not wet.) Then take a fuzzy terry towel and wrap the loaf again. Now place this wrapped-up bread baby back on your wire rack. The steam created in this method allows the crust to soften while it cools. Keep the loaf wrapped until the bread has cooled, which can take up to several hours. Then, and only then, you may slice your bread. Cutting the bread while it is still warm leads to hard, crusty slices.


Blogger Sabine said...

Can you post some pictures of your sewing projects? I am slowly making a sundress/jumper for one of my granddaughters. I would love to see pictures of your projects!

I gave one of my aprons to my elder daughter and she just loves it. She checked the site link I had sent her and noticed there were no more for sale. Are you still making aprons?

Nice to see you posting again. Your bread sounds yummy! You live with your parents, don't you? Do you bake for the whole family?

3/19/2006 1:43 PM  
Blogger Samara said...

Wow, your bread recipe has me watering at the mouth! One of these days (or weeks... or months) I will really have to try baking bread other than pizza dough :)

3/19/2006 2:01 PM  
Blogger Susan said...

You are so adventurous with your cooking experiments! I'm jealous how much you've experimented with various grains. I mainly stick to wheat myself :).

I want to try your "secret" ;) method for soft crusts. Would it work the same for rolls, do you think? Our whole wheat rolls are so soft and chewy warm, but harden as they cool.

3/19/2006 9:02 PM  

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