Tuesday, October 28, 2014

On the Agenda - Baking (and then, some more baking!)

It's that time again when I go on a bit of a baking binge. No, not baking ahead for Christmas; not even for Thanksgiving for that matter. But I will be doing a good bit of baking off and on this week now -as often as I have time and the energy that is -in preparation of the Annual Bazaar that the women of our church here will be running on Saturday, November 1st!

And let me tell you this, I just hope any bread baking I do this week now turns out as good as the Whole Wheat bread I baked this past Saturday but minus all the hassles that were involved in that production!

First off, Friday night, I drove down to Milesburg to pick up my older daughter there and bring her up home here to spend the weekend with me and my next door neighbor -one of her closest friends. She has a walking cast on her leg now but still is not allowed to put ANY weight at all on that leg. (She broke two bones in her left ankle about 6 weeks ago and will be off work, laid up, in essence, for at least 6-8 more weeks with this problem.

She wanted to come up here this weekend because I had said I planned to bake some bread and she wanted to watch me do that so she can get a little more idea of how to go about baking bread.

Normally, it takes me about 4-5 hours from start to finish to make a batch of bread but this time I sure set some records I think in having it take more like 10-12 hours from start to finish!

First off, I had my ingredients all measured out and the first four items in the big bowl I use, just waiting for me to measure out the hot water and pour it in to mix with the butter, molasses, karo syrup and honey and get the butter mixed in and semi-dissolved. But before I do that, I have to measure out 1/2 cup of hot water (between 110-125 degrees temperature), add a pinch of sugar and a pinch of flour to that and mix it up and then, empty in 2 packages of dry yeast and proof my yeast. The water and yeast combination should start to kind of produce tiny bubbles at first and then, rather quickly, those bubble should grow and make the yeast mixture develop a foamy head (like pouring  a beer, you could say and you get a head on the beer) and it should then measure to a full cup of the yeast liquid. Well, in this process on Saturday, the yeast was either no good or just very lazy because it seemed to take forever before it started to form that head and it didn't come clear up to the 1 full cup measure either. More like a little more than 3/4 cup is all the higher it got.

But, I decided to go with what I had and use that. However, before I had a chance to add it to my batter, the foamy head just sort of went "poof" and disappeared taking my yeast mixture then down to the 1/2 cup measure I started with.

Now that really set me on edge because I've never seen yeast proofing where it sort of evaporated on me before. So I called my neighbor who has been baking bread way longer than I have and asked her if she'd ever seen that happen. Well, she said no because she said she never proofs her yeast.

Hmmmm. That surprised me because as I mentioned then to her, it was her younger sister (who is my age) who told me it was always a good idea to proof the yeast. This then surprised my friend because she said "Oh, I didn't know she proofs her yeast!" Well, I was convinced that was who had told me to do that so I held my ground, insisting it was her sister who said that to me.

So anyway, she didn't know if that yeast would work or not and I went back to the business at hand of adding all my flour then to my dough mixture and even getting my mixing bowl all ready to wrap in waxed paper on top with about 7 or 8 tea towels covering the bowl and even wrapping a heavy lap blanket around the bowl too and then, placing it just above my radiator to let the dough rise. (Well, hopefully, it would rise.)

So, there I was worrying about whether this dough would rise so I could bake it and my daughter suggested I go online and look for websites about working with yeast and troubleshooting then. WOW! Turned out to be a good suggestion because I found a website that told me just about anything I'd ever need to know about working with bread dough and yeast!

First off, I learned that if you proof your yeast and the liquid does not double -or as was my case, turn into a liquid product measuring 1 cup -then the yeast is no good and the advice was to pitch that and start the proofing all over with a fresh pack (2 packs in my case) of yeast. SO I did that and this time, that yeast kicked into high gear right from the beginning and in no time, it was up to the 1 cup measure.

The advice also said that you could add this yeast to the dough, even if you were through with mixing in the dry ingredients so I did that too then. After which, I was to add a little more flour and make sure that all got well worked into the dough. And, I did that then but boy, what a job that was to work the yeast and a little extra flour into the dough that was already well mixed! It took me a good 20 minutes of kneading to finally get the dough to the right consistency to let it try to rise then.

And rise, it did! But whether that was due completely to the addition of more yeast and fresh active stuff to boot, or maybe it could have been due to the fact my daughter and her friend, my neighbor, and I then sat down to eat supper while my dough was sitting on the warm radiator doing its thing while I got my mind away from the bread dough and forgot it was rising away till almost 2 1/2 hours had passed!

It did rise up quite nicely so I panned it out and even got enough dough from this to form six fairly even sized loaves to bake! I set the pans with the measured and rolled out dough loaves on my counter, layered on waxed paper and the tea towels as well as the blanket to cover the pans then so the bread could do the second rise.

And while it was doing that, my daughter and I moved into the living room to catch the Penn State/Ohio State football game just past the start of the third quarter. If you saw that game or read anything about it, when we tuned in Penn State was down by 10 points with the score being 17 to 10. But we got really engrossed in the game because Penn State came back after half-time loaded for bear! And they played a great game then that got tied up with about 1 minute to go to the end of the game and that of course, sent them into overtime play. Penn State scored a touchdown and then Ohio scored a touchdown so again, it was tied up and it went into double overtime then! Sadly, Ohio managed to score another touchdown ending the game then with the score being 31-24!

And the whole time we were watching this, my bread loaves were merrily rising away just waiting for me to toss them into the oven and get them baked! My getting my head all wrapped around the football game meant the bread was well overdue then to be baked!

Into the oven it went around midnight and finally, by 2 a.m. Sunday morning, I got the last two loaves baked and out of the oven to cool.

And I have to say, the bread looked terrific!

I looked for a loaf that was maybe a little smaller than the rest and cut a couple slices of it, slathered some good REAL butter on that warm bread and boy, did that ever taste good.

Perfection. Yes, indeed, it was! Nothing beats freshly baked bread sliced with REAL butter on it, watching that butter melt and then, popping it in your mouth.

Simply heaven in my book.

So I ended up by Sunday afternoon -after having cut into two loaves of bread by then with breakfast as well as dinner that I still had 4 really nice specimens of Whole Wheat bread to wrap and put in the freezer and to take to the Bazaar on Saturday.

No, I'm not done yet -as I still have to mix up some Swedish rye bread and pray that I get the same result with that as I did with the Whole Wheat stuff so I will have then, hopefully at least 8 loaves of bread to donate to the Bazaar!

And somewhere in between the bread baking, I have cookies I have to bake too to give to the Bazaar. I'm planning on making Maple and Bacon cookies iced with maple and bacon flavored icing along with Creamsicle cookies too, with orange flavored icing for them too. (Yes, these are what I call "cheater cookies" though as they are both new items I picked up at Walmart to try out and hopefully surprise people who come out for our bazaar by taking them out to the church too. (If you like soft cookies with a little bit of icing on top, try either of these two kinds out -very easy and believe it or not, maple and bacon cookies really do taste sublime!

Live dangerously in the kitchen and give them a try!

Now, off to bed to get some rest so I have enough energy and time to get this baking done!


Travis Cody said...

Colleagues at work are already starting to bring in baked goodies. I do love this time of year!


terri said...

Mmmm... that bread does sound amazing! I remember my mom baking white bread when we were really young, but then she started working outside the home and store bought bread took over and I never really learned the art of home baked bread. The closest I've come is using the store bought frozen kind.

Jocelyn said...

I have no greater weakness than warm, fresh bread with butter melting on it. I maintain that if bread and booze didn't exist, I'd be a tiny little thing instead of the bruiser I am!