Thursday, January 15, 2009

"Give Us this Day, Our Daily Bread"

"You can be killed or seriously injured if you don't follow instructions." With these words I began to learn about our wedding present, a new Kitchen Aide stand mixer. It sat unused for nearly a year. My wife used it first. Each subsequent year it got more usage. We recently celebrated our 10th anniversary and I've been eyeing the meat grinding attachment. But bread dough is where the action is coming from.

Friends less enthusiastic about food than myself (nearly everyone) tell me about how unforgiving baking is, especially measurement. I also hear about the time demands, i.e. an hour to rise, 30 minutes to rest the dough (autolyse), another hour for a second rising. No one's mentioned potential death from a mixer. You'd think death would outweigh inconvenience!

The Mini Chef loves white food, starchy foods in particular: rice, bread, pancakes, french fries. Baguettes were a happy medium. She got her starchy white bread, we got chewy, tasty bread.

I followed Mark Bittman's directions for crusty French bread in How to Cook Everything. It was good, but wasn't fantastic. I couldn't blame the recipe, there were always other issues. Once our house was too cold for the yeast to bud properly (50 degrees). Initially, I didn't pay much attention to the type of flour (bread vs. all-purpose), and yes, I didn't always measure properly.

I started picking up tips from Shirley Corriher's Cookwise. This is the cookbook to go to if you want to learn too much. I love having this as a resource. Her biochemistry background shows. I've learned much about the properties of protein, about gliadin and glutenin, and too much about yeast. I learned that mixing a tablespoon of garbanzo bean flour and a half a vitamin C tablet would bump a batch of dough's protein level, and improve the crispiness of the outer crust. I continued to follow the Bittman recipe, but with these additions and the baguettes were better. Bakewise by Shirley Corriher was recently published, but I'm just not ready.

My latest experiments have been from Amy's Bread, by Amy Scherber and Toy Kim Dupree. Amy's Bread is nearly the polar opposite of Cookwise. Cookwise will tell you in depth about what is happening to the ingredients. Corriher isn't clinical, in fact, her advice is practical and she speaks about baking plainly. She just happens to provide a wealth of background information that is at times intimidating. Amy's Bread is highly prescriptive, detailed and the motivation for instructions aren't always clear. I haven't studied Amy's Bread as I have Cookwise, but I will keep trying, and whenever working with the Kitchen Aide, I'll exercise extreme caution.

No comments: