Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Molasses and Yogurt Look Pretty Together – A Bread Update

I haven't become a bread master yet, but there has been some definite progress, so I figured it's time for an update. Before I progressed forward though, I went back – back to one of my old favourites.

There's a quick bread recipe in Mark Bittman's endlessly useful book How to Cook Everything which I used to make often, back in the day before I pledged myself to bread-mastery. It's really easy. Perhaps even easier than cornbread, which is saying a lot, as I'm always shocked at how easy cornbread is. But, I hadn't made it for a while, mostly because it calls for molasses, which hasn't found its way into my cupboard in a long time. What brought the molasses back? Orangette's Chocolate Chip Ginger Molasses Cookies (which are so incredibly good, they've totally revived my interest in making cookies – not the point here, but I wholeheartedly recommend them).

Besides molasses, another attractive ingredient in this quick bread is whole wheat flour. I'm always out of white flour and absolutely rolling in whole wheat flour. Which leads me to try sneaking whole wheat into places it doesn't belong. Like in Italian grape bread, one recent bread mission that failed, I think due to my misguided use of whole wheat:

With part whole wheat flour, the grape bread just didn't have the right texture, didn't taste like a fluffy yummy dessert. I actually had to throw most of it out, which is something I never do. So I'm trying to get smarter with my whole wheat flour decisions. Which means finding recipes that actually call for it. Thus, Whole Wheat and Molasses Bread. This bread is dense, richly flavoured, and a tiny bit cakey with a nice crunchy crust. Over the past week, I paired it with chilli, poached eggs and caponata, and plum-orange jam for different meals – all very successfully. So it's versatile too. It's got everything going for it. I've included the recipe at the bottom of the post so you can get in on the action.

Now that we've discussed my bread failures and regressions of the past month, it's time to talk about what I've actually achieved, what I'm proud of.

First, I bought an oven thermometer! And discovered exactly how big of a lie my oven has been telling me for the past 4 years – a hot 100-degree-sized lie, to be precise. Gasp! Now, I dutifully check the thermometer before even thinking of sliding anything in, and I haven't burned one single thing since. Total success. Thanks Martha!

Second (also Martha-related), I attempted to make Multigrain Rolls, from her Baking Handbook. The result: I kind of screwed them up, but they're still delicious! And, I know what to do to make them right next time.

What went wrong? I killed the yeast by using too-hot milk. I was pretty sure that I had done so right from the beginning, but didn't have enough ingredients left to start over again and really wanted to make these rolls. Solutions? I'm going to add to my thermometer collection with an instant read thermometer to test the temperatures of milk and water before I subject my poor yeast to these warm (not hot!) liquids. I also called my sister to relate my yeast-killing woes, and sought her advice of course. She was familiar with my situation and commiserated that it's really easy to overheat milk (yay, I'm not stupid!). So, two new additions to my list of bread-teachings from Tessa:

  • With milk, it's better to err on the colder side. If the liquid is too cold, the bread will still rise, it will just take longer. Slower rising is better than no rising at all, I figure! It's such torture to watch bread fail to rise. I leave the house for two hours and return full of hope, only to be so disappointed upon seeing that sad ball of dough looking just like it did when I left...
  • If you're heating the milk a little less to be safe, it's a good idea to pre-heat the bowl that you'll be mixing the milk and yeast in. This ensures that the milk doesn't loose its heat too quickly. To do this with a stainless steel bowl, just run it under hot water for a few minutes.
Here's what the rolls looked like – not plump but still quite pretty:

My plan now is to try making the rolls again, equipped with this new knowledge. I think one of the things that works against my mission to attain mastery in the kitchen is that I'm always drawn toward experimenting with new recipes and rarely repeat one, at least not soon after enough to be able to build on my experiences. So, I'll restock my ingredients and then make these rolls again. And they will be perfect! Eating the small dense ones of this first batch, I can imagine how heavenly they would taste had they risen – the dough has a wonderful sweet and light flavour despite all of the healthy grains in there (whole wheat flour, oats, oat bran, flax seeds) and they're topped with coarse salt, fennel seeds, sesame seeds, and poppy seeds. This is a recipe it will be worth taking time to master. And speaking of the recipe, I'll post it in my next bread report (hopefully along with photos of a perfectly risen second batch), as this post is already too long – so stay tuned!

In the meantime, here's that quick bread recipe:
Quick Whole Wheat and Molasses Bread
[from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything]
Butter for greasing pan
1 2/3 cups buttermilk or plain yogurt (I used goat yogurt)
2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup molasses

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease an 8 x 4-inch or 9 x 5-inch loaf pan.
2. Mix together dry ingredients.
3. Stir the molasses into the buttermilk or yogurt.
4. Combine the liquid with the dry ingredients, then pour into the loaf pan.
5. Bake until firm and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about an hour. Cool on a rack for 15 min before removing from pan.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I've copied the cookie recipe to try when I get energetic. You are so right about the different flours. They definitely make a difference. Wow, some difference re the oven temperature. If you ever try homemade candy be sure to get a thermometer especially used for candy making as nothing else works as well. It's as big a challenge as yeast bread to make right. Try foccacia bread in your food processor (you use yeast for it). It is quick,easy and deicious.
Happy baking.