Abject failure and banana bread

I haven’t been keeping up my baking posts! My new hobby hasn’t gone away. Here are some of my recent adventures in baking:

I had a bad run of underdone breads. I was trying wheat breads, and lower temperatures, and it just wasn’t working out. You can see how heavy this one is.

Loaf14

And another bust – check out the doughy center of this loaf. It was barely edible. I took a break from baking after this.

Loaf15

Loaf15crumb

Then, while house-bound on a particularly slow Saturday, I decided to go back to crispy white breads and try again. I mixed a large batch of dough with good bread flour, a little extra salt, and some olive oil, agave, and rosemary. I gave it plenty of time to rise. I determined to bake at 450° again. Unfortunately it flattened during the final rise and got folded on the way into the oven, and turned out looking like a giant croissant:

Loaf16

Silly shape aside, this was by far the best bread I’ve made! It had a crispy crust and a perfect bubbly crumb. The rosemary and salt helped create a nice robust flavor. I was glad it was a large loaf, it was a staple in our house for a couple of days. I’m also learning that a teaspoon of oil in your dough goes a really long way as a preservative.

The rosemary-mega-croissant was baked on a new baking stone my wife ordered. She also got a stoneware loaf pan for me to try, so I tried a white bread in the loaf pan. It was okay – a little like a fluffy salt cracker. I’ll probably use this pan next time I try wheat bread, since it can take a wet dough and might bake through better.

Loaf17

I also made a perfect vegan chocolate chip banana bread in my new loaf pan. Maybe it… disappeared… before I could reach the camera. I wish I had taken before-and-after photos though. As batter the pan was only half-full, but it rose so well that it blossomed over the top.

I do feel my intuition improving. I didn’t use a recipe for any of these breads, except for the banana bread where I cherry-picked ingredients from two different recipes. Next I’ll either make the banana bread again, or try to recreate the rosemary bread. It’s a pleasant rainy day in Seattle – I think I need to make some good soups to go with these breads.

Loaf #13

This is my least attractive, most delicious bread so far.

I thought I had a disaster on my hands. My dough was too wet and wouldn’t shape. I lost about half of it trying, because it stuck to everything. At my wife’s behest we baked it anyway, and it flattened out into this focaccia-esque round. The flavor is good and the crumb is spongy.

This is 1/3 whole wheat flour and 2/3 all-purpose, with a drizzle of agave mixed in and a little olive oil and salt on top. Prep time was about six hours.

2014-02-16 Loaf 13 web

2014-02-16 Loaf 13 crumb web

Loaf #12

This loaf, all whole wheat flour, is a quick bread (about 3 hours of prep). It turned into a pretty good sandwich bread, though the crust was tougher than I’d like. I think the whole wheat calls for a lower temperature and softer crust. The whole loaf ended up a bit flat – it fell in the middle of the final rise when I tried to move it. Oh well.

Also pictured is an exciting gift from my sweetheart this Valentine’s day – a bamboo pizza peel for sliding my bread into the oven! It worked beautifully. Thanks honey!

Loaf12

Loaves #10 and #11

My first attempts at wheat bread came out of the oven looking pretty, if a little unusual. Imagine my disappointment when I cut into the loaf and discovered the center was totally uncooked! It happened to both loaves. Alleson had me put one back in the oven, and we sort of salvaged it, but on the whole it was not a great batch.

I’m not sure what went wrong. At the moment I suspect either wheat dough behaves differntly than I expect, or my dough was too dry, causing the outside to bake too quickly. Oh well – time to try again!

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