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