Saturday, March 17, 2007

Baking improvements

I have not yet achieved mastery of baking, but recently dedicated myself to improving this lack. One motivator was the fact that we fell in love with the bread we could purchase daily and cheaply in Central Europe during our year abroad. In Paradise, we were fortunate to find a wonderful bakery that provided us with "multigrain basket" bread, a rather good approximation. But there is nothing of the sort here in the Rocket City area. Below is my most recent attempt at a sourdough multigrain loaf. The size, shape, flavor and texture are closer to my aim, but still not quite right.

Actually, the pictured loaf was a bit big. We were used to purchasing 1 kilo loaves in Europe (often half, or quarter loaves). This one weighed in at 1.6 kilos! I've got a sourdough rye loaf rising at the moment, a smaller one. We'll see how that turns out. The difficulty is in making a free-form loaf that doesn't fall flat. It needs enough density to hold its shape without becoming a brick.

And, below, this morning's crop of apple-banana-mango pancakes (served with Articulate's homemade mango and strawberry jam, of course). Don't worry, we had ample leftovers to put away.

Again, this is a not-quite-perfect creation. The boys adore pancakes. Part of my aim is to get more fruit into #1. While #2, at 2 years old, is still content to eat just about anything, #1, at 4;11, attaches himself to certain rather arbitrary refusals. He loves mangoes, but won't touch apples or bananas these days (unless they're disguised). I've taken to blending up the fruit and mixing it in with the batter. I've created some delicious but rather mushy results, realizing that the proportions are not quite right. Today's included about 1/2 cup each of chopped apples, mangoes, and bananas (blended it comes to just over 1 cup total), two eggs, 3 cups of flour, 2-1/2 cups of milk, 2 tbs. baking powder, and 1/4 tsp. of salt. Good, but I still want to do better. I could probably reduce the baking powder to 1.5 or even 1 tbs. But I'm not sure what other adjustments to make. Any thoughts?


Lilian said...

Yummy yummy yummy again!

Breena Ronan said...

Your loaf looks really yummy but I have to ask, have you tried the "no-knead bread" that became was so popular around Christmas? I have made a partially whole wheat type several times now and I think it works out really well. I may cook all my bread in a covered dish at high heat from now on.(I couldn't tell from your post what you didn't like about your loaf. It looks perfect to me.)

ArticulateDad said...

Hi Breena,

Thanks for the vote of approval. That loaf was a bit dense, to be honest, though, as you say, it looked perfect. And, the flavor was a bit flat. I think that was mostly the result of having diluted my sourdough starter by converting a liquid starter to a stiff starter, in the way that I did.

I will say the two loaves I've made since seem to be much better. The first a sourdough-rye finished on Sunday night is nearly gone. I made another loaf yesterday, cut it open, and it looks great. But I haven't tasted it yet (willpower, eh?). I'll post some photos as soon as I can. I could even post my modified recipes (based on "The Bread Bible" by Rose Levy Beranbaum, but my understanding is wild sourdough is rather persnickety, and varies greatly from locale to locale. So what works for me great here, might not work for you (or me) anywhere else.

I'll try to keep up the domestic posts however. It's part of my life.