Recipe techniques

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Joined: 24 Jan 2010, 23:23

Recipe techniques

Post by ChrisGreaves »

I do not know how you make bread – by hand/machine; powdered yeast/yeast plant; wholewheat/bread flour etc, but when I moved to Bonavista my bread-making was dismal. I have tracked down the problems and thought you might be interested not in my solutions – which are unique to me and Bonavista – but in the method of solution.

I have two principles in cooking, based on my mother’s admonition to “play with your food”, which was her way of saying, “Experiment!”
(1) Every recipe (including your/my bread-making recipe) has a finite number of variable factors: ingredients, amounts, cooking time, oven temperature, rack height, and so on. There may seem to be a great many, but the number is not limitless.
(2) Eat my mistakes. If my bread fails to rise, I can use chunks as a substitute for dumplings in my lunchtime soup. If the loaf overbakes, I can use the six sides of crust for croutons, and use the interior as bread. If all else fails, I can put it out as a huge lump for the birds and enjoy watching them peck away on my back lawn.
Making myself eat my mistakes is a motivation for adjusting the recipe to find an improved method.

(a) Bonavista water is heavily-chlorinated. I knew that the town had a permanent boil-water alert, but thought that this was for stray bacteria. Bacteria did not worry me because I figured that my yeast animals would eat the bacteria for lunch. Once chlorination dawned on me, I started boiling the tap water and my bread improved. An obvious step then was to harvest rain-water from the roof (and that led to my large-scale harvesting of rain-water for all my non-bathing needs)

(b) Bread-rising was very slow until my first electricity bill came in alongside a heating-oil bill for $800, at which time I closed off all but two rooms. Cabin-living for me! Then it dawned on me that the kitchen had no heating, so I thought to bring my yeast-animals en dough out of the 7c kitchen into the 20c living-room. Better rising.

(c) My recipe and method for baking bread had been working for seven years in downtown Toronto, so I knew that the ingredients/mix was OK. My latest experiment is to mix the dough first thing in the morning, leave it for most of the day in the living-room, then mix it again (the kneading process) and set it out to rise overnight. My fear of it over-rising and hence over-flowing was eased by putting the loaf-pan on a large, rimmed baking-tray – easy enough to rinse off put out for the birds if an accident did happen.
There is more, but you get the idea; I changed one variable at a time to push forward towards a decent loaf
I am now back in the habit of a 24-hour schedule for bread-making. The dough I mixed Tuesday morning rose overnight and went into a 350c oven Wednesday morning. Another perfect loaf (whole-wheat Bread and multi-grain bread flour) AND my kitchen was warmed up somewhat in the process.

My message is “List as many factors as you can, then try changing them, but change only one at a time, to isolate the causes of failure factors that lead to success.

Cheers and Munchies
We hate change, but love variety.