Tag Archives: yeast

Leavened.

Photo on 2016-04-13 at 14.35

Latest loaf, all purpose with some whole wheat and a couple of tablespoons of oat bran, olive oil, molasses as sweetener.

All the years I’ve lived alone, I’ve always kept one of those classic strips of three yeast packets in my fridge. Sometimes it’s been years between attempts to bake with yeast, and sometimes I’ve pulled the packets out to discover they were three years past their use-by date (long even by my loose limits), but they were always a cheap just-in-case item. Well, now I have been baking bread almost every week for a year and more except for the months when it was too hot to turn on the oven, so a few weeks ago I went to the supermarket to pick up another Fleischmann’s three-pack. “$2.79?” I thought. “Really?” I looked at the shelf label and it told me that the unit price was $59.39 per pound (or something like that). Hmph! snorted I to myself, I know that the price for a full pound from (say) King Arthur isn’t anything like fifty-nine dollars. Key Food didn’t have any full pounds to check this, but Whole Foods, when I was lured in there by Z a day or two later, did. Price per pound? $5.39. That is, buying yeast in packets raises the price tenfold. Which is perfectly acceptable if you use one packet a year for three years, but not if you’re baking every week.

Canny Brooklyn shopper that I am, however, I waited till my next trip to Sahadi’s, where I found four different kinds of bulk yeast and got a pound of SAF Blue Label for $4.25. And look how dynamically my latest loaf rose! I always trust Sahadi’s for fast turnover, so I don’t doubt this is the freshest and happiest yeast I’ve ever had; and I am not tempted to skimp on it, but can dip my teaspoon luxuriously.
Photo on 2016-04-13 at 14.31
Let me know if you want to share my pound of yeast. I figure I have six or eight more loaves till summer, by which time my investment will already have paid for itself,  and then I’ll move the package from the fridge to the freezer for the hot months.

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Old ways and new ways

Bread-baking season started again in October, when it finally got cool enough to have the oven on (although it remains, in mid-November, unseasonably mild). I made a satisfactory couple of loaves following Mark Bittman’s easy (food processor-kneaded) sandwich loaf process. I varied the flours, sweetener, liquid, and fat each time, and made no detailed notes, but I am getting a better feel for the texture of dough at each stage and for the shaping of loaves.  I get nice flavor and a pretty good, well-knitted texture in a bread that can last me a week of skinny slices. It turns out that watching the rise timings helps. With those two successes behind me, I attempted a much more complex recipe for French loaves found in BAKING WITH JULIA, edited by Dorie Greenspan. I started with old dough, saved from the previous week’s baking, waking it up with a little water the night before. This went into a first starter, which then made a second starter, which then went through two long rises before shaping and final rise.  The dough looked great, stretchy with big and small holes, through the second starter and even the first rise, but the second rise almost didn’t. The dough had become almost inert, seemingly.  I shaped two small baguettes, following the instructions rather impatiently — it was now eight o’clock on the second day, or twenty-four hours into the process. Maybe they should have rested longer than an hour, but I was out of time.  So into the oven they went. And there was enough oven spring to make the two sad, poorly formed logs burst and bulge out in various directions, but not enough to make the texture less than leaden. Well, whipped lead. Still edible, but dense and somewhat gummy. Rather than developing a crisp brown crust, they had the mottled look of a redheaded glassblower. Continue reading

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Pans and parchment.

C’est à dire, more baking.  That lemon-almond cake came out tasty but a bit dry, though it had both a dose of syrup and a layer of icing.

As for yeasty things, I’ve shifted for the last three loaves for a variation on Mark Bittman’s food-processor, brief-knead, slightly extended-rise recipe (in HOW TO COOK EVERYTHING, though using a warm liquid as suggested by the Fleishmann’s site (a mix of water and almond milk) and continuing to vary my flour mix with rye, buckwheat, whole wheat, and oat flour, flakes, and bran, alongside all-purpose.   I kind of miss the kneading, so I may move back to that, though it’ll mean keeping the mix a little drier than I have made the last couple of batches.  The crazy thing is that they all come out pretty similar in terms of texture, soft and with a fairly tight sandwich-bread crumb.

Today I made these chocolate gingerbread bars.  I don’t have “pumpkin pie spice” so I used a teaspoon of cinnamon and a quarter-teaspoon or so each of clove, allspice, and nutmeg along with the ground ginger, I used lowfat yogurt instead of sour cream, and I put the melted butter in with the wet ingredients (no instruction is given for it).  They are actually delicious, or so I think.  Let’s see what the Sacred Harp gang thinks tonight at Midweek singing. And I’m all out of brown sugar.

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Battering.

I’ve been doing a good bit of baking: I have the time, it warms the kitchen, and a perhaps illusory sense of productiveness is inspired.  Well, not illusion exactly: the baked goods exist; but they’re not really to the point. Nevertheless, they are tasty. I’ve made several batches of the Ranger Cookies (with, variously, raisins and nuts, dried cranberries, chopped crystallized ginger, and chocolate chips) and a version of Nanaimo Bars with a brownie base, averting the need to buy graham crackers and adding, perhaps, extra deliciousness.  I’ve worked my way through some of the bananas in the freezer with a couple of loaves of banana bread.  I made lemon cornmeal shortbread cookies that came out really nicely and now I can’t figure out what recipe I used. I bring the results to my singing friends.

I’ve been baking bread every few days too.  Nothing artisanal, but various off-white sandwich loaves that have a little oil in them so they’ll keep.  One loaf had whole wheat, bread flour, and all-purpose; one had buckwheat, bread flour, and ap; another added some rye; some have had poppy, sesame, and (or) sunflower seeds; the latest has oat flour, a couple of tbs of oat bran, and all-purpose.  Sweeteners have included honey, sugar, and molasses. The first couple I made from the ancient Broccoli Forest book with its comic-book instructions.  Then I realized that (a) I had instant yeast, requiring different treatment, and (b) that recipe had led me to very dry doughs, especially in winter and using hygroscopic whole grains, difficult to knead and resistant to rising.  At the Fleishmann’s Yeast page I found instructions about the different kinds of yeasts — instant yeast doesn’t get proofed, but mixes in with the dry ingredients — a skeleton recipe calling for just one short rest and one in-pan rise, and more.  I’ve been trying out keeping the dough wetter, and remembering to add more salt.  The loaves are mostly pretty good, nothing to win a prize but modestly well-textured and tasty.

Today I used four lemon-almond cake recipes (mostly this one) to make a cake to take to dinner at my friends Eric and Sylvia’s. Haven’t tasted it yet, but it looks pretty.

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