I recently discovered virtual baking (and cooking) groups. A “host” picks a recipe or a type of food challenge and posts it on his/her blog based on a regular schedule. Then all the members of the group use the recipe or challenge as a starting point, posting afterwards on their own blogs. The participants share their posts and their experiences through links on the host’s blog and by tweeting under the same hashtag. Each group has its own rules, typically provided on the host’s site. Sometimes there are competitions and prizes, but not in every group – some are just for fun.
The first group I found was #charcutepalooza, a year-long challenge centered on salting, smoking and curing meat. Although the concept intrigued me, I was late to the party, discovering it in its last month, December 2011. Besides I’m not much for making bacon or grinding my own sausage.
Just after the new year, I found a group that better suited me – #baketogether. Started by baker and cookbook author Abby Dodge, it is just for fun and has few rules. The group is about 6 months old, but I felt as though I could jump in now. (I bought Abby’s book, The Weekend Baker, several years ago.) When I post my #baketogether results, I’ll link back to her site for the recipe, with my own commentary and pictures.
This month the #baketogether recipe is a boule or round bread using quick yeast. From start to finish, it took me less than 3 hours. During most of that time the bread is either rising or baking, so it’s an ideal project if you’re around the house for other reasons. Laundry, anyone? Although the recipe calls for using a heavy stand mixer with a dough hook (makes it much easier to mix and knead the dough), you can make the bread by hand.
I had not made a yeast bread in decades and was a bit intimidated at first. But this recipe is easy and there was no pressure. So I decided to take my own advice and be brave. As I’ve learned so many times, anticipation of failure is no way to begin. So I got myself in a positive frame of mind and started out. Even with a few moments of doubt along the way, I enjoyed the experience and we’re eating the bread at a fast clip.
For specific amounts of ingredients and preparation steps, see Abby’s recipe.
I used a combination of “white whole wheat” and white bread flour. White whole wheat , made by King Arthur, is healthier than regular white, but not as heavy as whole wheat. My proportions were 1-to-2: i.e. 5 ounces of white whole wheat and 10 ounces of bread flour. Bread flour has more protein/gluten than all purpose flour and helps a yeast bread to rise. The extra protein makes the bread chewier than if all purpose flour is used. Given that I found my version too chewy for my taste, next time I’ll use little or no bread flour in this recipe.
Comments on preparation
- I weighed my flour instead of using a cup measure, because weighing is more accurate. Then I poured my weighed flour into measuring cups and found that it was about 3 ¼ cups, not the 3½ cups called for in the recipe. (A digital scale might be more accurate, but I love my old fashioned, no-batteries, unbreakable one.) I figured that the difference in measurement allowed me to lightly flour my work surface and my hands without concern that I was adding too much flour to the recipe.
- Mixing the dry ingredients together is pretty straightforward.
- Adding warm water to the dry ingredients – The risk of ingesting lead from water, is higher if you use warm tap water than cold. Therefore, I microwaved cold water for about 1½ minutes on high (checking the temperature with an instant read thermometer as Abby suggests) rather than using hot tap water.
Amazed that I managed to get this shot by myself without ruining the camera or the dough.
- My dough and water didn’t mix completely at the medium-low speed (Moment of doubt #1. Note to self – don’t be so quick to see looming disaster.) The mixing finished quickly once I raised the mixer speed to medium. (Thank goodness!)
Keep the faith!
- My dough was quite sticky when I removed it from the mixer bowl – what a mess! Be sure to dust your hands with flour and to have a lightly floured clean surface or plate ready to accept the dough, because you can’t hold it while you grease the mixing bowl.
- My “dough rising spot” was next to a warm (but not hot) radiator.
Before bread rises the first time.
Choose someplace without drafts.
After the bread rises the first time.
Before bread rises the second time.
- If you don’t have a brush to “paint” on the melted butter, use a paper towel or your fingers.
So far, so good.
Just before the bread went into the oven.
- Baking – The top of my bread got quite brown after just 30 minutes.
I know my oven temperature is accurate & you can’t see the sides of the bread as it cooks.
To prevent the top from burning, I covered it loosely with tin foil for the last 10 minutes. The sides of my bread do not look as brown as Abby’s (or those of other participants) and I’m wondering if I should have let it bake for longer than 40 minutes.
My bread did not have a hard crust and was relatively chewy. The flavor was slightly sweet, probably due to a combination of the sugar and the white whole wheat flour. Overall, I liked the bread, though I would have preferred it less chewy. (Using all purpose flour, as the recipe called for, instead of bread flour, should make it less chewy.) In any event, lightly toasted the next morning, my version was really good.