Monday, December 29, 2008

On Bread

There are some smells in this world that are unbeatable. Fresh chocolate chip cookies. Roast turkey. Roast beef. Hell, just about roast anything. There's undoubtedly a smell from mom's kitchen that you wish you could capture in a bottle.

But universally, there's the smell of fresh bread. Be it naan in India, baguettes in France, soda bread in Ireland, rye in Russia, or the smell near the Wonder Bread factory in the US, there's nothing quite like the smell of fresh baked bread.

So I'm incredibly happy having a breadmaker on indefinite loan at my place. Sure, I'd like to mix and knead the dough by hand before shaping the loaf and placing it in the oven, but there's no way I'd be able to wake to that smell in the morning if I had to do it that way.

But every silver lining has a dark cloud. In this case, it's a very small cloud that's a lightly tarnished silver instead of dark. Recipes.

The Black & Decker breadmaker I have has a limited number of recipes supplied that cover a wide gamut of bread types. All of them work quite nicely. To expand on this though, one need turn to other source. Enter Bread Machine Magic. A book I picked up for my friend but somehow stayed with me. It has page after page of bread recipes. Some require sourdough starters, others require exotic ingredients, but most are variations on a theme. The problem is - they don't seem to be quite right.

The bread comes out fine. It's a good colour, good texture and consistency, and good size. The problem lies in the flavour. I've only made a couple loaves from the book so far, but both suffered from not quite going far enough.

The egg bread was good, but lacked the sweetness I was looking for. Looking back, the texture might have been a bit off too. The Challa my friend made (by hand) for Christmas was pretty much the exact flavour and texture I was looking for in the egg bread. So now I must look to replicate this. I suspect more egg and more sugar might be required.

The herb bread I made this weekend looks good, but suffers from lack of herb flavour and an annoying onion undertone. This may be a result of stale dried herbs, or not enough of them. The onion is understandable (1/2 cup of chopped onion sautéed for a 1.5 lb loaf), and is probably the right amount... if the herbs were more pronounced. So more adjustments need be made.

And of course, there's that big part of me that wants to say "fie!" to recipes in toto. That's the part that will get me researching what exactly makes a bread machine recipe differ from a hand-made recipe. The bread machine books claim their recipes are specially designed for machines... I question the veracity of this statement. I shall endeavour to divine proportions, weights, measures, and means in the creation of these breads, and create based on my findings.

After all, if I screw up, it's what... $0.30 worth of ingredients? $1.20 if eggs are involved.


Shrike said...

You have to mention bacon. My sister, a staunch vegetarian, confesses to weakness when that aroma wafts by.


Astin said...

True. Mmmmmmm.... bacon.

OhCaptain said...

I use my break maker quite often to start certain doughs. I've use a lot to make buns and dinner rolls. Fresh bratwurst buns are fantastic - with fresh grilled brats in them, but you might have notice that pan isn't quite bun shaped.

Pizza crusts work great too. It does all the kneading and rising and kneading for you yet, again, it's not quite pizza shaped.

Hands free dough making.

Quick breads are great too. My family is big fans of a banana chocolate chip bread. If you try it, I suggest the mini chocolate chips.