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Because crazy isn't enough: undertaking the BBA challenge; #1 - The Fucking Bluebird of Goddamn Happiness [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Zoethe

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Because crazy isn't enough: undertaking the BBA challenge; #1 [Dec. 6th, 2011|07:23 am]
Zoethe
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I do love my sourdough bread, but baking it has become so simple and automatic that I feel like I'm getting rather lazy. There are many lovely, wonderful breads out there that I haven't been learned to bake yet. But randomly baking breads didn't seem like a practical method of building my baking skills.

I am not alone in this desire to develop and hone good bread baking skills. A whole group of bakers have undertaken a challenge to bake all the breads in Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread -- and impressive and detailed book featuring 44 different breads, plus the possibility of a few adaptations. The people who first cooked up The Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge years ago have, many of them, completed all the breads and written quite entertainingly about them.

As is often the case, I'm coming quite late to the game. But a good idea is a good idea, so today is Bread One. The original idea was to bake through the book in order, one bread a week. My goal will be to finish by the end of next year. I'm getting a bit of a head start, but I'm not going to try for a new bread every single week. For one thing, some of the breads are holiday breads, so I'm going to aim to match those to feasts. For another, I can't ignore my poor sourdough! Shelob* needs to be baked with at least every week or so. There's only so much bread one couple can eat (though I have noticed that if people are coming over, getting through a bread is not really much of a problem).

A couple quick notes on the book. First, the breads are arranged in alphabetical order, which doesn't really fit into the mindset of building on a set of skills, but the first third of the book is all about technique, so if you are undertaking recipes here you would be wise to read that through before getting started. Second, I will not be including recipes because, unlike a recipe here or there from an assortment of cookbooks, this would be far too many recipes taken from a single source and that's stealing.

So here we are, on week one, Anadama bread. It's a wheat and cornmeal bread sweetened with molasses, supposedly of New England origin. Ferrett, being from New England, immediately confirmed that he had never, in fact, heard of such a thing. Oh, well, who knows.

One of the things you quickly learn about making artisan breads is that if you get up bright and early to start them on the morning of baking day, you are quite likely already too far behind to finish them that day. Artisan breads often take at least two, and occasionally three, days of preparation. Now, this doesn't mean that you are slaving over them for hours at a time every day, but it does mean that you had better read your recipe at least a day in advance and make sure there isn't some kind of preferment that needs to be started the night before. In the case of Anadama bread, that initial start is to soak the cornmeal in water overnight. Easy enough!

The rest of the dough was quite straightforward the next morning, the water, yeast, and half the flour going into a sponge for an hour, then the remaining ingredients and time for kneading.

I knead all my dough by hand. Even though I am the proud owner of a Kitchen Aid mixer, I love the feel of dough and the way it changes under my hands as the gluten forms. It's a matter of preference, but I'm a hands-on gal.

I was worried that the dough wouldn't rise well with the cornmeal in it, but it doubled nicely on the first rising. The dividing of the dough called for two 5"x9" pans, and stated that half the dough could be put aside in the fridge for a day or two. I baked one loaf in the 9"x5" pan, but I think I will use a smaller 8.5"x4.5" pan for the second as it rose pretty well on the proofing rise but didn't really fill the pan. And I got NO oven spring on it whatsoever.

The final result:



Though the loaf tested as completely done, it fell a bit as it cooled. The crumb was pretty even:



A little dense at the bottom, but not bad.

What really matters, though, is the flavor. I was a bit skeptical going in, but I have to say that this was delicious. It would make an excellent substitute for cornbread, and was tasty enough that I could see it being served as the special bread at a nice restaurant, and if we are having company it would be fun to bake individual breads in miniature loaf pans. We had friends over this evening, and there is only about 2" of the end of the bread left.

I'm glad there is dough for a second loaf in the fridge.

I went into this regarding Anadama bread as kind of a throw-away first loaf in the book. I figured I'd make it this once and be done with it. But as it turns out, this is an easy and delicious bread, and I will definitely be making it again. I think it might do well as a whole wheat bread, too. Bottom line is, a winner with which there will be more experimentation.

*When jumping up from bed at 11:30 at night because I realized I'd forgotten to feed the sourdough, I muttered in a Golum voice, "She needs...to feed. She's always hungry." And in that moment named my wonderful sourdough starter Shelob.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: rain_herself
2011-12-06 12:43 pm (UTC)
I may have to get that book. I just started baking my own bread a few weeks ago, and it's been sort of amazingly happy-making and yummy and nurturing so far. I've only tried one recipe, which is awesome, but I'm still working out the kinks to get it consistently right. They've all been edible, but I think I'm probably not as familiar with all the small tricks (like when and how much to knead) as I should be to get it to rise really well.

Do you think that'd be a good book for a beginner?
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-12-06 01:06 pm (UTC)
I do think so, though it might seem a little intimidating at first. But read through it carefully and I think you'll love it!
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[User Picture]From: inaurolillium
2011-12-06 12:55 pm (UTC)
Unless Ferrett's mom or grandmother or someone was a baker, given his age, he wouldn't have heard of a lot of the traditional breads in New England, since most of them weren't produced commercially during his childhood. That's part of the reason for the return of artisan breads now: so many of them, like so many heirloom recipes and produce varieties, were disappearing.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-12-06 01:06 pm (UTC)
Oh, I don't doubt the place of origin, it was just amusing.
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[User Picture]From: ba1126
2011-12-06 01:58 pm (UTC)
My hubby and I grew up in New England and still live here. I'd HEARD of Anadama bread, but never had it until my hubby baked it.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-12-06 05:06 pm (UTC)
It's pretty tasty. Just had the second-to-last slice, and am glad there's another loaf worth in the fridge.
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[User Picture]From: horizonchaser
2011-12-06 02:05 pm (UTC)
Oh yum! I'd been making that bread in a low pan like a corn bread on Saturdays years ago, my husband's father was all about it. His mother used to make it in a skillet, way back in the '20s and '30s. The recipe I had was updated, it had sunflower seeds in it.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-12-06 05:08 pm (UTC)
I have seen some multi-grain ones mentioned, and make have to give that a shot at some point. It's tasty stuff!
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From: anonymousalex
2011-12-06 02:29 pm (UTC)
At the risk of jinxing something, can I say that a good part of why I like this idea is that it'll lead to regular journal updates? :-)

Plus, mmmm, bread.

-Alex
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-12-06 05:09 pm (UTC)
Regular journal updates are, in fact, a Very Good Thing. I'm gonna try!

Plus, bread.
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[User Picture]From: halfmoon_mollie
2011-12-06 02:36 pm (UTC)
I actually bought a copy of this book - I certainly can't imagine why. I have neither the room, nor the tools, to be able to do artisan breads. (So, I make up my own!)

I love your bread posts, though. I make bread on the weekends (and by request) and it is a labor of love, for sure.

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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-12-06 05:11 pm (UTC)
It actually doesn't take that many tools. I get by without all the fancy bannetons and couches by using the tea-towel-lined mixing bowl method. And while there are some exotic ingredients, most are pretty straightforward.
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[User Picture]From: walkertxkitty
2011-12-06 10:34 pm (UTC)
We've been experimenting with cookies, pies, and breads. Some of them come out edible and some do not. I haven't started my own sourdough slip, but I intend to do so as soon as I find an appropriate container.

Your bread looks really good.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-12-07 03:00 am (UTC)
The nice thing about experimenting with bread is that with most of them it's, at worst, a couple bucks worth of ingredients for a total failure. And thanks!
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[User Picture]From: stripedsocks
2011-12-06 10:51 pm (UTC)
Oh my, I haven't thought about anadama bread in years. We used to eat it all the time while growing up. I might have to dig out my recipe card for it and make some for myself now!
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-12-07 03:01 am (UTC)
It's yummy stuff, and really not very hard!
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[User Picture]From: stripedsocks
2011-12-07 06:07 am (UTC)
Yep, I made it a couple of times when I was a teenager...must've been under 16 'cause that was when I moved out. Such tasty, tasty stuff.

My mom always told me that the legend about the name of the bread was that a farmer had a lazy wife who wouldn't bake any bread. He baked this bread and told his wife he had some bread, no thanks to "Anna, damnya!"

I, of course, have no idea of how accurate this is. My recipe is passed down from my grandmother. Would you be interested in seeing how our versions differ?
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-12-07 12:29 pm (UTC)
That's pretty much the tale that was related with this recipe, too. And yes, I'd love to see your version!
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[User Picture]From: stripedsocks
2011-12-09 08:40 pm (UTC)
Here we go. I had to dig it out. My recipe card box suffered a fall and I haven't had time to re-sort it yet so it took some doing.

7-8 C. unsifted flour
1 1/4 C. yellow cornmeal
2.5 t. salt
2 pkg yeast
1/3 C. softened margarine
2 1/4 C. v. warm tap water (120-130°F)
2/3 C. molasses

In large bowl thoroughly mix 2.5 C. flour, cornmeal, salt, and undissolved yeast. Add margarine. Gradually add tap water and molasses to dry ingredients and beat 2 minutes at medium speed, scraping bowl occasionally. Stir in enough flour to make a stiff dough. Turn out onto lightly floured board; knead until smooth and elastic, about 8-10 minutes. Place in greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover, let rise in warm place, free from draft, until doubled in bulk, about one hour. Punch dough down, divide in half. Roll each half to a 14x9" rectangle. Shape into loaves. Place in 2 greased 9x5x3" loaf pans. Cover, let rise in warm place, free from draft, until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes.

Bake at 375°, for 45 minutes or until done. Remove from pans and cool on wire racks.



My most successful bread making was a hot summer day when I put the dough in a sun-spot in the living room for the rise time. It was amazing.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-12-09 09:14 pm (UTC)
Very close to the recipe I have. It's yummy!
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[User Picture]From: stripedsocks
2011-12-09 11:44 pm (UTC)
I need a bigger kitchen so I can make bread. My current kitchen does not have enough counter space for rolling out bread dough. *sad panda*
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[User Picture]From: ravenofdreams
2011-12-08 08:07 pm (UTC)
Anadama bread is AMAZING. Also, very New England - but very old traditionalist New England, big in Vermont, New Hampshire, people who pride themselves on Puritan ancestry, etc etc etc. Try it buttered, warm, in the morning with marmalade.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-12-09 09:15 pm (UTC)
Mmm. I will have that tomorrow!
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