Saturday, August 27, 2011

Whole Wheat Boule #2

After some nice feedback and advice from Syd at the The Fresh Loaf forum, I mixed up another batch of the 25% WW bread formula I've been working on.  My only (very small) complaint about the last boule was the crust.  It just didn't stay "crunchy" for long.  As a matter of fact, it lost all of it's crispiness while it was on the cooling rack.  This, I was told, is caused by not driving off enough moisture during the bake; the steam from the inside simply moistens the crust and softens it as the bread cools.  Turns out that I may have done a couple of things to contribute to that...

This batch was exactly the same as the last one i.e., ingredient weights, mixing speed, kneading time, overnight retarded bulk fermentation, etc...  However, I paid particular attention to the proofing of the dough after forming it into a boule.  Every 5 minutes I did the "finger proof test" while the oven was pre-heating so the oven would be ready (this time :) ) when the dough was ready.  I was able to see / feel the changes in the dough over time.  At around 20 minutes, (after poking my finger in the dough) it sprang back slowly while still leaving a small indentation.  This must have been just right because the oven spring for this bread was even better than the last one (that I thought I over proofed a bit).

I also played with the baking temps / times a bit to see if this improved the crust.  I'll get a pic of the crumb up later but I'm sure it's going to be just fine.  I proofed the dough in my $1 proofing basket lined with a textured towel dusted with flour (to get the cool markings)  Neat huh?  :)

Make sure you click on the pic to enlarge it  (the iPhone sure does take awesome pics!)


Here's a shot of the crumb...  tastes great!


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Another Whole Wheat with some changes...

I've actually had 2 whole wheat breads since my last bread baking post.  The "baguettes" were not particularly pretty, but they tasted fine (especially when used as pizza).

The bread after the "passable" baguettes was also 25% whole wheat but at a 75% hydration with a preferment (100% hydration poolish of whole wheat).  Unfortunately, my skill level is nil when it comes to forming any shape when the dough is that sticky.  I ended up with a nasty looking baguette and something more akin to a ciabatta than a batard.  Both took too many tries to form, were most definitely over-proofed and the results reflected it.  In my newbie attempts to date, these were my only two true failures.

Last night I put together a 62% hydration dough using the 25% / 75% whole wheat flour to white.  The fermentation took place in the fridge overnight (around 12 hours).  This was so much easier to form into a boule!  I let this proof after forming for about 40 minutes (while the oven pre-heated).  The finished bread looked wonderful.  This is the only one I've made so far that had a nice oven spring.  I used a combination of normal bake and convection bake at different oven temps  (to control the color of the crust).    Here's what it looked like:

 Now the crumb was, as I expected, somewhat denser than the higher hydration doughs I've made but it was not "heavy" if you know what I mean.  I'm guessing that the addition of the olive oil makes it that way.   While I did steam the oven for 15 minutes or so and sprayed the bread / oven 4 times during the bake, the crust was not as "crunchy" as I thought it would be (although it had a very gentle crispiness to it).  The flavor however was exceptional!
I guess I'll keep working on this particular hydration until I get the hang of handling it.  All in all, I think this one was was my best to date.  I'll stick with a winner for now. :)

Here's the formula (I didn't completely fill out the form, but you'll get the idea:

Sunday, August 21, 2011

What to do with all the bread tests???

Here's some leftover whole wheat I made the other day.  Sprinkled it with some olive oil and garlic powder

Next, top it with some sliced tomato and parmesan cheese
 On top of that, some grated apple smoked pepper jack cheese (outstanding cheese btw), sliced onion and mushrooms

Baked it up nice and toasty...   I have to admit that I basically ate all of it in one shot :)


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

I'm feeling a little better about my progress to date...

Some recent feedback on The Fresh Loaf regarding my "pain rustique" post  (scroll down or click on the following link: )
 PJ's "pain rustique" post
"The uglier the better for Pain Rustique, at least. I think those look rather fantastic. Good job!  ...Your Pains Rustiques look better than mine, and I'm supposed to know what I'm doing..."
I also received the following email...
"Very nice bread. This one is harder than most people think, but yours turned out very nice. I think the strength of your poolish made a major contribution. I was also impressed with your design worksheet. Is this your own creation or is it available somewhere?   Keep up the good work!"
Needless to say, I'm very encouraged by the comments.  Especially from people who have been doing this a while :)

PJ

Monday, August 15, 2011

My first post to a real "Bread Forum"

I put this one up on The Fresh Loaf , a site that certainly appears to be THE definitive place for bread baking enthusiasts: Here's a link to My forum post so you can see the comments if you like.  Otherwise, just take a peek at this:
Since my first attempt at a pain rustique didn't fair well, I decided to give it another shot today.  I mixed my poolish last night (100% hydration) but ended up having to t'fer it to a larger bowl very early this morning (put it in one that was way too small for some reason).  I have to say, the wonderful fragrance that leaps from the bowl when you first remove the plastic wrap from this stuff is just incredible!  Here's what it looked like after 13 hours:
Here's the formula that I calculated based on Hamelman's pain rustique.  I simply typed in my figures into a  "design worksheet" pdf along with my notes.  I guess I got it right considering the end result :)
I proofed 900g of dough in a 8" X 10" X 3" homemade banneton (cost me all of $2).  After 20 min I inverted it onto a peel.   I had trouble scoring (as usual).  The dough, while manageable after the stretch and folds, was still pretty sticky so the knife tugged on the surface of the dough.  Maybe this will be easier after I get my lame this week.  After my pitiful scoring, the dough somewhat deflated...
 
However, after just  10 minutes (at 465F on a stone), it seemed to perk up a bit.  I did pour a cup of hot water into a pan on the bottom of the oven for steam as well as sprayed the top of the loaf and the oven walls (twice).
I continued baking while keeping an eye on the color... at 40 minutes, I decided to take it out.  The internal temperature was 205.  Overall, this one looked the best to me.  No "singing" was heard but there was a lot of nice crackling going on.   (The oval shape somehow got a little distorted getting it from the proofing basket to the peel)
The crumb came out better than any of my other breads.  It smells and tastes great but I'm wondering just what the "bite" of the crumb should be like?  This has some resilience to it; chewy but not tough and it does dissolve in the mouth nicely.  Is it that I'm tasting good bread for the first time or did I screw this up and simply produce bad bread?  :) )
 
Here's a cross-section of an end piece.  The larger air pocket has a bit of a sheen to it.  I've read somewhere this is a good sign?
 One would think that making bread would be relatively easy but I'm learning that's not necessarily the case :) Well, that's about it :)  Thanks in advance for any advice or comments.
Po Jo 
I'll post any interesting comments on this blog (should I actually get any :) )

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Will have to do this again next week...

When I first completed the mixing, I had an extremely wet dough...  I've mixed doughs with 67% hydration but this one was way too wet for something that was supposed to be 69%.  I then realized that I looked at the wrong piece of paper when weighing out the water and added too much.  I figured out how much of an error I'd made and added enough flour to keep the right ratio of flour to water and tighten up the dough.

I thought everything looked and felt pretty good after the stretch and folds and even after I completed the first rising.  I was really encouraged when I checked the proofing of the dough after 30 minutes, it was (I think) actually (for the first time) perfect.  The finger poke test gave me a spring back but still left a small indentation.  Unfortunately, I hadn't pre-heated the oven yet (Ahhh....).  By the time the oven was ready, the dough was definitely overproofed.  It did not look or react the same to a finger poke.  Bummer.

I baked them at 450F on a pre-heated stone and actually ended up with some nice color (different than my other breads) and a good crunchy crust.  The crumb, on the other hand, was denser and heavier than anything I'd made before.  I don't know how to describe it.  The flavor was fantastic (I guess that's the result of the poolish) but to me, the crumb texture was just disappointing (although it's still darn edible :) ).  


Trial and error.  Learn a little more each time.  Back to the drawing board :)  Hopefully, the "alien" bread was better than this :)

PJ

Will try a "Pain Rustique" this weekend...

I'm working with Jeffery Hamelman's "Pain Rustique" dough formula from the book, "Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes".  This particular bread formula calls for the use of a pre-ferment or "poolish" from the French for Polish (as in Poland not Pledge).  A poolish is a 100% hydration meaning it calls for mixing equal parts of flour and water to a batter-like consistency.  A very small amount of yeast (just .2% of the flour weight) is dissolved in the water prior to mixing.  It's kept covered, at room temperature, for 12 to 16 hours.  This is then used as part of a batch of dough. Once it's ripened, it looks like this...
A wonderful microbial dance has taken place overnight and produced a beautiful, bubbly concoction with one incredible aroma!  I can't begin to describe how great this smells. The poolish, so I've read, will improve the "extensibility" of the dough (to be easily stretched without retracting to it's original shape) and add to the flavor of the finished product.

I've been working with batch sizes using around 600 grams of flour (I know how much bread that will make) so, to determine the amount of ingredients needed, it's just a matter of some simple math.

The formula for a 69% hydration dough (like this rustic bread) looks like this...
640 grams flour
442 grams water (the water weight is, duh, 69% of the weight of flour)
12.8 grams salt (or 2% of the weight of the flour)
3 grams (or so) of activated dry yeast (about .5%)

Since my poolish used 300 grams of flour and 300 grams of water (100% hydration), I simply subtracted those amounts from the amount needed for my total batch.  So, I only needed to add 340 grams of flour and 142 grams of water to my poolish, yeast and salt, to make sure the ingredients were proportioned correctly.

Doing everything by weight really makes converting batch sizes very easy.  For instance, Hamelman's formula called for a total batch weight of 17.1 kg, enough for around (22) 1.5 lb loaves of bread. (just a wee bit more than I'd like to make :) )  Since everything is done in % of the weight of the flour used, I simply needed to scale this down to a more manageable batch size.   I've got it rising at the moment in a covered bowl in my oven (my oven, as well as my dough temperatures, are about 78-79 degrees; optimum temps).  I've already done two "stretch and folds" (see my "videos" page) at 20 minute intervals.  I can tell you that, while it's the highest hydration dough I've made to date, it's very manageable (and the aroma is like... wow!)

To be continued...
PJ

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Alien Bread

After we had dinner, I went to get Larry and Jackie's bread out of my car.  While I had it in a paper bag,  I forgot to close it up.   God only knows what the humidity did to the crust :)  This is the first time I haven't been able to analyze a finished bread so it's a little scary.  Like sending a kid off to school on his own for the first time (hopefully not to get eaten)  Well,  maybe it turned out OK.

Larry called it the "Alien Bread".  Darn if it doesn't look like an alien :)  Hmmm... I definitely have to work on my scoring technique.  Will have to buy some razor blades this weekend :)  Using a sharp knife isn't (excuse the pun) cutting it.

Bread was on the next to lowest rack in the oven on a baking stone pre-heated to 450F.  One cup of water was added to a pan on the first rack for steam.  The bread and the oven sides where sprayed with water in the first minute.  Two minutes later, I did the same thing.  Baked it for 15 minutes and lowered the temp to 375F (the loaf was getting a nice golden brown color at the time). Unfortunately, I was afraid it might take longer than normal to bake (and we had to leave by 5pm) so I put back to 400 after about 15 minutes.  The bread baked for a total of 50 minutes.  Color was darker than I would have liked, but it smelled pretty darn good and it seemed like it would have a nice crunchy crust.  Still not getting a lot of "spring" in the oven (although it definitely did spring more than the last one)  so I'll cut down on the proofing time on the next batch and see.


Larry and Jackie and bread... oh my ;)

Mod Larry and Jackie's Bread...

First of all, I made a boule yesterday that came out pretty well at the 60% hydration.  Definitely easier work with.  Had our good friend Joe stop by for dinner and 1/2 of it was gone in no time.  The balance went back home with Joe :)

At about 8:30 this morning, I put together a 63% hydration bread dough:

572 grams flour
358 grams water
3 grams yeast
11 grams salt
2 tablespoons of honey
1 tablespoon of olive oil  (put in the batch 4 minutes into the kneading on "2" on the KA mixer).  Gave it another minute or so until it looked fully incorporated.

At 63%, it was still pretty sticky, but I used the "stretch and fold" technique which seemed to improve the handling fairly quickly (although still very sticky).  Note to self:  buy a bench scraper and see if the local tile place has a scrap piece of granite they might want to part with)


I put the dough in a greased bowl, covered it with a plastic bag, and put it in the fridge before we went out.   Got home around 1:30 and put the whole thing in the oven (that I preheated for about 3 minutes) so it could warm up a bit.

About an hour later, after the boule was formed, I put it into a wicker basket that I lined with a heavily floured linen cloth.  I'll line it properly before I do the next one.  It's now in the oven for proofing.  Since it was still cool to the touch (but apparently active), I'm going to give this an hour before I check it.  Will report back soon.
So everyone knows, the detail I'm putting in these blogs are for me :) so I can remember what the heck I do from batch to batch.   Maybe someone else might learn something from what I either do right or wrong :)

PJ






Wednesday, August 10, 2011

First try with the new mixer

The new mixer is amazing!  I used the same proportions as the last batch and it really made short work of it.  I'm sure I must be handling this dough incorrectly (I'll be researching it) because I'm having a huge problem working with this particular dough (as is evident by my irregularly shaped baguettes).  It's a very sticky / tacky dough.  From what I'm reading, this is not necessarily a bad thing and many recipes call for even greater hydration.  I'll just chalk it up to my inexperience in dough handling / shaping.  They sure make it look easy on the videos though :)   However, I'm going to try another batch with a little lower hydration and see if it makes any difference in the final product.

Despite the irregular shape, this stuff is absolutely delicious!


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

I'm in business!

I completely forgot about this, but my late brother Mickey had purchased this mixer some years ago.  Thank you Lau for reminding me!  It took my brother Lou and I some time, but I finally found it amid the mass of stuff in my Mom's basement.  It was touch and go scary looking in places that have not been disturbed in a long time, but it all worked out.  In addition to this, I stumbled up a small attache case that held some pretty cool documents.  We found my Grandfather's communion certificate from Italy (1884) and his citizen papers from 1927.  Lots of cool stuff I didn't know existed.  We now know the names of our grandfather's parents!  How cool is that?

Anyway, here's a new toy to help with my baking craze :)  It's a 5 quart Kitchen Aid Artisan mixer with all of the blade accessories and 2 stainless steel bowls.  Gonna try it out tonight.

BTW: today's bread was outstanding and a big hit in Brooklyn :)



The Proof is in the Eating :)

OK, this is a slice off the one that was a little "flat" looking.  I was afraid that the crumb (the inside) would be too dense but (with my limited ability at bread baking analysis) I think it looks pretty good.  I had the bread on the next to lowest rack in the oven on a pre-heated (425F) baking tray (one of Martha's products).  I just realized I should have preheated  to 450F.  Oh well...   Just after putting it in the oven, I poured about a 1/2 cup of water into a tray I had on the very bottom rack (to produce steam and form a crispy crust).  Don't think I put enough in though.  While the crust is pleasant to the bite, it's not quite what I was looking for.

 Since these loaves weren't as "big" as my previous loaves, I cut back to 375F after about 20 minutes and gave it another 20 - 25 at that lower temp.    Next time, I'll make sure I set it to the correct temperature initially and leave it a little longer (before lowering the temp).

Here's what it looked like.  Tasted very good...  thought it had better flavor / texture than the last one.

I can see that this not something I'm going to learn to do really well overnight :)




I'm pleasantly surprised :)

Well!  Turns out that the loaves did spring somewhat; one more than the other.  I think the one that spang more was a little smaller and better formed before proofing.  The color of this bread is beautiful...  nice and golden brown.  I'll give it about 1/2 hour and check out the one that's "flatter" and the other will make a trip to Brooklyn (going to see Mom today) :)


Baking Day

The dough I made yesterday evening has been rising in the refrigerator overnight.  It didn't appear to have exactly doubled in size but I think it's fine.  Smells pretty good.

Last night:


This morning:

It actually did start to rise again while I was slowly warming it up.  I gave it close to two hours before I started to work with it.   Not sure how this is going to turn out, but I think the consistency is OK.  It just happens to be much tackier than my other batches and a little difficult to work with.  I probably would have added more flour (I did lightly flour the work area) but decided to leave well enough alone.  I didn't want to work it too much and release too much of the bubbles that have already formed.  I'm aiming for larger irregularly shaped holes.  (or so I think :) )

I formed this batch into two boules, let them rest for about 10 minutes and then tried to shape them into something that's supposed to be a B√Ętard.  Doesn't look like I nailed the formation of them correctly as they look like they're not retaining their shape.  Not sealed right?  Too much water?  I have no idea :)  I'll give them an hour to proof, make my cuts and pop 'em in the oven.  BTW:  the tops were rolled on a damp paper towel and then into a pan of mixed regular and black sesame seed.

 I've let the dough proof for about an hour.  I'm not sure where I went wrong on this but I'm leaning toward over-proofing...  Scoring was not as easy to do as in the previous batch.  In addition, as soon as I scored the top, it just totally flattened out.  So, while it'll taste ok, I don't think I'm going to get the "spring" or the rising of the bread in the early stage of baking.  Worse comes to worse, it'll be a ciabatta :)  I just popped it in the oven.  Also trying something different here.  I'm putting it on a pre-heated baking sheet toward the bottom of the oven.  Not sure how long to give it so I'll have to keep an eye on it.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Time to use the scale...

This is my first attempt at making a dough using weight versus volumetric measurements.  I have an iPhone app called "Ratio" that calculates the amounts needed for various baking recipes.  For bread, it called for a 60% hydration (flour to water).  However, I've read that a 67% hydration is pretty good, so I decided to give that a shot.  What I ended up with was a very sticky mix that was difficult to handle.  I used Reinhart's stretch and fold method.   I don't know,  I didn't think I was making any progress but it did seem to get easier to handle as I went along.  I didn't do it exactly as the video but I do think the end result was OK.

The dough definitely got easier to handle after a while.  I popped it in a bowl, sealed the top with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge.  From what I've gathered, slowing down the fermentation adds to the flavor of the finished bread.

We'll see how this looks in the morning.  It's supposed to double in size.  I'll take it out tomorrow morning and let it warm up a bit (about 2 hours).  Then I'll form this into two "batards".  After looking at a bunch of videos, there's a lot more involved into the forming and cutting of the dough than I thought.  I'll have to post links to some of the videos I've watched.  Pretty amazing :)

Seed Culture: Day Two UPDATE

OK...  I moved the bowl to another location and, well, forgot about it :p  It didn't really look like it was working anyway (may have been too cool because of the A/C? ) I'll try  making a poolish or pre-fermentation soon.


2nd update:  I just realized that, even after 48 hours, there may NOT be any noticeable fermentation activity.  I'll probably start that after I work with the poolish I made yesterday.

Well, nothing exciting to report...  as the instructions suggested, there's not much in the way of bubbling after just 24 hours.  However, it is a little foamy and it's taking on a bit of an aroma.  Tomorrow afternoon, I'll start phase two which simply calls for the addition of more flour and water to phase one's ingredients.  It can take anywhere from one to four days before fermentation causes it to be very foamy / bubbly.  Geez,  for the time involved, this must surely result in a special bread.  Otherwise, why would anyone take the trouble to go through all of this?  :)  Once the seed culture is done, I still have to make the "Mother Starter".

After 24 hours:  The bubbles here were mainly the result of some mixing  (the cream color is mostly poor lighting)

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Starting the seed culture

Here's what I'm doing to make a seed culture for a sourbread dough starter...  It's a pretty involved process but, what the heck, I've got plenty of time :)    Oh, so you know, I purchased a digital kitchen scale from Amazon.  Turns out,  that in order to do make bread precisely, it's best to do it by weight rather than volume.  This makes perfect sense if you think about it....  Here's day one so you can follow along:

28.5 grams or 3.5 tablespoons of flour  (whole wheat, rye or unbleached bread flour)  I'm using unbleached all-purpose so we'll see what happens...

56.5 grams of filtered water (or unsweetened pineapple juice).  I'll explain the reason for the juice option later...

Whisk it all together until all of the flour is hydrated, wrap it in a bowl and leave it at room temperature for 48 hours.  Two to three times (each day of this process), you need to mix the culture in order to aerate it (so it doesn't spoil).  You shouldn't see any activity (bubbling) during the first 24 hours but you'll probably see it in the next 24.  This is what it looked like after mixing on day one:


What is all this doing?  The flour mixture will be fermenting over time.  Various strains of bacteria will metabolize the sugar and convert it into acetic or lactic acid.  This is what gives the "sour" taste to the dough.  Interestingly though, the low pH of the dough inhibits the growth of commercial yeast but allows for the growth of the preferable or "wild" yeast that gives this bread its distinctive flavor.  Geez, I sound like Alton Brown :)

#4 was the charm :)

I felt I corrected everything that I'd done wrong in the previous batches.  In addition,  I ended up with a dough that was pretty "tacky"; something I'd come to learn was actually a good thing  (I'll get to that in my next blog).  The one thing I did differently (than this video) was adding just one teaspoon of yeast.  The more I'm reading,  I think I only need to use enough yeast to get things going.  For future batches,  I'll be slowing down the fermentation process by refrigerating the dough overnight (something that should make for better flavor in the finished product).  For this particular batch,  the dough doubled in around an hour and a half.  I punched it down, flattened it out, rolled in and sealed the corners and formed the boule (or ball) so it had a nice tight "skin".   I let this double in size and lightly scored it (in retrospect, I might have scored it just a little deeper).  I tossed some water into a pre-heated pan before I closed the door to the oven.   I gave the bread 30 minutes at 450F, reduced it to 375F and gave it about 20 min more.  The end result was a fairly dark colored bread (I thought I might have left it in too long) but the crumb, the crust and the flavor were pretty darn good (in this newbie's opinion).  A pat on the bottom yielded a nice drum-like hollow sound.   Nice!  Here's the end result:





I'm now in the process of reading Reinhart's Artisen Breads Everyday.  Tomorrow, I'll post my attempt at starting a seed culture for a sourbread dough.  It's going to take a couple of days, but hopefully, I'll be able to make a whole wheat sourbread dough :)  Looks like I'll be able to keep the starter for a very long time.  From what I've read,  there's a bakery that's used the same one for 100 years :)

The Third Attempt

I started to do a little more research, read more and watched a bunch of videos on bread making.  I stumbled upon one that seemed to remove the mystique from the bread making process.  The emphasis on exact measuring and kneading was dismissed as "not needed" and, since his results were (obviously) good, I was very much encouraged and decided to give this one a shot (with a little tweaking).


I had read that french baguettes went stale very quickly because of the zero fat content.  So, I decided to continue to add olive oil (1 tablespoon) to this batch.  In addition, because I was looking for the darker color, I also added a tablespoon of honey.

All in all, because I staged everything prior to the actual mixing, it all went pretty smoothly.  Unfortunately, when I scored the boule after proofing, I thought I scored it too deeply and the dough seemed to droop...  it appeared to spread out rather than up, so I punched it back down and started over again.   Once again, after the fact, I felt that I should have left it to rise just a little longer.  The other "mistake" I think I made was not leaving it in long enough and taking it out after just 30 minutes.   I went with yet another "recipe" which said to bake it for 30 minutes at 450F and reduce to 375F for 15 to 30 minutes "until golden brown".   I guess I panicked because the bread was coloring so quickly and took it out a little early.   (I also needed to work on what rack to place the bread on in my oven).  Still, I was encouraged by the results and thought that I was finally on the right track.  I really felt that #4 would be much better.  Here's what #3 looked like:


I really can't complain about the end result.  I made a couple of great sandwiches on toasted slices of this and some incredible french toast dusted with powdered sugar and drizzled with maple syrup :) 


The first attempt

My first attempt was a total disaster.  I looked at the first instructional video I found on a YouTube search and followed the instructions (or so I thought).


Unfortunately, I should not have poured the proofed (rapid-rise) yeast directly into all of the flour.  I tried to mix it by hand but it appeared to be way too dry and un-mixable, so I tossed it and tried again.   This time, I left out one cup of the flour, used it to flour my table top and incorporated the balance into the dough while kneading.  Wait a second...  did I count the right amount of cups of flour?  Hmmm... I THINK I did :)  The dough felt a bit mushy and was still sticky (is that OK?) so I added flour until it felt like I thought it SHOULD feel like.  Oh &*%$, !  I didn't add the salt!  (Note to self:  stage the freakin' ingredients before you start) Oh, what the heck,  I added the salt to the dough and kneaded it until it felt like it was all incorporated.   When I was done, I put it in an oiled bowl, covered it with Saran wrap and let the dough rise for almost 2 hours (until it was doubled in size).  Wow!  It looked (and smelled) pretty good after all!  I punched it down and attempted to form it into two loafs (like an Italian bread) and scored it three times across the top.  (Darn.... I should have scored it after the proofing) To be honest,  I was so anxious to get this going,  I didn't wait long enough for it to rise the second time and popped it in the oven (after I brushed some water over the top of the loaf in order to form a crispy crust).   The end result was a rather pale looking bread (not high enough temp or the rack too low in the oven?) with a dense crumb (not a lot of airy bubbles inside).  However, it didn't taste too bad and I managed to turn the leftovers into some incredible garlic / parmesan croutons :)  LIke my Mom would say, if you put good things in, it will taste good :)

Prologue

So there is no misunderstanding, I'm no trained chef by any stretch of the imagination, but ask anyone who knows me and they'll tell you that I just love to cook.   Now that I'm unemployed and in a "semi-retired" mode, I've got plenty of time to try something I've always wanted to do and that's learn how to bake bread!  I don't have a fancy Kitchenaid mixer or a Blodgett oven, but I figured I could do just fine with what I have.  Po Jo needs to make do with what he has :)  I've started this blog to document my experiences in beginning bread making with the hope of inspiring others to give it a shot.  As I recently told my wife, "Nothing says lovin' like somethin' from the oven" :)

Bring on the carbs!!!