Bread baking

It's not the prettiest or tastiest loaf I've ever made, but considering the materials I have to work with (flour of unknown gluten content, no mixer, a toaster oven) it's not bad. Pretty good, in fact. Much more to our taste than the spongey bread sold around here (bread, we finally realized, which tries to approximate traditional steamed buns, with an unfortunately high degree of success.) The only problem--Finn and I can polish off half a loaf just for lunch, and have to seriously restrain ourselves if Matt gets to try any by the time he gets home. Thankfully, due to that wonderful no-knead method popularized in the NYT a few years ago, it's not a big deal to make some every day.

And that's not the only bread baking around here ... yes, we've got a proverbial bun in the oven. (Forgive the awful transition. And no, I didn't bake the bread just for the purpose of this announcement.) Thus far, the pregnancy has pretty much knocked me down flat, but I'm starting to find my feet (and my appetite), for which both Matt and Finn are surely grateful. (And the grandparents, too, given that we've got quite a backlog of photos and videos to upload. I'll get right on it.)

Due in October; no, we don't know if it's a girl or a boy; and no, it's not affecting our travel plans for the summer. That's about all we know. Oh, and this--we are excited and humbled and a wee bit scared to be starting this journey all over again.

Recipe for bread below. For the bun, you're on your own. 

(This makes one toaster oven size loaf. For a larger loaf, just double the ingredients and lengthen the baking time. Sorry to say I don't know how that will fit in a standard loaf pan. My gut says it might be a little big, but I could be wrong. I don't use a pan at all, but the dough is a bit on the wet side and it always ends up a little flat. I think that a doubled loaf, without a pan, would look like focaccia, but would still taste great.)

1 1/2 cups white flour (bread or strong, if you can find it)
1/2 cup + 2 Tablespoons whole wheat flour 
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
7/8- 1 1/4 cup cool water (this really depends on the kind of flour you have and how humid it is)

1/2 cup dried fruit -- raisins, dried cranberries, and apricots are all good 
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (or use all nuts or all fruit)  

Stir together the flour, salt, yeast and water. It should be on the tacky/wet side, but not goopy.  If you have bread flour it will take more water than all-purpose. Add the fruit and/or nuts, stir well, cover, and then let sit overnight, or for at least 8 hours.  That's right--no kneading! Time takes care of the gluten development. (This is why you want a wet dough rather than a stiff one, too ... it helps in the gluten molecule rearrangement.)

The next morning, the dough should be puffy and bubbly. Sprinkle some flour around the edges of the bowl, and use a spatula or dough scraper to scrape it down. Quickly shape it, with floured hands, into an oval, then place onto a baking pan or in a greased loaf pan. Cover and let rise again, until puffy, anywhere from 1-2 hours, depending on the humidity and heat. It won't double in size no matter how long you wait. Bake at 450 F until the crust is golden brown and sounds hollow (and the interior registers 205 F), around 40 minutes in my oven. Try to let it cool a bit before slicing into it--you'll get neater slices that way. But if you just can't wait, well, that's ok too.       


Christa said...

Congratulations on the bread and the bun. I must say I had my suspicions...

I also can't wait to try out the recipe. (Um, for the bread that is) How do you think cloves of garlic would work in this bread instead of fruit? Maybe sauteed, first?

Sonja Likumahuwa said...

Congratulations to you both!! What a wonderful blessing.

Are you following hockey? Penguins are in the playoffs, so we'll see. And in Steelers news, Roethlisberger was suspended for several games due to some *ahem* indiscretions with underage (under 21, that is) women. And that's all the news that's important around here. Health care and banking reform? Pshaw! :) Sonja

Liese said...

Joy!!! So glad you're beginning to feel better. May that continue. Blessings upon daily bread and Bun!

Will add you and Bun to the prayer list in a new way :)

HeatherB said...

AAAAAHHHHH!!!!! Horraaaaaaaaayyyy! Consider me first in line to massage your tired feet this summer. I can't wait to see you ALL!

Krissie said...

Yippie!!!! I'm so excited for you guys, and hoping we'll be able to connect at some point this summer while you are here.

Lauren Jackson said...

Not sure where you'll be for the birth, but aim for Matilda if you can swing it! Lifelong memories in a gorgeous colonial building.

L. DeAne said...

Happy news! Best wishes all around.


Anonymous said...

Love this post! I was so curious to see how this would come out on the blog--it is perfect! So glad y'all will be close by for the summer!!!! :)

JFo said...

Congratulations. It was so much fun finding out about Finn's pregnancy in person on our visit to you guys, but this news is no less exciting. Little Jeffrey Paige Peterson will be a beautiful and smart baby, no doubt about it.

Brava on figuring out a way to make bread you can enjoy under HK apartment baking conditions. I've been composing a post in my head for my blog telling readers to get over it if they don't make yeast breads. I don't understand that fear of failure; I can count on one hand the times bread has failed without a clear explanation. Double brava to you when people with access to western groceries and kitchens wimp out about baking bread.