Sunday, February 11, 2007

A First Proofing

This weblog, for the moment, will function as my public journal of pain. Over the next few months, I'm going to attempt to learn the art of breadmaking. I have two main reasons for doing this. Firstly, bread is such a basic joy in life, I want to be able to make a number of varieties of bread well. Secondly, I think the act of making bread will help my quite painfully injured back to heal, through the kneading and other activity (hence the pun in the first sentence).

A few notes before I procede.

I have never made bread before this week, except a loaf two years ago which ended up being made with dead yeast (not just inactive).

I eat mostly whole foods, so don't expect to see any recipes for white bread (although I expect to perfect a french baguette at some point).

I will not use any machines for this. Not only do I find the noise of electric motors disruptive, and their use would make nul half of my reason for doing this, but I also don't own anything which would help in breadmaking.

So, now that I've set out that rather inadequate description, let me get on to my first attempt at bread.

On the spur of the moment, I threw together some rather passable bagels after church today. It was pretty easy, although I'm trying to use up a bag of rye flour I bought in November, so the gluten didn't develop as I would have liked. They also have a strong rye flavor (imagine that). Basically, the recipe I used was something like three cups of whole wheat flour, a cup and some of whole rye flour, and some salt, mixed with some activated yeast in a maybe a cup and a half or two of water. Then, I kneaded the dough, let it rise for half an hour, and got a large pot of water simmering with maybe three or four tablespoons of honey. I shaped the bagels by cutting off a chunk, rolling it out in a cylinder, and wrapping it about my hand, overlapping the ends. After letting them rise for another fifteen minutes, I boiled them for between one and three minutes per side, and then put them in a 400 degree oven for 25 minutes (although I put them in initially while the oven was still preheating). Also, four of the ten got an light eggwash and a dusting of poppy seeds (because I love poppy seeds).


The overlapping ends didn't hold together in the water. The bagels developed too much of a crust for their thickness (they have a large circular diameter, but a small cross-section). The flavor of the poppy seeds is overwhelmed by the wheat and rye flavors. As for flavor, the crust and and the mou flavors weren't quite in harmony (the crust was honey-sweetened quite nicely, while I think the mou was lacked some sweetening and also tasted too much like bare wheat and rye).

Ideas for the future:

I think I make my doughs too dry (I also attempted a rye sourdough with a friend's help last week); perhaps a bit more water or a bit less flour during the kneading. When shaping the bagels, work faster and cut up all of the dough at once (otherwise, the rising causes each progressive bagel to be larger and larger and larger and larger). Make the holes smaller and the cross-section larger (roll it out less and wrap around a small object than the palm of my hand). Maybe the oven was too hot; 375F might not be a bad idea. Since the dough wasn't sweet enough to match the flavor of the boiled outside, I think honey is necessary in the dough as well, but not much at all, probably less than a tablespoon. Maybe some more salt would be good (I'm pretty sure I ended up using less than a teaspoon, but certainly not more).

All in all, the bagels are delicious. Their flavor is incredibly strong!!! I put that as a warning, not a criticism. One nice thing about that is that the overwhelming flavor of the wheat and rye requires a lot of cream cheese, so once I adjusted the quantity, they were almost too good to be true.


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