After one year and 104 recipes, I finished the Brooks Bakes Bread Project on March 27, 2012. You can still find me baking and cooking at my new blog, Tangled Up In Food.

Archives: July 2011

White Free-Form Loaf
July 23, 2011

by stacy
Published on: July 23, 2011
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“A free-form loaf is one that is not baked in a tin.  It can be made round or oval.  It is best, I find, when baked in an oven in which the racks are lined with tiles…with a pan of boiling water set on the lower rack to create steam.”
-James Beard, Beard on Bread

This recipe is my last plain white bread recipe.  Over the past few months, I’ve made Basic White Bread, Basic Home-Style Bread, Broiled White Free-Form Loaf, Buttermilk White Bread, French-Style Bread, and Italian Feather Bread.  I like white bread, but enough is enough.

Here are the ingredients for White Free-Form Loaf:

White Free-Form Loaf Ingredients

White Free-Form Loaf is unique among the white breads in that it is a sponge loaf: you mix the yeast and water with some of the flour and let the mixture ferment in the refrigerator overnight.  In the morning, you have a bubbly mass of goop–the “sponge.”

White Free-Form Loaf Sponge

I mixed the remaining flour, along with the salt, olive oil, and buttermilk into the sponge and then kneaded it.  The sponge created a much softer dough than white flour typically yields.  After about 10 minutes of kneading, I let the dough rise for two hours.  Then I punched it down, kneaded it again, and let it rise for an additional hour.  Finally, I shaped it into a round loaf and let the loaf rise for 45 minutes.  White Free-Form Loaf is not a recipe for the impatient.

White Free-Form Loaf After Third Rising

The method for baking White Free-Form Loaf is as involved as the rising process.  First, I preheated the oven to 425 degrees and placed a pan of boiling water (I used an 8 x 8 cake pan) on the lower rack.  Meanwhile, I brushed the top of my loaf with cold water, slashed the top, and waited five minutes.  Next, I put the loaf in the oven, turned the temperature down to 375 degrees, and let the loaf bake for 20 minutes.  At that point, I brushed the loaf with cold water again, and then put the loaf back into the oven for additional 30 minutes.  Finally, the loaf was done.

The bottom crust was adhered to my baking sheet–I had the same problem with my Broiled White Free-Form Loaf.  I’m not sure if the problem lies with my loaf shaping method or if I just need to use more cornmeal on the baking sheet.

White Free-Form Loaf

We ate the bread tonight in the form of tomato-basil-mozzarella paninis cooked on our George Foreman grill.  White Free-Form Loaf is a nice basic loaf of white bread; however, the taste is nearly indistinguishable from Basic White Bread, which is a lot less trouble.  After trying all of the white bread recipes, the ones I would bake again are Basic White Bread, Basic Home-Style Bread, and French-Style Bread.

Now it’s time to move on to something else–like the half-dozen rye bread recipes!

Pizza Loaf
July 21, 2011

by stacy
Published on: July 21, 2011
Categories: Filled Breads, Pizza Loaf
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“[Pizza Loaf] has great flavor and texture and is made with a filling reminiscent of pizza.”
-James Beard, Beard on Bread

Yesterday, I had an unexpected Wednesday off work due to a computer system upgrade.  I spent the morning meeting some friends for coffee and knitting, had lunch with Mike, and then spent the afternoon watching Masterpiece Mystery and making Pizza Loaf.  It was a wonderful day.

Here are the ingredients:

Pizza Loaf Ingredients

Beard says to use a “prepared pizza sauce that has some flavor and distinction.”  I used pizza sauce from Davanni’s, a local restaurant chain, which I’ve found to have the perfect blend of spices.

The dough for Pizza Loaf is prepared like a typical bread dough: I mixed the ingredients together, kneaded the dough, and let it rise for an hour.  Then, I rolled the dough out into a rectangle (actually, more of an elongated oval) and spread it with pizza sauce and sprinkled on the mozzarella, Parmesan, and basil.

Pizza Loaf Spread with Toppings

Next, I rolled up the dough and joined the ends to form a ring.  Pizza Loaf is supposed to be baked in a souffle mold.  I don’t own a souffle mold, and even if I wanted one I don’t have the storage space.  Instead, I improvised and used the ceramic liner from my slow cooker.

Pizza Loaf Before Second Rising

After letting the loaf rise for another hour–Beard says that “a thorough rising is very important here”–the Pizza Loaf was ready for the oven.  I was very pleased with myself that I remembered to move the oven rack down to accommodate the liner’s height before preheating the oven.

Pizza Loaf After Second Rising

After baking at 400 degrees for 20 minutes and 350 degrees for an additional 35 minutes, the Pizza Loaf was done.  Thanks to a thorough greasing of the liner, the loaf came out without any trouble.

Pizza Loaf

I cut into the loaf while it was still warm.  Pizza Loaf isn’t anything fancy: it tastes like homemade white bread spread with pizza sauce and a little melted cheese.  But sometimes, a reliably tasty loaf of white bread with pizza toppings rolled into it is the perfect end to a day.

Pizza Loaf

As a postscript, in the recipe notes Beard claims that Pizza Loaf does not keep well.  I did not find that to be the case.  I refrigerated the leftovers and we had them for lunch today.  Mike ate his cold, and thought that it was good; I reheated mine in the microwave and it tasted the same as it did when it first came out of the oven.  Occasionally, Beard gets it wrong.

English Muffin Bread for Microwave Oven
July 18, 2011

by stacy
Published on: July 18, 2011
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“You are going to be amused watching this bread rise in the microwave oven.”
-James Beard, Beard on Bread

“That looks like mutant bread.”
-Mike

Yesterday was 93 degrees, with a heat index of 107.  For some incomprehensible reason, I decided that attending the Twins game at Target Field, their outdoor stadium, would be a good way to spend the afternoon.  I left after the sixth inning, when my sunscreen started melting off.

When I returned to my blessedly air-conditioned home, just the thought of turning on the oven sapped away my energy.  So I decided to try possibly the strangest recipe in Beard on Bread: English Muffin Bread for Microwave Oven.

Here are the ingredients:

English Muffin Bread for Microwave Oven Ingredients

This recipe is very similar to English Muffin Bread, except that it is baked in the microwave instead of the oven.  Why?  Beard on Bread was first published in 1973, when microwaves were new technology.  Baking bread in a microwave would have seemed novel and fun, instead of somewhat weird.

After mixing the ingredients together and letting the dough rise for an hour, I divided the dough between my improvised loaf pans, two microwave-safe plastic containers.  I let the dough rise for an additional 30 minutes, and then it was time to microwave my loaves.

English Muffin Bread for Microwave Oven after Second Rising

Since I grew up with microwave technology, I didn’t find watching dough being microwaved all that amusing.  Each loaf took 6 minutes and 30 seconds, Beard’s recommended cooking time.

Since microwaving doesn’t brown the bread, my loaves of English Muffin Bread looked like solidified masses of dough–Mike thought they were pretty unappetizing.

English Muffin Bread for Microwave Oven

Despite the odd appearance, the bread’s taste was comparable to English Muffin Bread; however, I thought that the oven-baked version was spongier and had a much better texture.  Baking the bread in the microwave only shaves about 13 minutes off the entire process, because you still have to let the bread rise twice.  For the time investment, I would rather spend 13 more minutes to bake the bread in the oven and get a better loaf.  However, for those days when your sunscreen is melting off, English Muffin Bread for Microwave Oven is an edible option.

 

English Muffin Bread
July 14, 2011

by stacy
Published on: July 14, 2011
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“As its name suggests, this bread is derived from English muffin batter…it is excellent when sliced and toasted, otherwise, it is rather uninteresting.”
-James Beard, Beard on Bread

After the delicious Crumpets I made a few weeks ago, I wanted to try a similar recipe, English Muffin Bread.

Here are the ingredients:

English Muffin Bread Ingredients

Since this is a batter bread, there is no kneading required: I mixed all the ingredients except the baking soda together, and let the batter rise for about an hour.  Then I mixed in the baking soda and divided the batter between two 8 x 4 pans.  After another 45 minutes of rising time, the batter had risen to the top of the pans and was ready to go into the oven.

English Muffin Bread After Second Rising

Beard doesn’t specify a baking time for this bread–the recipe just says to “Bake the bread in a preheated 375 degree oven until it is golden on top and shrinks slightly from the sides of the pan.”  One of my loaves (the one in the aluminum pan) was done after 20 minutes; the other (in a non-stick pan) was done after 25 minutes.

English Muffin Bread

Beard claims that untoasted English Muffin Bread is “uninteresting.”  Mike and I beg to differ.  Fresh out of the oven, it is a light, airy, tastily delightful bread.  Toasted, English Muffin Bread cannot even be compared to a commercial English muffin–the texture is incredible and the taste is perfect.  English Muffin Bread is absolutely divine.  Both loaves were gone within 24 hours.

English Muffin Bread

Black Bread
July 10, 2011

by stacy
Published on: July 10, 2011
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“There are numerous varieties of what is known as ‘black bread.’  I tried out recipes for a great many in the course of this book and finally settled on this one, which is not as dark as the commercial ones but has a flavor that I think is extraordinarily good and a very nice texture.”
-James Beard, Beard on Bread

I like white bread as much as the next person, but after making Buttermilk White Bread and Broiled White Free-Form Loaf last week I wanted something with a richer flavor.  I chose Black Bread for its diverse ingredients–everything from instant coffee to cocoa powder to caraway seeds–and the fact that it uses rye and whole-wheat flour, which I have in abundance.

Here are all the ingredients:

Black Bread Ingredients

Despite the extensive ingredient list, the process of making the bread was straightforward.  I added some extra water to the dough to achieve the right consistency, but after that minor tweak the dough kneaded up very nicely.  I let the dough rise while we went grocery shopping, and then shaped it into loaves when we returned.  Beard says that the dough can be baked as two free-form loaves or in two 8 x 4 bread pans; I decided to use my bread pans.

Black Bread After Second Rising

After 50 minutes in the oven, the bread was finished.  Beard recommends serving Black Bread with seafood, so I made a batch of my aunt’s amazing Sockeye Salmon Spread while I waited for the bread to cool.

Black Bread

We had no idea what to expect when we bit into our slices of Black Bread–would it taste like rye? coffee? chocolate?  Mike and I both thought that it tasted like a basic rye bread, with a strong caraway flavor.  The Black Bread and salmon spread was an excellent pairing–the caraway blended nicely with the fish.  White bread, eat your heart out.

Broiled White Free-Form Loaf
July 9, 2011

by stacy
Published on: July 9, 2011
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“This was a mistake that turned out to be extremely interesting.  I was testing another version of the free-form loaf, the recipe for which appears below, turned the oven to 375 degrees without my glasses on, and placed the loaf in the oven.  I thought it was browning magnificently and then discovered I had turned the oven to ‘broil.’  I immediately switched to ‘bake,’ but by this time I had a beautifully brown, crisp top crust and the loaf had risen.  In the end the loaf tasted absolutely wonderful, and the upper crust was superb.”
-James Beard, Beard on Bread

Since the Buttermilk White Bread I made last week was such a hit, I decided to try a similar recipe, Broiled White Free-Form Loaf, to use the last half-cup of my quart of buttermilk.

Here are the ingredients:

Broiled White Free-Form Loaf

I had a difficult time getting the dough to the right consistency.  Following the recipe, I got a dough that was very crumbly and didn’t hold together.  I mixed in some water, and then turned the dough out to be kneaded.  As I kneaded, I had to add more water at several points to keep the dough from falling apart.  Finally, I got a smooth, elastic-y dough that was ready for its first rising.

After about an hour, I punched the dough down, kneaded it for a few minutes, and let it rise again.  Once it had doubled in size (about 30 minutes) I shaped the dough into a round loaf and let it rise yet again for another 30 minutes.  Finally, the loaf was ready to go in the oven.

Broiled White Free-Form Loaf After Third Rising

This recipe is unique in that the loaf is baked using the oven’s “broil” setting for the first 25 minutes, and then the oven is switched to the “bake” setting for an additional 20 minutes.  Since I very rarely use the “broil” setting on my oven, I didn’t consider the position of my oven racks.  For optimal results, I think that the rack should be exactly in the middle of the oven; because I baked the loaf closer to the top of the oven, the top crust burned slightly.

Broiled White Free-Form Loaf

Despite the slightly charred and crispy top crust, my Broiled White Free-Form Loaf was a success.  The texture, like Buttermilk White Bread, is very light and fluffy.  Using the “broil” setting creates an evenly crusted loaf, which makes for a nice sandwich bread.

Clay’s Cornsticks
July 5, 2011

by stacy
Published on: July 5, 2011
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“Cornsticks are different in their way from cornbread.  They are baked in a mold shaped like a row of corn ears…The cornsticks usually bake to a golden color and are puffy inside and deliciously crunchy on the outside.”
-James Beard, Beard on Bread

I bought a cornstick mold a few weeks ago and have been itching to try it out.  I went with the deluxe cast-iron model, because I love cornbread so much that I foresaw many batches of cornsticks in my future.

Cornstick Mold

Here are the ingredients:

Clay's Cornsticks Ingredients

Beard’s recipe calls for a cup of milk or buttermilk; I recommend using buttermilk, since it gives the cornsticks a rich, tangy flavor.

The batter was very light and fluffy, more the consistency of whipped cream than a dough.  I spooned the batter into each corn ear and baked for 15 minutes.  At that point, the cornsticks had puffed up to about twice their original size and were nicely browned.  The problem was getting them out of the mold.  I thought that I had greased the mold thoroughly, but apparently not thoroughly enough.  Using patience and a spatula, I got the cornsticks out mostly intact.  For the next batch, I used more grease with better results.  My advice for greasing a cornstick mold: use as much shortening as you think you need, and then grease the entire mold again.

Clay's Cornsticks

Although they weren’t very aesthetically pleasing, the cornsticks were delicious.  Since there isn’t any sugar in the recipe, they were a savory instead of a sweet cornbread.  Mike remedied that deficiency (in his opinion) by eating them with lots of honey; I ate mine plain.  I particularly enjoyed the texture, which was much lighter than a typical cornbread.

Despite the minor difficulties extricating the cornsticks from the pan, this recipe was a success–and I’m glad that I invested in the deluxe cornstick mold.

Buttermilk White Bread
July 4, 2011

by stacy
Published on: July 4, 2011
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“Made with hard-wheat flour, this loaf is light, chewy, and extremely well crusted.”
-James Beard, Beard on Bread

Since I had buttermilk left over from making Lefse on Saturday, I decided to bake a loaf of Buttermilk White Bread for supper last night.

Here are the ingredients:

Buttermilk White Bread Ingredients

As I was mixing up the dough, I thought that two packages of yeast seemed like a lot of yeast for only one 9 x 5 loaf of bread.  However, trusting in Beard, I continued mixing, and then kneaded the dough.  After I had finished, I let the dough rest on the cutting board while I greased a bowl to hold the dough as it rose.  Greasing the bowl took maybe two minutes.  In that amount of time, the dough got visibly larger.  This was Bread Dough on Steroids.

The dough doubled in size after only half an hour.  I punched the dough down, kneaded it a bit more, and shaped it into a loaf.  The loaf already looked over-sized as I nestled it into the loaf pan; after rising for fifteen minutes, it was already bulging out of the pan.  I decided to put the loaf in the oven before it could grow more.

Buttermilk White Bread After Second Rising

When I opened the oven door after 30 minutes, I was momentarily speechless.  My loaf of bread was exploding out of its pan.  The loaf had grown so much that it was touching the top of the oven.  Honestly, it looked pretty ridiculous.

Buttermilk White Bread

“Well,” said Mike, “at least it’s big enough to make some nice sandwiches with.”

It did make some lovely sandwiches.  Although Buttermilk White Bread doesn’t have a particularly distinctive flavor, it does have an amazingly light, fluffy, chewy texture.  Next time I’ll just have to remember to move my oven rack a little bit lower.

Lefse
July 2, 2011

by stacy
Published on: July 2, 2011
Categories: Flat Breads, Lefse
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“Lefse is a rather unusual flatbread of Scandinavian origin…it is easy to prepare and delightful to eat.”
-James Beard, Beard on Bread

Since I grew up in northern Minnesota, where it seems like everyone has a Swedish great-grandmother, a Norwegian grandfather, or a Finnish surname, I am familiar with lefse.  (And for the record, I’m also one-quarter Finnish.)  Making a delicious batch of lefse seemed like the perfect way to start off my holiday weekend.

Here are the ingredients:

Lefse Ingredients

The brown bag in the front is cardamom, a spice which is frequently used in Scandinavian baking.  My father makes an incredible cardamom bread using my great-grandmother’s recipe.

The lefse was easy to prepare–I just had to mix all the ingredients together and roll out the dough.  I mixed 3 cups of flour into my dough instead of the 3 1/2 called for by the recipe, using the extra 1/2 cup to flour my rolling surface and the rolling pin.

Lefse Dough

Lefse is definitely trickier than Beard lets on.  In my experience, lefse is a very thin bread, about the thickness of a pancake, and it is served rolled up.  Actually rolling dough that thin is a challenge.  My first batch was definitely too thick–after cooking on the griddle the pieces puffed up to almost one-half inch.  By the third batch, I was able to get a much thinner bread, but still not thin enough to roll up.

Lefse Baking

Thickness issues aside, the lefse was delicious.  It had a perfect amount of sweetness and a delicate, rather than overpowering, flavor from the cardamom.  Mike and I ate our way through most of the batch and just like Beard said it would be, it was delightful.

Lefse

 

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About the Baker
I'm a paralegal living and working in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area. Besides baking, blogging, and eating bread, I love knitting and enjoying the Minnesota outdoors. My husband, Mike, is the Brooks Bakes Bread website developer, bread photographer, and chief taste tester.
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