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: March 2011

Raw Apple Bread
March 31, 2011

by stacy
Published on: March 31, 2011
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My plan for last night was to make Banana Bread, but the bananas I bought on Sunday refused to cooperate and ripen fast enough.  Since we are having a cheese ravioli dish with apples and walnuts tonight, I happened to have all the ingredients on hand to make Raw Apple Bread instead.

Here are the ingredients:

Raw Apple Bread Ingredients

Although there are two apples pictured, I only needed one to get the 1 cup of chopped apple called for.  Also, I didn’t have any buttermilk so instead I used regular milk with a dash of lemon juice.

The texture of the Raw Apple Bread dough was very unique–it was more like a cookie dough (it also tasted like cookie dough.  Yes, I know that it’s a bad idea to eat raw eggs, but I can never pass up the heavenly taste of cookie dough).

Since this bread used a whole stick of butter, I greased my pan using the butter wrapper.  It was quite a task to get all of the dough out of the bowl and into the pan, since the dough was so thick.  I finally scraped it all into the pan in somewhat of a loaf shape, and set my oven timer for 10 minutes less than the minimum time the recipe called for (40 minutes versus 50 minutes).

Raw Apple Bread Dough

As it baked, the bread smelled like a wonderful mixture of sugar cookies and applesauce.

I tested the loaf at 40 minutes, 45 minutes, and 48 minutes using a cake tester; it was done at 48 minutes.  Beard writes that the bread “will be better if left to mature for at least 24 hours.”  I was able to restrain myself from eating it straight out of the oven, but I wasn’t able to pass up having a few pieces for breakfast.

Raw Apple Bread

Raw Apple Bread

Beard refers to this bread as “unusual” but “delightfully textured and interesting in color and flavor.”  It is a very dense bread with a crispy crust, and is very sweet–more of a dessert bread than something one would eat with a meal (of course, I did not let that stop me from eating it for breakfast anyway).  The apple flavor is subtle, which may simply be a reflection of the type of apple I used, Pink Ladies.  Because this bread does not have any cinnamon or nutmeg, it doesn’t have the taste one typically associates with apple baked goods.  The walnuts provide a savory flavor, and as mentioned before, there is quite a bit of sugar.

Overall, this recipe was easy to prepare and produced a very unique, and yes, delightful, bread.

Basic White Bread
March 27, 2011

by stacy
Published on: March 27, 2011
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Today was a perfect Sunday–we had homemade pea soup for dinner, the snow is finally melting, I got most of my wedding scrapbooking done, and the smell of homemade bread baking in the oven was absolutely heavenly.

My previous experience with bread is limited to a few loaves of whole-wheat batter bread, challah, and some pumpkin and banana bread.  Although I’m not planning on baking the breads in order, I am starting with the first recipe in the book, Basic White Bread–all 14 pages of it.  In addition to the recipe, Beard provides tips for kneading dough, shaping the loaf, copious footnotes, and “Remedies for the Not-Quite-Perfect Slice.”  Still, it is a rather daunting recipe when one is used to 3 x 5 index cards.

The major difference between Beard on Bread and my previous bread making experience is Beard’s focus on understanding the process rather than blindly following step-by-step instructions a la Betty Crocker.  Beard wants you to learn why your flour behaves the way it does, to determine what went wrong with a loaf and how to fix it the next time, and to get your hands dirty (or doughy, as the case may be).

The Ingredients:

Basic White Bread Ingredients

Beard’s recipe calls for using butter to grease the bowl and pan; I prefer Crisco vegetable shortening.

I have never proofed yeast before, instead placing my trust in the Yeast Manufacturer, but I was incredibly amused to watch it foam up.  I am easily impressed (and I promise to take a picture of my proofing yeast next time for the easily amused among you to observe it too).

I needed to add a little extra water to my dough to get it to hold together (about 1 ounce).  I lightly floured my kneading surface (aka, our wooden cutting board) and hands, but didn’t need to add extra flour to the dough.  It kneaded very easily, not too sticky (unlike the Great Challah Bread Disaster, in which my dough became adhered to the counter and I had to use a spatula to get it off).  I prefer to knead with two hands, instead of the one-handed technique outlined in the main recipe.

Here is my bread dough before the first rising:

Basic White Bread Before First Rising

And after:

Basic White Bread After First Rising

My first rising took 70 minutes.  As you can see from the finger marks, I used the poke-the-dough-and-see-if-it-bounces-back test to gauge when it was ready, rather than figuring out when it doubled.

Here is the loaf before the second rising:

Basic White Bread Before Second Rising

And after:

Basic White Bread After Second Rising

My second rising took about 60 minutes.  I brushed the top of the loaf with water and made three diagonal slashes in the loaf, feeling quite artisan and baker-like afterwords.

I baked the loaf for 35 minutes, the minimum time recommended.  Beard cautions that it may take up to 50 minutes of baking time, but my Super Oven (which I think is about 100 degrees hotter than it’s supposed to be) finished the bread in 35 minutes.    As you can see in the picture, the crust looks a little over-baked.  Next time, I will check on the bread sooner than the minimum baking time called for.  Of course, I was tremendously entertained by rapping the top and bottom of the loaf to check its done-ness.  I would promise to record the sound next time and post a sound file as well, but that may be going overboard.

Basic White Bread

Beard recommends letting the bread cool for 2 to 3 hours before it is “good for slicing.”  Since I have the attention span of a pygmy marmoset when it comes to slicing–and then eating–fresh bread, I gave it at most 10 minutes.  The pea soup was ready, the kitchen smelled absolutely amazing, and the bread tasted even better than it smelled.

Basic White Bread Sliced

Despite its slightly over-baked appearance, the loaf was baked to the perfect degree of crustiness.  I have had bread this good once in my life before, when I traveled to Germany in college.  We simply do not have amazing bread in the United States–you need to bake it yourself and eat it fresh out of the oven.  The store-bought bread in the U.S. is almost a completely different food from the homemade loaf I made today (and not in a good way).  As I bit into my first slice (and the second, and the third, and the fourth), and ate homemade pea soup in between, I wondered what other amazing foods we have lost by transitioning to industrial convenience food products.  As someone who works full-time, with a spouse who works full-time as well, I can certainly understand the time constraint issue.  We love to cook, and make it a priority.  If you don’t like cooking, it may not be worth it for you.  But if you are deciding without ever tasting a piece of homemade bread hot from the oven that it isn’t worth the time, it isn’t worth the hassle, it doesn’t taste any better anyway,  I challenge you to take a couple of hours one Sunday afternoon and make a loaf of bread.  You won’t regret it.

Basic White Bread and Pea Soup

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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.
March 2011
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