All grains contain peptides that mimic morphine or endogenous opioid substances. This is where I deal with my latest loaf craving. Get your bread-based exorphin fix here.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

James Beard's Norwegian Whole Wheat Bread

 JB's Norwegian WW Bread


Here is another bread failure that was not ultimately fatal. In other words, I lived to tell the tale of this error-bread that stupidity wrought.  Which follows from a maxim I've recently developed:
"Any loaf you can eat when you are done baking cannot be a total failure. "
In other words, it can always be worse, unless the result of the bake is only an inedible blackened and charred mass of carbon, or  unless you have burned the house down...

I have been switching from working nights to working days, and after sleeping most of the day Friday, I was awake most of the night with the prospect of having no bread for Saturday.  So shortly after midnight, I decided to make bread, even though if I had been thinking clearly about it, I would have realized I wasn't thinking clearly about it.  My timing was bad.

I had just been making a soaker and a sourdough starter build for a 'real' loaf I would make the following day.  But the idea of being without homemade bread for the morning of Saturday began to gnaw at me, and the old pull of the addiction to the exorphins took hold, and I decided to make a fairly quick bread.

Now, when I talk about quick breads, I don't mean quickbreads made with baking soda: these days, for me, any bread that is made without a soaker or a starter that requires an overnight build or two is quick, in that it is a made straight without any extra steps or fuss.  These are the kind of yeast-raised breads that James Beard popularized in his book, "Beard on Bread".  This book contains a number of whole wheat breads that use a bit of all purpose flour.  I haven't made all of them, not by a long shot.  So I just opened the book at random and found this recipe.

Mis en place

I made one change to the recipe: I added 2 1/2 tsp of my own homemade yeast, to give the loaf an extra boost.  I had made this yeast using Nils Schöner's instructions in his book "Brot".  It is really just dried sourdough.

Here is a list of the ingredients, as I weighed them:
  • 2 1/2 tsp Instant Dried Yeast 11g
  • 2 c Milk 499g
  • 4 c Whole Wheat Flour 619g
  • 1 c Rye Flour 122g
  • 1 c All Purpose Flour 160g
  • 3/4 tsp Sea Salt 4 g
  • 2 1/2 tsp My Homemade Sourdough Yeast 6g

 Before Proofing yeast
 After Proofing Yeast

 Very dry mix: time to put away the spoon and try to incorporated the flour by hand

Beard warns twice on the single page recipe that this dough is particularly "stiff and difficult to knead", so I halved the recipe to make a single free-form loaf.  I did not half the time I kneaded it, though, in fact, I kneaded not 12 minutes but 15.  It did get silky, but never elastic, as he describes.

I don't particularly like the scent of this bread as it is being kneaded.  It smells like chemicals.  But what chemicals?

 At about the 10 minute mark of kneading

 Kneading done, about 15 minutes

The dough did soften up quickly and rose fast in the buttered bowl, which surprised me.

 Stiff dough is finished kneading, ready for bulk fermentation
 It attains this size quickly, but I give it an extra 30 minutes to be sure

I pounded it down and kneaded it a bit more.  I probably should have just pounded it down and folded it and then formed the final loaf.  Although it had softened a bit, the action of pounding it down made the dough tight again, and kneading was again problematic.

 Final kneading and forming is done

 before the final proof

 after the final proof

scored and ready to bake

Anyway, I formed a boule shape the best I could, and I set it on a cornmeal-filled baking tray for its final rise.  I would give it 2 hours here, and then bake it for another hour, according to the recipe.

But when I took it out of the oven, I realized right away that somehow, I had turned off the oven just as I was putting the bread in, after pre-heating at 375 degrees F. for half an hour.  This is what happens when your brains are addled from exorphins and lack of sleep, I guess.

Of course, I will also blame it on the oven, a Whirlpool, which my wife recently bought.  This oven is poorly designed.  It also works haphazardly and unevenly.  I really hate this oven, it is without doubt the worst oven we have ever owned.  I will never buy another.  We've tried to get some replacement parts for it because it doesn't work properly, and we have had nothing but grief from their service department.  We have never gotten satisfaction from the oven or the company who made it, and when the time comes when we can afford another oven, this one is going to sit on the curb outside the place where we bought it, so they can deal with the garbage.

Don't get me started on the oven.  Suffice it to say that the buttons that turn off the timer also cancel the baking elements, and this little 'feature' has ruined many a meal.  I am usually watchful now that I don't do this, but I guess I was overtired.

 What happens to bread when placed in a cooling oven

So after baking for an hour in a cooling oven, the bread was obviously not cooked, had sagged sideways and split, so I stuck it back into the oven for another 45 minutes, 15 minutes of which were required even to get the oven preheated.

The result: a saggy, split, tasteless loaf.  And a sleepy man who got to bed at 4:30 am, hoping to get to yoga by 9:00.

I slept in, missed yoga, and now I'm cranky.

But at least I have some bread to eat.  Maybe once those exorphins hit the bloodstream, I will begin to mellow a bit.

Umm, bread.
Slices ok, looks ok, tastes blah

crumb: the money shot

Notes to Myself
  • Bake when you are well rested.
  • Get a new oven.
  • Find out what that chemical smell is, when you are kneading whole wheat dough made with milk.  I don't think that it was my homemade yeast, but try this bread again without it.
  • Increase the amount of rye, omit the all purpose flour, and add some cracked rye that has been boiled and soaked overnight to this, to give it some taste.  
  • Save your wrists, let the breadmaker machine knead this dough.

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