Monday, March 4, 2013

A Tale Of Two Breads

Crunchy Cornmeal and Semolina Bread

As with many home bakers who experiment with artisan bread baking, I usually have some unusual odds and ends in my kitchen. You know – you buy some of this whole grain or some of that, then you have a little leftover, so you stick it in the freezer to keep it fresh until the next time, and before you know it, three-quarters of the freezer has been overtaken by Ziploc bags of whole wheat flour, flax seed meal, wheat bran, pumpernickel flour, semolina… you get the picture. As someone who has precious little freezer space to begin with (that side-by-side refrigerator with the slender doors for my cramped little kitchen seemed like such a sound idea at the time), I thought it was time to find ways to use up some of the stockpile.

My husband is a big fan of toast. (I am not so much, but I can appreciate a nice lightly browned crunchy-chewy slice of bread schmeared with some nice salty Irish butter.) With his love of toast (and an empty bread shelf) in mind, I decided it was the perfect time to mix up some bread.

Now, confession time. I have a lot of difficulty making sandwich breads. I use the wrong size pans sometimes and often I overproof the loaves. Whatever one can do wrong when making sandwich bread, I apparently do it. I’m a pretty skilled freeform artisan bread baker, but just give me a bread pan and rest assured, it’ll turn out flat, no matter how promising it looks when it goes in (or comes out of) the oven. In spite of this, I gamely attempted a couple of sandwich loaves from the King Arthur Flour site.

The first one I baked was the Crunchy Cornmeal and Semolina Bread. I tried mixing it using the manual method as described because my stand mixer is currently out of commission, and the dough was waaaaaaay too sticky to mix by hand, even with heavily oiled hands. So no, I did not knead it for the full 6 to 8 minutes, but settled for manhandling it until it came together as best as I could, using a bowl scraper and trying not to lose too much dough between my fingers. I omitted the sesame seeds as those were something from my freezer I actually had managed to already use up. The finished loaf was tasty even if it wasn’t as tall as I had envisioned. It toasted up very nicely too!

Crunchy Cornmeal and Semolina toast, buttered with peanut butter

The second loaf was the PDQ Onion and Rye Bread. This one was not a yeast bread, but was leavened with chemical leaveners instead – baking soda and baking powder. As you might imagine, the texture was more like a quick bread. The version I used was from The King Arthur Flour’s Baker’s Companion and differs from the recipe on their site slightly. Instead of the Rye Flour Blend and Deli Rye Flavor listed on the site, I used 1 ¾ cups (7 ¾ ounces) of rye flour (from Arrowhead Farms) and ¾ cup (3 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour. My book calls for 1 ½ teaspoons of salt (rather than 1 teaspoon). I used a slightly smaller amount (2.8 ounces, not 3 ½ ounces as listed in the book) of “Golden Baking Onions” (actually French’s French Fried Onions) because that was the size of the container of onions. The book version has an additional ingredient not listed on the website, which I included: 1 tablespoon of vinegar or dill pickle juice; I used pickle juice. Lastly, the website version instructs you to sprinkle Artisan Bread Topping on top of the loaf. In the book version, you reserve ¼ cup of the French fried onions to sprinkle on top instead. One caveat – the onions don’t adhere very well and end up coming off the loaf when you depan the loaf and when you slice the bread. They also fall down to the bottom of the toaster oven (and burn) when you toast the slices, which is kind of a drag. I would recommend just adding the full amount of onions to the batter. Or if you are really attached to the look of having some of the onions on top (it makes for a pretty loaf, I’ll admit), you can try pushing the onions down into the batter slightly to better embed them and hope for the best.

I thought the onion rye bread was quite tasty, but my darling husband felt it lacked much oniony-ness. If I were to make it again I might add some dried onion flakes to bump up the flavor a bit.

PDQ Onion Rye Bread

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