This Week's Adventure

Baking catch-up post

I had such a busy week that two nights ago I ended up in my husband’s lap sobbing that I didn’t want to do any work ever again.

I had to crawl through another day of just finish all the things, just do it, just do it, before I got a good night’s sleep, had a quieter day, and felt better. That was yesterday. It’s looking to be another busy week at work, but at least I don’t have a bunch of things to do this weekend.

Before last week got too exhausting, though, I did a little baking. Tuesday night, we tried KAF’s warm strawberry puff. The best way I could describe this is “fluffy souffle pancake.”

I had to look up pictures to double-check how soft soft peaks are supposed to be, but whipping the egg whites and mixing in the egg yolk/sweet mixture was not a problem. (I forgot to get cream, so I substituted whole milk with a bit of plain yogurt added for thickness.)

I did have a problem, however, with baking the thing. Somehow, I’ve ended up with an eight-inch cast iron skillet and a 12-inch cast iron skillet. The former is good for searing small things, and the latter is the perfect size for fried chicken, but most recipes I’ve seen for things to be baked in a skillet are for a 10-inch–including this puff.

strawberry collage.jpg
My puff may have been slightly undercooked, but I don’t think that hurt it.

The Baker’s Companion does not have a lot of photographs. If I had seen the picture they have with the recipe on their website, I would have chosen the 12-inch. I almost did, but I talked myself out of it so I wouldn’t have to clean the bigger pan. The batter did fit in the eight-inch. But I ended up with a big, fluffy blob that was too thick to fold over and end up with a kind of strawberry omelette, as instructed.

Instead, I ended up with a mess. A delicious, fluffy melty mess. 10/10 (or 8/8) would make again. Husband was also a fan.

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It tasted better than it looked.

My other baking project this week was a whole wheat sourdough loaf. The methodology was just about the same as that for pain au levain. Naturally, I had to make things more complicated.

I had it set in my mind that I was going to make this bread on Sunday after church. Then we got invited by friends for lunch. No problem. I would mix the dough, leave it to rise, and come back.

Except the time intervals for the dough autolyse (initial rest before kneading) and fermentation (first rise post-kneading) didn’t work well.

Husband stayed home from church, and our church is a half hour’s drive away, so I asked him to mix the ingredients to start the autolyse before I got home. The flours, starter, water and a bit of honey all rest together for a bit, which is supposed to prepare the gluten for kneading. The instructions specify to mix the ingredients by hand.

When I got home and walked into the kitchen, I saw Husband with his hands covered in floury goo, mixing the dough with his hands. Not having a habit of watching cooking shows or reading cook books, he didn’t realize that mixing by hand can mean just mixing with a spoon as opposed to using an electric mixer or bread machine. Essentially, he had been kneading the dough for two or three minutes.

After I had my laugh, I decided that a bit of kneading before the autolyse wouldn’t be a problem, even if it’s somewhat contrary to the purpose of the autolyse itself. We let the dough rest, and I looked more closely at the recipe. That’s when I was reminded that 45 minutes into the fermentation, you’re supposed to fold the dough (which helps tighten the dough without losing all the air bubbles), and after another 45 minutes, form the loaf. This did not go well with plans to leave to eat lunch with people as soon as I could knead the thing.

So I decided to take it with me. I knew these friends would not care, even though it’s weird to bring half-made bread that you’re not going to get to eat with the friends to their house.

bread collage.jpg
Top left: Since the dough was cohesive from being kneaded before the autolyse, kneading in the salt afterward was weird. In the photo, the salt separated layers of dough for a while. Bottom left: after fermentation, the dough had some big air bubbles. Top right: floured bowl, waiting for proofing. Bottom right: dough after proofing.

It was warm and sunny outside, so we left the bowl of dough in our vehicle to stay warm (with the windows open, so it wouldn’t overheat and kill the starter. I wasn’t sure if that was likely, but I didn’t want to take chance). Then, after eating, I folded the dough, and after some time socializing, I rolled the dough into a boule (slightly more effectively than last time) and put it into the toweled-and-floured bowl. Not too long after, we went home.

The dough proofed and came out of its basket fine. (Warm car seems like an okay fermenting spot. I’d say try it.) It spread a fair amount after being turned out, but still ended up with a nice texture.

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It was perhaps more trouble than necessary, but I’m glad I accomplished one of the things I chose to do on top of the 612 things I had to do last week.

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