big no on the no-knead bread

I’m not loving the no-knead bread. I just can’t get it to work. It just turns out flat and gummy. I baked this second attempt for 30 minutes over the suggested time and barely got it up to the 210 degrees F internal temperature. It has a nice crumb and it did make decent grilled (Pepperjack) cheese sandwiches, which is all I wanted it for. But I have to say, I’d much rather put in the work for a conventional kneaded bread and get more consistent results.

no-knead bread (again)

I started another batch of no-knead bread, this time a full loaf. I’m going to try baking it in the largish Corningware covered casserole dish Auntie brought over last weekend. Having just turned the dough (or slopping it, since it’s much too wet to really “turn”) I’m not feeling optimistic about the finished bread.

baking powder biscuits

We were having leftover chili last night and instead of buying my customary refrigerated biscuit dough in a can, or even using the ubiquitous buttermilk pancake mix that’s in our fridge, I decided I’d try making biscuits myself. I didn’t have the ingredients (shortening, heavy cream, etc.) that a lot of biscuit recipes called for, but I found this recipe on the King Arthur Flour site.

They looked great – I followed the instructions for the cut biscuits, folding the dough into thirds and cut the dough into squares (I don’t have a biscuit cutter and I don’t really like the look of dropped biscuits). The boys, young, older and adult, liked them well enough (although C. said they were too crispy) but I found them rather coarse and hard. In the future, I might try pastry flour instead and add the maximum amount of butter (this time I used the middle range – 5 tablespoons).

no-knead bread

I had long wanted to try making No-Knead Bread. All accounts said it was foolproof and easy, and consistently generated great bread. However, you needed a piece of equipment I did not have, which was a 5-quart cast iron dutch oven (or some other similarly sized pot that was heat-proof to 450 degrees F). Buying a new (somewhat costly) piece for a single untested recipe was not in my budget so I spent a lot of time investigating cheaper options, such as budget cast iron, pyrex and anodized aluminum pots, but I never ended up buying anything.

Yesterday, P’s aunt gave me a piece of enameled Dansk Bistroware – a 2 ½ quart casserole that I thought might be suitable. So I set to work making the dough. I halved the recipe to account for the smaller sized piece (I had read where others had done this with no problem). However, the dough didn’t really behave as the recipe said it would, and I’m not accustomed to working with such wet slack dough. There was absolutely no “[nudging] it into a ball shape.” It was a puddle of wet yeasty goo. It looked great, but stuck horribly to the floured towel, and deflated completely when the time came to transfer it to the preheated dish. The finished bread was just a flat (but pleasingly crispy) gummy (no matter how long I cooked it, I couldn’t get the inside temp above 205 degrees) hockey puck. Argh.

rustic country bread

Since it appears as though any kind of sourdough creation is going to be later rather than sooner for me, I decided to make the Rustic Country Bread found on the Cook’s Illustrated website. I liked this one because it had a hand-mixed variation, which is particularly important since I don’t yet own a stand mixer.

The bread was primarily made with white bread flour, with some whole wheat and rye flours too. I wasn’t sure how this was going to fly with C., the committed white foodatarian. He wasn’t ecstatic, but he did try some after liberally buttering both sides of a slice. Those of us who are not as bound to white flour thought it was really tasty and not excessively whole-grainy.

I’m dying to try the Rustic Italian Bread on the CI site too but it’s going to have to wait for that darn stand mixer.

sourdough woes

Since my last post:

Due to the unfortunate placement of my (vomity-smelling) starter container, the starter got a little cooked and had to be discarded. I then started a new starter (non-vomity-smelling this time) and all seemed to go well except that it never seem to expand or rise (I got to the 10 day mark or so). I was supposed to feed it sometime Sunday (yesterday) but since it didn’t seem to have risen at all, I decided to give it a little more time (it still smelled as it should at that point — sour). Then this morning, I opened the Gladware to give it a sniff and a peek. Et voilà — mold spots. So once again, I chucked it.

Now I’m feeling a little demoralized. I’m thinking maybe I’ll give the King Arthur Flour batter-type sourdough starter recipe a whirl. I could always buy a good-to-go starter from KA but I just want to make a viable starter from scratch. It doesn’t seem like it should be so hard to do, and my kitchen will never be better suited temperaturewise than right now.

adventures with sourdough, or, should my starter smell like vomit?

I decided some time ago that I would take advantage of the summer warmth in my kitchen (the same heat that keeps me from baking bread in July and August) to grow a sourdough starter. I had a couple of recipes to choose from — Maggie Glezer’s firm starter or King Arthur’s more batter-y starter. I opted for Glezer’s because the instructions seemed simpler and more idiot-proof.

Anyway, the first starter turned out well enough. Glezer’s instructions stated that at the time the first starter needed to be fed, it would “look and smell awful.” However, mine had a pleasant, earthy smell. I just figured I was more of a natural at this than others since I didn’t seem to find the smell as offensive as others apparently did.

And then came the second starter. By the time the second starter had fermented to the point of needing to be fed, it was a struggle for me to keep the bile down. In my many years of mommyhood — being vomited on, changing poopy diapers (I know you get the picture) — I have never smell anything so vile as this starter. (Glezer writes it should have “very little odor.” Clearly there is either a difference of opinion as to what “little odor” means or something’s gone very, VERY wrong.) Having read many bread baking blogs, I decided to have faith in my starter, in fermentation, and in God (that He/She will not allow me to be so easily poisoned by fermented rye flour), and continue on.

This morning I prepared my third starter (i.e. the fed product of the second starter). I didn’t take a picture of the starter because I couldn’t breathe while the container lid was off. I threw away the extra second starter (you only use 2 ounces of the old started to make the next one) — sealed tupperware and all. I’ll let you know how it goes.

choco-nilla birthday cake

Today is C.’s 11th birthday! Inspired by the Baker’s Banter post, we decided to make their Choco-Nilla Cake. However, C. was not feeling the chocolate ganache this time, so he asked that I make it with the whipped cream frosting I made for P.’s birthday instead of the chocolate icing and filling that Baker’s Banter used. C. decorated it himself with blue writing icing — a curly font “11”.

Regarding the cake, if you’ve perused the recipe, you’ve seen that it’s comprised of two different cake batters — you split each layer in half after it’s baked. The two batters are very different in consistency. The vanilla batter is very thick and heavy, producing a dense and heavy cake. The chocolate batter is quite thin and downright runny — it took forever to bake (an additional 18 minutes over the printed recipe time). The finished chocolate layer(s) is (are?) spongy and much lighter by comparison. All in all, it’s all very yummy, but I wasn’t at all confident it was going to turn out.

My other comment is, in my experience, the King Arthur recipe chocolate cakes aren’t all that chocolatey. This cake is no exception — not a lot of rich chocolateyness in the chocolate layers. I suspect that if we had made it with the prescribed chocolated ganache and filling, it would’ve done a better job of hitting the chocolate spot. I’ll let you know…