Posts Tagged ‘yeast’

I think baking, and particularly bread making, can be intimidating for those who have little experience with it. However, I also find that baking can be one of the most rewarding culinary escapades. I began making bread at home many years ago, sort of just thrusting myself into the process, and I found that a hands-on approach was the fastest, and best, way to learn. I’ve had some flops over the years, but I’ve also made some really delicious bread and pastries. The 123rd episode of Good Eats takes the viewer through the two-day process of making a homemade loaf of white bread, and I think it is a great introduction to home bread making.

Very Basic Bread

Alton’s basic bread starts in the evening with a pre-fermentation step, which is also called a sponge. To make the sponge, place the following ingredients in a lidded, straight-sided container:  10 ounces of water (bottled is best), 5 ounces of bread flour, 1/4 t instant dry yeast, and 2 t honey.

Note that instant dry yeast is different from active dry yeast, as active dry yeast must first be activated in warm water, while instant dry yeast can be added without the hydration step. Whisk the sponge ingredients together until they are combined, place the lid on the container, and refrigerate the sponge for eight to 12 hours, or overnight.

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Sponge after refrigerating overnight.

The following day, put the following ingredients in the bowl of your stand mixer:  11 ounces of bread flour, 3/4 t instant dry yeast, 2 t Kosher salt, and the refrigerated sponge from the night before.

Using the dough hook attachment on the mixer, let the machine knead the dough until it forms a ball in the bottom of the bowl, which should take a few minutes. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and let the dough rest for 20 minutes.

After the dough has rested, let the machine knead the dough (again, with the dough hook) for 5-10 minutes on medium speed or until the dough appears to be smooth and elastic. Oh, and if your dough starts climbing the dough hook, increase the mixing speed briefly and it should dislodge the climbing dough. You will know your kneading is complete when a small marble of dough can be flattened and stretched between your fingers, such that the dough is thin enough for light to shine through the dough without the dough tearing; this is called the windowpane test.

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Dough after kneading for 5-10 minutes and able to pass windowpane test.

Once your dough passes the windowpane test, place the dough ball in a tall, clear, oiled container. Place a rubber band around the container to mark the top surface of the dough, as this will allow you to monitor how much your dough rises. Next, place the container in a cold oven, leaving the container uncovered. Place a 9 x 13″ baking dish beneath the dough and pour in some hot water. The hot water will provide a warm, moist environment in which the bread can rise. Shut the oven door and allow the dough to rise for one to two hours, or until it has doubled in size.

After rising, dump the dough onto a smooth surface and use your knuckles to dimple/flatten the dough into a rectangle.

Fold the left third of the dough in to the center of the rectangle, and then fold the right third of the dough over the top (as if making a tri-fold wallet).

Repeat the procedure again, first using your knuckles to flatten the dough, and then folding the dough like a wallet again.

After folding the dough a second time, cover the dough with a towel and allow it to rest for 10 minutes.

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Dough after resting for 10 minutes.

Next, flatten the dough and form it into a smooth, tight ball by pulling the ends under the dough, as if forming a jellyfish. Smooth the ball by lightly rolling it on the counter in a circular motion between your hands, as if almost tossing it laterally from hand to hand.

When your dough has formed a smooth ball, place the dough on a cornmeal-sprinkled pizza peel, cover the dough with a towel, and allow the dough to rise at room temperature for an hour. Toward the end of the rise, place the base of a large, unglazed terra cotta planter upside down in a cold oven (if the oven is hot, the planter base will crack). Preheat the oven to 400. If you do not have a planter base, you can use a pizza stone.

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Inverted terra cotta planter base in cold oven.

After rising, brush the bread with a shaken mixture of 1/3 C water and 1 T cornstarch, and use a sharp knife to cut four slits in the top of the dough, forming a square shape.

As for the first rise, pour hot water into the 9 x 13″ pan beneath the planter. Using the pizza peel, slide the dough onto the terra cotta base (the dough will stick a little), and set the oven timer for 50 minutes.

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Dough placed on hot terra cotta planter base. Tray of water beneath.

After 50 minutes of baking, use a thermometer to check the internal temperature of your bread – it should be between 205 and 210 degrees.

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Bread at 207 degrees.

Once your bread is in the desired temperature range, remove it from the oven and allow it to cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing.

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Finished bread.

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Finished bread, sliced.

This is a really good recipe because it isn’t over complicated and it works. This recipe produces a great, all-purpose loaf of bread with a crispy crust and chewy crumb. This is a great everyday go-to bread recipe.

 

I watched the first episode of Good Eats: Reloaded, which aired Monday. I wasn’t sure what I would think of Alton revamping his classic episodes, as I felt that he might be diminishing the integrity of his original work. That being said, I feel that Alton did a good job of intertwining new techniques/technology with his original content. Plus, he’s only reloading a small number of episodes – those which he feels need to be revisited and improved upon. How can I argue with that when it is his body of work?

Certain Good Eats episodes are about food topics I am super excited to get in the kitchen and make. Episode 108 was all about doughnuts, a food item I had never before made, but that had always been on my list. Once again, this project gave me the incentive to get in the kitchen and scratch another food off my to-do list.

Yeast Doughnuts

Alton’s doughnut recipe is for yeast doughnuts, which are much lighter than their cake counterparts. Yeast doughnuts are obviously leavened with yeast, while cake doughnuts are leavened with baking powder. While yeast doughnuts are light and airy, cake doughnuts tend to be heavier and more dense, and I happen to think both are fantastic. The first step for Alton’s doughnuts is to put 2 1/2 ounces shortening in a bowl and heat 1 1/2 C milk until the milk is just hot enough to melt the shortening (I heated my milk in the microwave). Once hot, pour the milk over the shortening and set aside.

In a small bowl, sprinkle two packages of instant yeast over 1/3 C warm water and set this aside while you gather the other ingredients.

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Yeast sprinkled in warm water.

You will also need 2 eggs, 1/4 C sugar, 1 t fresh nutmeg, 1 1/2 t salt, 1-1 1/2 gallons vegetable or peanut oil, and 23 ounces flour.

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Ingredients for doughnuts: yeast, eggs, sugar, salt, nutmeg, shortening, flour, and milk.

Next, pour the yeast and shortening mixtures into the bowl of a stand mixer, along with the eggs, salt, nutmeg, sugar, and half of the flour.

Stir the dough on low speed with the paddle attachment. Once the flour is incorporated, increase the speed and mix the dough thoroughly.

Next, add the rest of the flour, mixing at low speed until incorporated. Increase the speed and mix the dough thoroughly again.

Now it is time to knead the dough, so replace the paddle attachment with the dough hook. Let the hook knead the dough on medium speed until the dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl.

Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl, cover it with plastic, and let it sit for an hour, or until doubled.

When the dough has risen, sprinkle flour liberally on a smooth surface and turn the dough out onto the flour. Sprinkle the top of the dough with flour also.

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Dough turned out onto floured surface, and liberally dusted with flour.

Fold the dough in quarters a couple times, pressing out any gas bubbles with each fold.

Next, use a rolling pin to roll the dough to 3/8″ thick; the dough will be quite sticky, so you may need to consistently dust it with flour.

Cut the dough into doughnuts using either a 2 1/2 inch doughnut cutter, or, as Alton prefers, a 2 1/2 inch pastry ring for the outsides and a 7/8″ pastry ring for the centers.

Transfer the doughnuts to a floured sheet pan, cover them with a tea towel, and let them rise for 30 minutes (this is called “bench proofing”).

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Doughnuts transferred to floured baking sheet to proof.

You can set excess dough aside, covered, for an hour and re-roll/cut more doughnuts. I ended up with a total of 25 doughnuts. Once proofed, heat the vegetable or peanut oil in a Dutch oven until it reaches 365 degrees.

Add doughnuts to the hot oil, avoiding overcrowding them. Cook the doughnuts for one minute per side, transferring them to a rack over a sheet pan to drain/cool. Tip:  use chopsticks or skewers to flip and transfer the doughnuts.

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Doughnuts frying for 1 minute per side.

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Alton’s yeast doughnuts.

Allow the doughnuts to cool completely before glazing with one, or both, of the recipes below. I did have to sample an unglazed doughnut, and I can report that it was lightly crispy on the outside and super airy on the inside. The dough was just lightly sweet with a hint of nutmeg. Now, on to those glazes…

Doughnut Glaze

Alton’s first doughnut glaze recipe is super simple, coming together in just a few minutes. Combine 1/4 C milk and 1 t vanilla in a saucier over medium heat.

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Milk and vanilla in a saucier over medium heat.

In the episode Alton specified that you want the milk to reach 150 degrees, but I just heated it until it was pretty warm. Once warm, whisk in 2 C sifted powdered sugar until smooth.

Remove the glaze from the heat and dip the doughnuts into the warm glaze.

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Alton’s glaze.

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Glazed doughnuts.

If you are glazing a lot of doughnuts, you may need keep the glaze warm by setting it over a bowl of warm water, but I did not need to do that. Let the glaze set up for a few minutes before eating. This glaze is great, giving the doughnuts a sweet vanilla flavor and a pretty sheen.

Chocolate Doughnut Glaze

If you happen to be a chocolate fan, Alton has you covered with his chocolate doughnut glaze. The chocolate glaze begins in the same way as the original doughnut glaze, combining 1/4 C milk and 1 t vanilla in a saucier over medium heat.

Heat the milk until warm and whisk in 2 C sifted powdered sugar.

Once the sugar is incorporated, add an additional teaspoon of vanilla, 1/2 C butter cut in pats, 1 T corn syrup, and 4 ounces chopped bittersweet chocolate.

When half of the chocolate has melted, remove the pan from the heat and continue stirring until the glaze is smooth.

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Glaze stirred until smooth.

Dip the doughnuts into the glaze, allowing it to set before eating.

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Alton’s chocolate glaze.

This glaze is also quite outstanding and results in super pretty doughnuts. The glaze sets up, but is still smooth and creamy. It gives the doughnuts a punch of chocolate flavor, though you can still taste the flavor of the doughnuts themselves.

IMG_9697IMG_9703I really enjoyed this episode, and doughnuts will be made in my kitchen again. They really are quite easy and much better than what you can buy at the store. Personally, I think I liked the vanilla glaze more than the chocolate one, but I really liked both. I gave some doughnuts away and also froze some for later glazing. I think I know what we’ll be eating for breakfast Saturday!