Chef Wannabe's Culinary Adventures

The thoughts and adventures of a wannabe chef cooking his way into the hearts of a few.

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Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Friday, March 31, 2006

Bread Course

Yesterday, I made up a batch of Alton Brown's very basic bread recipe. It was turning out so well. The starter had a wonderful yeasty, alcohol aroma that reminded me of walking past the Canadian Club Distilleries in Walkerville. I was very excited, as I usually am, at the prospect of having a fresh, tasty loaf to tear into, fresh out of the oven. As I mixed the starter in to the remaining flour and the dough came together, I was ready to knead. Kneading is always my favourite part of making bread (besides eating it). The physical act of pushing, twisting pushing pulling sends me in to a kind of trance. I get all of my frustrations out and end it all with a satisfying, beautifully silky dough. All was good as it should be. I let it rise for 2 hours then punched it down and shaped it. The dough was absolutely fantastic to work with and I was sure that this was going to be the best loaf ever. Well, this may be where I went wrong. I think that while I was shaping it that I must have somehow introduced an extrememly large air bubble to the bottom side of the loaf. Also, before putting it into the heat I slashed the top of the loaf with a knife and the last slash that I did went a little deep on one side. This all resulted in a very violent rising of the bread up and to one side as I put it in the heat. Though the loaf was not horrible it was not the best. It was, I would say, over browned on the top and obviously mishaped. The crust was too chewy for my liking and the inside was not bad, except for the enormous air bubble on the inside. Next time I'll have to work harder at shaping it properly. I am beginning to realize that shaping is one of the things that I will have to work on.
The big bonus out of all of this is that I do have a fairly tasty loaf of bread to eat and a little bit more experience. In fact, I have been waiting on a sourdough starter since Monday and will be making it all happen in the next couple of days. The starter, though scary at first as it rose very quickly and started to over flow the container that I was keeping it in (I shoulda used less of the instant yeast... oops!), again smells awesome. It is actually starting to fill the house with that aroma of yeast and alcohol. mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.
On another note, I went over to my buddy's house last night and he and his girl treated me to a fantastic meal inspired by pumpkin that she had in the freezer. We started with a fantastic pumpkin soup that had wonderful earthy undertones of bacon, leek, potato and the sweetness of cream. It was delicious. I brought a bottle of Freixenet Cava that went very well with the soup. For our main we had some great porkloin in a mushroom sauce with potatoes and peas. This is one of my buddy's specialities. He takes whatever pork he has, in this case left over porchetta, and places it in a skillet with a can of cream of mushroom soup, some milk or cream, potatoes salt, pepper and at the end peas. It is always awesome and I love this dish. It feels like home.
We finished it all off with some great pumpkin pie, coffee and sambuca. Rounded off with some red wine and beers and it was a great evening.
The next challenge: Sourdough bread.

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