Sunday, January 3, 2010

Being Productive

I've been very sick with an asthma flare up and spent the better part of two weeks lying around, coughing and wishing I felt better. I really couldn't bake very much, and our supplies of daily breads are almost completely gone. I didn't complain when my husband bought himself some multi-grain bread, because I just wasn't up to making it.

The many drugs I'm on finally started kicking in yesterday. My family was away, so very slowly I did some baking. I do mean slowly. I'd mix the dough, then rest. Knead the dough (by machine), then rest. Working slowly like that, I managed to make my challahs for the month. I make a single recipe of Rose Levy Berenbaum's sourdough challah into four small challahs. They came out beautifully.

I also baked up the last of the multi-grain cereal HBin5 dough. It was a brick--and got promptly tossed in the trash. I will try this again for the HBin5 baking challenge, but I was not impressed with this dough. It was heavy and tasteless.

Last night I started the dough for Rose Levy Beranbaum's banana feather bread and Peter Reinhart's Bagels from Artisan Breads Every Day. The banana feather bread is on it's second bulk fermenting rise, but the bagels are done.

I must say the bagel recipe from that book is incredibly easy. You mix up the dough the night before. The bagels are supposed to be shaped first, but lacking room in the fridge I decided to shape after the overnight retardation.

It was a bit hard to do the shaping with the cold dough--that dough tends to be a bit tough. I'm sure it would have been easier in the first stage. But beyond that, this recipe was very easy to do and the results were wonderful--the bagels are great. They are not cakey or bready like grocery store bagels. They are chewy and solid, like a bagel should be.

And I still have enough energy to write this post. It feels good to be productive again, and it's how I know I'm going to be OK. I'm still hacking like an old smoker (I never so much as took a puff of a cigarette in my life, but both parents smoked a lot around me when I was growing up), I have no voice, and little stamina, but I'm going to be OK. The bread tells me that.


  1. Have you tried the bagel recipe from the first ABin5? I made it two times, the first time it came out so good, the second time, just o.k.. . I like Peter Reinhart a lot, he just came out with a new book like ABin5, but I haven't bought it yet (incredible for a cookbook junkie like myself). I've only made one from the Rose L. book. . . do you have any favorites

  2. Hi Teresa,

    I'm an old PR fan (we live in Sonoma County where he got his start with Brother Juniper's) but I haven't purchased his more recent books until the latest--Artisan Breads Every Day. The other books just look too time consuming--I'm a working mom and 3 day builds are just not possible. I was skeptical about the new book, but pleasantly surprised when I tried the bagel recipe. Now I'm eager to try others in the book.

    I think PR's Artisan book takes some of his favorites and reworks them using the same techniques as Lahey and the AB in 5 authors (and he gives them due credit in the forward). These recipes are doable in my time constraints. If you have the other books, you will find many of the same recipes adapted for less time commitment and fussing. I'm glad I spent my money on this book and not the others, because I think I will actually use this book. BBA would be nice to have as a reference, but I can always get it at the library.

    As for Rose Levy Beranbaum's Bread Bible--I love that book. I've never had a dud from her recipes. The banana feather bread is to DIE for! If you try nothing else in that book, you must try it. It is delicious, and it really is light as a feather.

    Her Levy's Rye bread is great according to my husband. I don't like caraway, so while I make it, I don't eat it (husband doesn't want it without caraway). I like her heart of wheat bread, too.

    She has a good challah recipe in the book, but a better one on her website. That one uses a stiff sourdough starter as a "pate ferment" (old dough to condition the bread) and the texture and flavor of that challah are wonderful (not sour at all). As a matter of fact, I'm making one to share at a potluck as we speak.

    My only complaint about RLB's book is that her charts are confusing. I have taken to writing in the book to clarify what ingredient goes with what step. I'm even considering re-writing the charts in a more logical fashion and pasting them over hers in the book.

    Then again, I have "messed up" many times by putting things in the wrong order by following her charts, and the breads still come out fine. So it's not critical if you mess up.

    Hmmm, you've given me an idea--sounds like I need to post on some of the books I have.