Friday, January 25, 2013

Excerpts From the Diary of a Bread Fanatic

I'm a huge talker. I'm curious about pretty much any subject. And I definitely like to talk about my passions. However, there are two subjects that I'm VERY passionate about that I  TRY not to talk about (often unsuccessfully): my bread, and nutrition.  The reason? Not many people can relate with me over the joy of successfully developing the gluten in bread, or achieving the optimum amount of fiber grams for my daily allowance. :) So I try to keep these things to myself! :)I'm caving today, and writing a WHOLE blog post about bread. Why? Because I just had a MAJOR victory in bread-baking. The biggest one in the WHOLE ENTIRE HISTORY  of my bread-baking. (about three years.) Before I explain, let me show you (through pictures) why this is so exciting to me. (That is, of course, if you haven't already clicked off this blog because you realize what you're in for.)
First, look at the bread on this sandwich: Oh wait, don't look!!! FIRST, I have to tell you that all these pictures on this blog... are ones that I haven't taken. I'm totally not technologically savvy (I can't even figure out how turn on my mom's new phone) and I couldn't figure out how to snap a picture on my sister's camera. (Yes, I tried.) NOW, please look at the bread on this sandwich:

 Do you see it????? Look at the crumb of the bread! It's open and airy and absolutely BEAUTIFUL!!! This, my friends, is the result of completely developed gluten. Oh wait... do ya'll know what gluten is? I'm sure I've slipped up and talked about it sometime, but just in case, I'll tell you. There are these two different proteins in flour (gliadin and glutenin) Normally,they just "hang out" together in the flour, but when flour "meets" the water, it causes these proteins to bond together! The more you knead the bread dough, the more you "develop" the gluten. (the stronger the bond becomes) It's like working out! The more you do it, the stronger you get! And the "stronger" (more developed) the gluten gets, the better it supports your bread!

There IS a problem, though. Developing the gluten requires MUSCLE. And time. Lots of time. So long, that I've never achieved truly developed gluten before IN MY LIFE! How can I tell if it's developed?
Here's how:
This is called windowpaning. Basically, you do this by taking a piece of your kneaded dough and stretching it as much as you can. If you can stretch it so thin that light can come through it (like a window, get it???) then your gluten is developed. I've never, ever, EVER been able to accomplish this. So it has affected my bread! Here's a picture of the kind of crumb MY bread has had:

 Now there is nothing wrong with this bread if you're making a sandwich loaf or something, but for artisan bread (something I've been trying to accomplish) this crumb is NOT right. It's too dense. The gluten simply is not developed enough.

So what's my victory??? I made bread with DEVELOPED gluten!!! For the first time EVER! And I've been trying a really long time. The secret? Using a stand mixer. My dad let me use his ( he uses his to mix concrete in small batches for his business, but our family doesn't actually own one.)!!! The mixer did all the work for me! I just had to make the poolish beforehand, and put in the ingredients and test the gluten development! (okay, there were a few more steps involved, but nothing hard!)

And guess what I got today??? Actually, I'll show you!
See this? While I didn't make this bread, this looks really similar to the bread I made today! See the crumb? While it's not as open as my "ideal" bread, it was definitely a huge step from the sad attempts at artisan bread I've made before. And I think if I had used the higher gluten flour the recipe called for, ( the kind we never keep in our kitchen and that is hard to come by) I might have achieved my "goal" crumb. :)

While you may not be as thrilled about me at this "major" accomplishment, maybe I've given you a little window into my passion for bread. You may be wondering why I love bread... I'd tell you now... but I'm thinking it would make a great list for another post! If you have any questions or want the recipe (or want to know what poolish is) I'll e-mail you. I don't want to bore you with any more! I just HAD to tell you about this, and figured I could explain it better in writing!


  1. It was still interesting to read, even though I may not enjoy it as much as you do! :)

  2. This is so cool . . . I guess I am a fanatic of bread as well! Wow, I didn't know all that and since we do have a stand mixer, maybe artisan bread won't be as hard as I thought. I've always been scared off by it before:)

    1. It's not hard at ALL if you have a stand mixer!!! I was scared off, too, until I checked out a bunch of books on it! :) (oops, guess the secret's out!) The cookies are GOOD by the way! :) I had to "improvise" a little, but it worked out! (we didn't have corn chips)

  3. I've never tried making artisan bread, but now I'm a bit inspired! My husband and I have a bread oven, which we use to make our sandwich bread and pizza dough. I always feel like it is "cheating" a bit, but it almost always has wonderful results! I have had some bad experiences with attempts at bread from scratch, but you may have inspired me to try again one day soon.