Sunday, September 27, 2009

There's a reason...

... I don't trust cake recipes that call for adding a whole lot of hot water at the end. I've tried a few of these, and although Taraka's birthday cake turned out well it did lead to some improvisations. And the last two times I've made a cupcake version they've turned out like this:
(These are from about a month ago. I found the photo in the camera today.)

Flavor is good, hard to go wrong with dense dark chocolate. But the sag factor is considerable. I'm willing to concede that I'm doing something wrong, but don't know for sure what it is: wrong oven temp, too short a bake time, something. But they're DONE, not underdone, and still, the collapse as they cool.

Not that it's a total disaster, because what's a cupcake without frosting, and with these, you get a LOT of frosting, because that nice big dimple holds a lot.

I'm not going to make them again, though. I wouldn't have made this second batch if I'd remembered I'd been disappointed the first time. Clearly I'd been so perturbed I'd forgotten to make a note on the recipe page to try another version instead, next time. This time I wrote that down.

Lots of bread

Fresh from the oven:

1) a (mostly) whole wheat sandwich loaf

2) a few dinner rolls because I could tell I'd made too much dough for my one loaf pan. The rolls will be delish with the leftover chicken soup we're having for dinner tonight.

3) an herb foccaccia, which is probably no more than 60% whole wheat, and which puffed up more than expected, so is probably nice and fluffy inside for those of us accustomed to eating more earnestly whole-grainy bread products.

Still rising: the other half of what became foccaccia, without the herbs and extra olive oil, which I'm hoping will turn into burger buns that don't so closely resemble hocky pucks as the 100% whole wheat ones I've made in the past. This is my last attempt at burger buns. If they don't turn out right I'll stick with store-bought. "Right" in this case means sufficiently whole-wheaty that we're willing to eat them, but with a subtle enough character they don't overwhelm whatever burger-shaped food product ends up between their halves. I like whole wheat buns, but they should be a background player, not the most prominent flavor in each bite.

There's no recipe for any of these. I bake bread two or three times a month following the "just wing it" plan, although I do use the "start the day before" two-part method from this awesome book. This time, as usual, I used both whole wheat flour and a generous amount of somewhat cooked (I poured boiling water over 'em and let it sit for an hour) rolled oats and oatbran, and some millet, in the "sponge."

The not-100%-whole-wheat aspect of today's baking came about because I do not have any "instant rise" bread yeast, only the "active dry" stuff that needs to be proofed in warm water. I don't mind the proofing, but I've learned from experience that the extra water throws off the moisture content of the dough, requiring the addition of significant amounts of additional flour, which ruins the wonderfulness of the "start the day before" method, which works better the less flour you add on day 2.

So, I thought I'd try using AP flour to balance out the wet-dry ratio when I did the final mixing today, and see how that worked. Additional water for proofing the yeast, plus quite a bit of AP flour to get to a dough (vs. a glommy, sticky, glooey mess) means I got a LOT of bread baked today.
It was, of course, way too much for Hercules (as I've taken to calling my KitchenAid stand mixer), so I started with half each of the "sponge" and "biga" plus some yeast/water, some olive oil and molasses, and about a half cup of sunflower seeds.

The other half of the starters I blended up with more yeast/water, a spoonful of brown sugar, several tablespoons of olive oil, and two eggs. I mixed that all up and divided in two before adding in any of the AP flour. I used one part for the foccaccia, adding some "pasta seasoning". The other will be the burger buns. I stuck that part in the fridge for a bit so I could get things in the oven in batched, so it's just rising now. I'd better finish this post up, too, 'cause I think the first rise is probably done...

Final notes on the foccaccia: pressed out a rough rectangle of dough and lay it in a liberally-buttered 9x13 pan, poked all over with a fork, then brushed the top with some olive oil mixed with a bit of sea salt, about 1/2 tsp of dried chipotle powder, and a large pinch of dried thyme. A quick grind of fresh pepper over all and into the oven it went.

I just ate a piece off one end, and it's sublimely delicious. I kindof hate to say that, being the 100% whole grain believer that I am, but really, with all that AP flour in there it's light and yummy.