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This year my husband and I set a goal of learning about baking. We petered out this summer (temps are over 100° consistently), but are picking it up again. I am currently challenging myself to learn the art of baking bread with no recipes, or very little recourse to recipes. I would like it to be a second nature thing.
Right now, I'm working on trying to learn just how wet the dough can be before it gets too heavy. The last batch I made was pretty good. I did the wet hands method for the initial folding of the dough, then onto a floured board and several floury folds later I had a decent dough to work with and it rose well. I make my sourdough loaves in bread pans rather than rounds because that's how my family wants them. It isn't perfect yet, but makes a good sandwich bread, which is what we mostly use it for. That, and as a cheese holder. :)
>1 cammykitty: Would there be any problem in each of us setting up our own threads in this group for our cooking exploits of the year? Sort of like the folks in the Green Dragon each have their own reading threads if they want? I have no idea at the moment who has control over this group. Guess some research is required.
While I'm thinking about it, I have a fancy Kitchenaid mixer which has a bread dough kneader blade (as in, give your wrists some rest). I like it, but don't use it (I don't really eat a lot of bread, and I live alone).
Sourdough is one of the best smells you can fill the kitchen with, next to Gingerbread. :-}
I may start up a thread about what I cook. I do keep a rather irregular journal of it. I like looking back and seeing where I've been in my eating and creating, just like I enjoy looking at my reading history. *Oh yeah, that was when I was into...*
I found this group because I follow Kidzdoc's thread in another group. I do lots of cooking. Of all kinds. Like somebody else up-thread, I do most of my cooking on weekends and eat it through the week.
I also belong to a supper group that meets once a month. This last weekend I made an Italian cherry tart for that group. When I took them out of the oven I thought that the recipe was a big failure. However, after cooling it was a different story. Those two tarts were positively beautiful. They looked like they belonged in a cookbook. This is a recipe that I will make again and it was an adventure in cooking.
I have 2 Kitchenaid mixers and I use both of them. I didn't have any until 3 years ago and then bought one and was given another. They are wonderful. Prior to the kitchenaid I made all my bread by hand. About 6 months ago I got a bread machine from a thrift shop. I paid $5.00 for it. I started experimenting with it and really like using it. I made all of my Christmas bread gifts using the dough cycle on the bread machine. I am still learning how it works, but using it to make the dough frees me up to do other things and still have homemade dough.
My sister is the sourdough baker in the family. She has a batch of "Herman" that she has had for 10 years and keeps it alive and well. Along with her family.
My Christmas gift bread this year was a Ginger Pumpkin braided bread. The recipe came from King Arthur Flour and that recipe is a keeper. The bread is great breakfast bread with butter it is a wonderful companion for coffee.
In my old machine I made all kinds of breads. I experimented with all sorts of non-wheat flours, spelt being my favorite. I used to wonder how my grandmother could bake bread by measuring everything in her hand, but that's pretty much what I did with the machine. My current one is trickier since I can't change any of its standard settings.
When I got it, I downloaded the instruction manual and followed their recipes. The results were awful. I can understand why the original owner gave it away. When I ran across some instructions for baking at altitude (not very high, only 2200 feet) so I tweaked the recipes a tiny bit and now they work fine.
Lately I've been using the dough cycle so I can make buns and sometimes loaves. Results so far are only OK. Since I've recently acquired a Kitchen Aid with a dough hook, I'm tempted to skip the machine. I've never had much confidence in kneading skills, plus carpal tunnel is messing with my hands. Nor have I felt confident in how long I proof the dough, either. But as I read the other day, even if you get a less-than-perfect loaf, you can still eat it. I don't bake in hot weather, so I have to get my practice in before the winter ends.
I'll get that recipe and try to post it before I leave for a conference next week.