Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Hot Weather & Bread

Oh, summer heat, how the garden loves you.

But oh, how you put a cramp in this baker's style.

Baking bread on an 80+ degree day is not something I enjoy, but man, do I enjoy baking bread.  What is a girl to do?

I suppose I could go buy bread, but that is never as good as the stuff I can bake up on my own.  Lucky for me, there's all kinds of information on the internet about using your crockpot as a bread baker.  Yes, the crockpot once again saves the day.  Yeehaw!  (Just FYI, I found a great resource here)

Now, I don't have room in my fridge for a bucket of dough, so I decided to bake up my favorite bread recipe and try that instead.  The picture above was taken just after plopping the round loaf into the preheated crockpot.  After a bit, it expanded and puffed and actually looked like a loaf of bread! I was so excited...and unfortunately, could not stop lifting the lid to poke at it.  Bad baker.  So, my final after-the-broiler loaf is somewhat deflated, but smells right and the texture is pretty dang good.  (I was too embarrassed by the after picture to share it.  Trust me, it looks like...squashed bread.)

Moral of the story: this technique does indeed work and does save you from having the hot oven on for a long time.  Sure, the broiler heats the joint a little, but far less than having a 400 degree oven on for 40 minutes would.  And, my favorite bread recipe did work, so huzzah!  The recipe, by the way, follows below...

Maple Oatmeal Bread from Harrowsmith's 'Country Cooking' cookbook

You'll need 1/4 cup butter, 1 1/2 cups rolled oats, 1/2 cup maple syrup, 2 tsp. kosher salt, 2 cups boiling water, 3 Tbsp. yeast, 3 Tbsp. brown sugar, 1/2 cup warm water, 6 cups of flour (I used half spelt and half AP)

Combine butter, oats, maple syrup, salt in a large bowl.  Pour boiling water over and stir.  In a small bowl, combine yeast, brown sugar, and warm water.  Stir, and then put the small bowl into the middle of the large bowl--it keeps the yeast warm, and if it foams over, no worries.

After the oat mixture cools to warm, pour the yeast into the oats and stir to combine.  Add the flour 2 cups at a time, beating well to combine after each addition.  Then turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead about five minutes until springy and soft.  Plop into a greased bowl and allow to rise for about an hour, or until doubled.  Then, punch down dough and knead lightly.  Divided into two equal halves, shape into loaves or put into greased loaf pans.  Allow bread to rise for another half hour, and then bake in a preheated 400 degree oven (or, crockpot on high) for thirty to 45 minutes (or about an hour in the crockpot).  Makes two luscious loaves, great as toast or decadent french toast, but also good as a slightly sweet hearty sandwich bread.

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