Monday, April 5, 2010

Bread Bake-Off

Well, we had three good months with our pizza/bread stone, and nearly constant bread baking before this happened:

Yikes. Seemed to be the result of a high temperature pizza. (This shot is after I wrangled a yummy dinner off the stone, of course.) More on pizza in a future post, and my quest for the perfect crust.

So - what to do with all my bread dough and a broken stone?

The kids and I staged a bread bake-off, using one dough and two baking methods. We made the European Peasant Bread from Artisan Bread in 5. Not a favorite, incidentally. I guess I like my breads to have either the creamy chew of an all-white bread or the wholesome nuttiness of a whole-grain bread. That in-between range seems bland and indecisive.

Nevertheless, on to the bake-off...
The first contender had a lovely rise on a cornmeal-covered peel, then was transferred to a baking sheet, followed by the usual slash and steam method shown at the end of this video.

The second loaf was laid on a cornmeal-covered towel to rise, then - with a complete lack of kitchen grace on my part - turned upside down into a preheated Dutch oven and baked with the pot lid for about 30 minutes, then without the lid for another 15 minutes, loosely following Jim Lahey's technique.

It was difficult to determine a winner here. The crust from bread #2 was so thick and crispy that it turned off the kids. You know that kind of crust that makes you wince a bit when the crumbs go sprinkling all over your clean kitchen floor as the knife is slicing? That's the one. I thought it was yummy. Hubs said otherwise. Now for the interior: The results were evenly split. The baking sheet loaf #1 had a creamier, moister texture, while #2 was less dense with larger air pockets. Personally I liked them both, but they really tasted like completely different breads.

Just to confuse you, bread #2 is actually on the left, and bread #1 is on the right.

In the end, I'd say the baking sheet loaf was the winner for overall taste, texture, ease of technique and appearance, although the Dutch oven loaf definitely had a peasant bread feel. (Whatever that means! sheesh! I've never been a peasant after all...)

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