Monday, August 24, 2009

The Litmus Test

When I received a package of White Whole Wheat flour from the King Arthur Flour company last week, I wanted to be sure I gave the product a good, thorough test. If you missed the first installment of this test, it is part of my participation in BloggerAid Changing the Face of Famine's View and Review program. My first recipe was a savory one from the King Arthur website and was definitely a winner in my book. I also plan to do a "sweet" recipe (maybe pancakes or cinnamon rolls or something), but in my mind, if you're going to truly rate a flour on any scale, the best way to do it is in the raw (or as close to raw as you can get) to catch the flavor, texture, and quality at its most blatant....and in my book, that is by baking bread. I call that, the Litmus Test.

Now, I am not a baker. Not even close. I commonly equate cooking and baking to the subjects in which I excelled or was dismally poor at during my school years. To me, cooking is like an art....a little of this, a little of that, add some color for flair, and give it a personality. I was good at the arts. Baking, on the other hand, reminds me of science and math. Measurements, quantity, temperature, time, and you need to be accurate. Science and Math were not my strong suits (and that's putting it mildly).

On that note, I want to send a big thanks out to PJH from the King Arthur Flour company for leaving a comment on my last post, suggesting their No Knead 100% Whole Wheat Bread recipe for my first effort in yeast breads. This recipe could not have been easier. Still, I was nervous. Serious baking has always intimidated me. I don't even get along very well with bread machines, and that's cheating.

So, let me start with the recipe, and then I'll tell you how it went.
No-Knead 100% Whole Wheat Bread
1 cup lukewarm water
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup melted butter or vegetable oil
3 tablespoons molasses, maple syrup, dark corn syrup, or brown sugar corn syrup (I used maple syrup)
2 teaspoons instant yeast
1/4 cup Baker's Special Dry Milk or nonfat dry milk
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
3 cups King Arthur whole wheat flour, white whole wheat preferred
1) Heavily grease an 8 1/2" x 4 1/2" loaf pan. This loaf tends to stick, so be sure to grease the pan thoroughly with non-stick vegetable oil spray.
2) Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl. Beat the mixture vigorously for about 3 minutes; an electric mixer set on high speed works well here. You should have a very sticky dough. It won't be pourable, but neither will it be kneadable. Scoop it into the prepared pan.
3) Cover the pan with lightly greased plastic wrap, and let it rise for 60 to 90 minutes; it should just about rise to the rim of the pan, perhaps just barely cresting over the rim. While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 350°F.
4) Uncover the bread, and bake it for about 40 to 45 minutes, tenting it with aluminum foil after 20 minutes. The bread is done when it's golden brown on top, and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center registers between 190°F and 195°F. Remove it from the oven, and after 5 minutes turn it out onto a rack. Brush with melted butter, if desired; this will keep the crust soft. Cool the bread completely before cutting it.Notes: Since I am new to baking, I made sure to follow the recipe to the letter. I timed and measured everything carefully, tented the loaf after exactly 20 minutes, and used my instant read thermometer to make sure it also hit the right internal temperature (don't mind the probe sticking out of the loaf in the pictures!).

Who can argue with a recipe that just says, "Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl"? That prospect won me over from step one. My only thought is that I should have let the yeast bloom a bit in the lukewarm water before adding the other ingredients, as my bread didn't really rise much. I even made sure I bought fresh yeast for the project.

Now, that being said, this bread was great.

My main curiosity with the White Whole Wheat flour was whether or not it would be dramatically different from traditional whole wheat flours. So many of them produce doughs that are either dry or gritty (in my opinion), not that I mind some texture in my breads, but the whole point here is that it should be smoother and milder (in theory, to pass a healthier version on to my picky eaters).

And it worked.

Now, granted, I did not blind fold anyone (come on, like I'm going to take the time to do that when the house smells like freshly baked bread? Please, you're lucky I held off on inhaling the lovely golden stuff long enough to take pictures), but I don't think you could pass this off as white bread. On the other hand, its absolutely nothing like any whole wheat breads I've ever had, either. It had a lovely, somewhat dense consistency, without being heavy, and a texture that was neither airy nor tough. The loaf was moist, but strong. It held up to buttering, and manhandling by my son, who, as you can see, gobbled it up like it was a chocolate chip muffin.
(yeah, I know, there's a lot of butter on that piece of bread, I got a little carried away)The hubs even tried it willingly and enthused that it was really good. Not that I needed any extra positive reinforcement after that, but the girls at work really enjoyed it this morning, as well.
So, how would I rate King Arthur Flour's White Whole Wheat Flour? And, I will be baking bread again. My loaf is gone and I want more.
Don't change that station, folks! I've got one more recipe up my sleeve - I hope to have it out to you later this week!
On a side note, we are also the proud owners of a pretty spiffy new charcoal grill. The hubs has been wanting to start smoking his own meats, and we were looking at something a little fancier, but we ended up going with a basic, but heavy duty model. Here's the proud papa grillin' away after 3 measly hours of assembly time.


ARLENE said...

Only 3 hours to assemble? Larry would have thrown it in the woods. He HATES assembling stuff. Could it be because he does it at work all the time???? The bread looks delicious. I love to knead, though; it gets out lots of angst.

giz said...

Great post and I particularly love your young 'taster' looks like he really gave it the thumbs up.

Thanks for sharing.

Kim said...

Love your deck and backyard - very pretty with all the trees. Congrats on the new grill. There isn't anything much better than fresh baked bread with butter or jam or peanut can see where I'm going with this : ) Your bread looks great! You should try Tyler's wonderful white bread - I love it. I've made it with all white and then also with half white and half wheat, it's great both ways. Have fun baking!! And- I used my deep baker tonight and made a loaded mashed potato casserole for the hubby. It was wonderful. Even hubby commented how nice it was. Thanks again!!

Pam said...

Can't wait to see all the good stuff that comes off that grill!

Ty'sMommy said...

Arlene - I know! I was very impressed that the whole shebang didn't end up with bullet holes in it!

Thanks, Giz! Ty has a great time benig my guinea piglet.

Kim - Oooo now where's THAT recipe? Sounds like one the hubs would love!

You betcha, Pam, we're gonna be grillin' fools!

Joanne said...

Working with yeast kind of scares me as well. I think i need to check out this no-knead business. I love white whole wheat flour. It somehow has a different consistency from regular whole wheat flour. More airy.

In response to your comment on my blog, I posted the rosemary mac n cheese recipe a while ago. Here is the link:

Aparna said...

Its hard to believe you're a non baker looking at your bread. Wish King Arthur flour was available here too.