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Last week I gathered various Amazon gift cards I had collected over past months and applied them to my order of a nice chef’s knife and a brand new hardcover book (I never do that, even with gift money). The knife is the sharpest I have ever used (fingers, beware) and it makes chopping veggies much less of a hassle and in fact, less of a risk—dull knives cause more accidents. The book is this one by baker Peter Reinhart. His previous bread cookbook was a huge hit, but I don’t have it, and I was encouraged to get this new one on account of reviewer comments such as “this is Reinhart lite” and that it was probably the most thoroughly tested cookbook ever. I like thoroughly tested recipes. That’s why I suffer from Cook’s Illustrated dependency. Anyway, I do have some bread baking experience but it’s not been altogether successful, and I’m no scientist in the kitchen. I don’t need pages of explanation about different bacterial strains in sourdough before making it confidently. I just want straightforward directions about how to make good, crusty bread. In the past I’ve come close, but not close enough to justify the extra planning involved in making “slow” bread rather than a quick sandwich loaf, and my results were kind of sporadic.

Once I can get some pineapple juice I will start a seed culture so that I can begin experimenting with the sourdough recipes in the book. For now I’ll concentrate on the simple instant yeast recipes, like the French bread. I have a stand mixer that handled the double batch for me, but the texture of the dough made it a dream to finish kneading (the machine or your hands knead it for 2 minutes, then you knead by hand for another minute). I didn’t have to add any extra flour and it was perfectly smooth and tacky, so I’m pretty sure this would be quite easy to knead entirely by hand. Since the recipe makes two large loaves, I went ahead and divided it into two bowls: one I will bake tomorrow after a long night in the fridge, and the other will sit for about 4 days until I want to bake again. Reinhart says the quality of the dough begins to deteriorate after that point, but it can be kept in the fridge up to a week. There were also directions for freezing the dough! I love the flexibility. I honestly had no idea yeasted dough could sit for so long without slowly overgrowing and taking over the fridge.

We’ll see how this effort at artisan breadmaking turns out. I hope that the mediocre rye bread I had to buy in a pinch last week is the last loaf of bread I purchase for a long time.

Edited next day:
more thanks go to Susan for pointing me to The Fresh Loaf forums. I made generous use of the collective expertise there today when my bread was rising slower than molasses in…February, let’s say. It was sort of a silly question but the tips that flowed in were well worth posing it. Now I know to let my baguettes rise longer when I make them later in the week, DV. :)

Here is the finished, slightly diminutive loaf. It does have good flavor, a fine crust and a delightfully chewy texture.
bread

My latest project has been learning how to make baguettes. This project goes well with Heidi’s latest post. If you fail and end up with a brick you can always use your baguette for a weapon.

A chewy crust with soft bread inside and large holes are the goal. I used this
recipe with instructions.

It’s a long, drawn out process and was challenging but it was well worth all the trouble. My dough didn’t stretch as well as theirs in the picture. It tore some showing the gluten was not well formed but it improved with each stretch and fold. I formed my loaves on a cookie sheet and baked them on that since I don’t have a baking stone. It worked fine. I especially appreciated the pictures on the following King Arthur site about how to shape the loaves. I preheated the oven and put a bread pan in the bottom of the oven filled with hot water. I slashed then sprayed the baguettes before putting them in the oven and also sprayed them every five minutes while they were baking. It only took 15 minutes at 450. My husband has had baguettes in France and he was very pleased with how they turned out even though the holes in mine were not as large as those in the picture in the first site.

I found more helpful advice about making baguettes with many detailed pictures on a King Arthur blog but I haven’t tried out their recipe yet. If you want their recipe, it’s found under the instructions, just before the comments.
King Arthur Baguette instructions.

I followed through on my threats to make bread :-) The missionary lady I lived with long ago as a mother’s helper gave me this recipe, and I made it a few times in Mexico to give to friends there; but hadn’t used it since.   I pulled it out a couple weeks ago and decided it looked simple enough to start with.  It worked beautifully, and it tastes really delicious.  I think Susan collects recipes; and, I think, baking bread is one of the nicest smells on earth.

(If you have favorite oven recipes, please post them?  I’m looking for every excuse to use the oven right now and I expect everyone else is too now that one can, as Laura recently remarked, use the oven without worry about driving up the electricity bill.)

~

Home-Style Yeast Bread

1 pkg. active dry yeast

2 cups warm water (110 to 115)

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup melted butter or margarine

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

2 eggs, beaten

7 to 8 cups bread flour

In a mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add the sugar, butter, salt, eggs and 4 cups flour. Beat until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough. Turn onto a floured surface, knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour. Punch dough down. Turn onto a floured surface. Divide into thirds. Shape into loaves and place in 3 greased loaf pans. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pans to wire racks to cool.

YIELD: 3 loaves

Note: One (0.25-ounce) package of active dry yeast is equal to 2 1/4 teaspoons of yeast in bulk.

Also note: This recipe makes wonderful sweet rolls.

(pictured are my very first :-)  I sent them to work with Ruben)

 

I was diagnosed last year with reactive hypoglycemia, and I have to be attentive to the glycemic index of everything I eat. Unchecked, reactive hypoglycemia can lead to diabetes.

 

 For a while, I thought the problem had resolved when my endocrinologist lowered my dose of hydrocortisone, and I was seeing consistently normal glucose values for the first time in a Siberian winter. But as time passes, even on the reduced dose of hydrocortisone, bread is once again causing my blood sugar to spike. I saw 197 on the glucometer after eating two slices of toast with two eggs and a slice of cheese, and freaked out.

 

It’s all fairly complicated, but it’s carbs that cause my blood sugar to spike. Grains of any type — and the wholeness of the grains makes no difference, nor does brown rice, or any other color or texture — have more carbohydrates and a higher glycemic index per serving than, for instance, dark chocolate or carefully selected ice cream without corn syrup. In other words, what it seems I cannot eat if I wish to maintain safely sub-diabetic glucose levels, are grains: bread, rice, pasta, or any other type of grain; whether wheat or quinoa, it makes no difference. It’s the number of grams of carbohydrate per serving that counts.

 

I’ll mention here that this is about a quest for bread available in a store. I no longer make my own bread because my hands hurt all the time.

 

My husband and I have done a lot of research on carbohydrates and hypoglycemia, and did more again after the recent scary spike incident. The fact remains that I must eat like a diabetic or become one. Most competent diabetics count carbohydrates, and they don’t worry as much about the sugar they put in their coffee as they would about a serving of corn. My husband found a reference to low-carbohydrate bread that helped other people with reactive hypoglycemia to stay level without giving up bread entirely. One brand, proprietary to Trader Joe’s, was made without flour, and used pecan meal instead. Unfortunately, this variety is not available at my particular local Trader Joe’s. There was another reference to a bread at Whole Foods Market. There is no Whole Foods Market where we live, but my husband works a few blocks away from one. I called our local health food store, Marlene’s, and they were very interested in such a thing but did not presently have any sort of low-carbohydrate bread.

 

After finding no low-carbohydrate bread on the shelves of Whole Foods Market, my husband asked the bakery manager about it. She found a bread that has no sugar or gluten or any fillers or starches of any kind except pure grains and seeds. She sliced it thinner than most bread comes sliced. I found a thin slice to be more filling than thicker slices of less substantial bread. We weighed a slice of this new bread and divided by the carbohydrates per ounce on the label, and came up with 6 g of carbohydrate per slice, compared to 18 g per slice of the 12-grain Orowheat bread that caused my spike.

 

 People who have to manage carbohydrates and glucose get used to doing the math for everything they eat. It’s worth it: I had a slice of the new bread from Whole Foods Market with my normal low-carb chicken and vegetable stirfry dinner. My postprandial blood glucose was 106. The specters of insulin, blindness, amputations, dialysis, and life being a hassle melted away. I retested in the morning after a slice of toast and was 107, still perfect. I’ll keep testing, but if I can continue to eat a slice of this particular bread safely, my husband is to return to Whole Foods Market with the empty bread wrapper, find that bakery manager, thank her, and elicit a promise that she will never, ever run out of this worldly bread of life.

June 2017
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