I know I must be mostly settled in to the new place because I’ve started getting cravings to bake bread again. Dr. Unicorn has been routinely lending an assist with dinner preparation, and I’ve been having fun with learning what the hell to do with tofu and lentils, but some things just never change, and apparently my addiction to bread baking is one of them. So one fine evening, ahead of a particularly experimental dinner (that didn’t work at all) I broke out a cookbook and decided to try a new bread recipe.I pulled the recipe for Turkish Loaves from “Baking: A Common Sense Guide.” I’m pretty sure I’ve never used a recipe from it before, but I started our first encounter together off to a fine start, knowing that I didn’t have enough bread flour on hand and not bothering to check whether I had the required sesame seeds.
This started off with having the yeast developed in a sponge. At the time I was thinking this was a new technique because it described the process as adding the yeast to the sweetener and wet ingredients, then adding flour to make a paste, but on reflection, this is just making a sponge without calling it that. I’ve found recipes that use sponges to be pretty simple and easy in the past, and this one followed that pattern.
I’ll tell you a secret about me and break making: it’s a procrastination tool. I work from home and spend a lot of time staring at a computer screen. If it’s been a while since I’ve had to leave for work (and January, after starting over in a new city, I’m not exactly bleeding clients from my ears) it gets really hard to sit still and keep working. But there’s a lot of activity in making bread. Mix flour and salt into a bowl and then shove your hands in to make a well? My computer-addled self can do this!
There’s also a lot of waiting in bread making, which is why I can do it during a work day without all mayhem breaking loose. Throw things in a bowl, wait for chemistry! Just, you know, make sure the bowl is actually big enough for the results of your chemistry…
Here’s where the fun part of recipes that use a sponge really kicks in. You’ve basically already got a starter dough, you just need to make it dough-y-er. You’re just mushing your starting product into more of the stuff that makes it until DOUGH! This was the stage where my mixy-switchy on the flour was going to show up as a real problem. The recipe calls for hand kneading, and the all purpose flour I used when I ran out of bread flour doesn’t have as much protein in it. That means I’ve got to work harder to get the dough to develop the structure it needs to be good bread, if it will at all. It did! And in about the same time frame the recipe called for on kneading (just five minutes) so I was pretty confident that even if the rest of dinner was a bust (did I mention that it was? It was.) the bread would be nice.This was the part where I went back to pretending to be a responsible adult and stared at the computer screen some more. Go chemistry, go! Dough after the first rise is really fun. It’s puffy, and the instruction in the recipe is virtually always to “punch” it down. Punching. I can do this.Bread recipes seem to have a pathological aversion to producing a single loaf, and this one was no different. Three loaves! Absent a kitchen scale, I was at the mercy of my own judgment for getting the dough divided evenly. Hint: Merciful is not the operative word for my judgment in these situations. Incompetent is a better choice. I did okay, though, yeah? The one that actually came out as a rectangle wound up that way because I messed it up so much I re-rolled it. The others, with the help of the tape measure I keep in the kitchen, were close enough to the dimensions the recipe called or that I left them sorta ellipsoid. You know those loaves you see in the grocery store that are nicely dimpled and have tasty things stuck in them? These are one of those loaves. You get the dimples by “pressing” your fingertips into the dough. I’m pretty sure that “pressing” is baker-speak for stabbing the dough with your fingers while shouting, “Submit or Regret Your Insolence!”
I should probably never work as a professional baker.
It turned out that if we do have sesame seeds, I have no idea where they are. Woops. We do have a ton of pumpkin seeds though. I’ve been having a lot of fun putting them in everything and seeing what happens. (Hint: Tastiness.) So I slapped on the egg wash and sprinkled the wrong kind of seed and figured that would be good enough.Oh, it was.
I decided to salt the top of the loaf. The recipe didn’t call for it, but I figured, hey, I’m making a fancy bread with toppings baked on, and I’ve almost actually followed this recipe, so why not? It was a good call.
I only baked one of the loaves that night and froze the other two. The second loaf baked perfectly just with pulling it out to thaw while the oven pre-heated. That one I covered more liberally in extra egg wash, and sprinkled powdered garlic on the top as well as the salt. That was a good move, too. Also, leftovers from that loaf made a very nice grilled cheese with the application of some cheddar.
The third loaf lingers in the fridge, but I think I hear it calling to me for rosemary and oregano.
This recipe is definitely going into my regular circulation. Super easy, super tasty.