Friday, September 28, 2012

Kitchen Fails: Yeast is a living organism

I love to bake bread. My dad's been making homemade bread for as long as I can remember, and one of my favourite things in the world is to happily feast on think trenchers of fluffy white bread covered in butter. Fresh bread doesn't last very long near me.

I have a healthy scorn of bread machines, but the prospect of only bought bread, no matter how lovely, was too tragic to face. So I was pleasantly surprised when I moved out on my own and realized that I'd watched my dad make bread enough times that I could do it too. A little bit of this, a little bit of that, loads of time, some therapeutic kneading and voila, fantastic bread. 

True, there was the time that I made it entirely out of wheat flour and it turned out like bricks. Or the time that I left in the middle of the rising period because I hadn't left enough time and it ... actually, wait, that may have been the same wheat bread brick fiasco. Anyway, needless to say there were problems, but that's what happens when you don't stop baking bread after your first success. 

But guys, Australia has been a DISASTER in terms of my bread making adventures. 

One of the reasons is simply because I've started making DIFFERENT bread. I have a sweetie to try it out on and enough time to experiment, but I am still the person that would just delete a half-cup of cocoa from a cookie recipe and things can go ....wrong.

I decided to try making the bread in the cook book. My dad always told me that my bread recipe was based off the white bread in the Joy of Cooking, with maybe a cup of bran or wheat flour thrown in for health and texture. Guys, this is not true. The Joy of Cooking asks you to do all sorts of things that I never bother doing, and sometimes it doesn't even want an egg. Madness!

But it is the ancestor, no matter how distant, of my recipe, so I decided to try it. I scalded the milk. I dissolved the butter and lard and then I ... poured the hot mixture directly into the bowl with my yeast. 

The bread did not rise. The moment I noticed it wasn't rising like normal, I knew that I had killed it with my stupid scalded milk. I had killed all my beautiful little yeast monsters with milk that was too hot. I felt like a monster. So I promptly primed some more yeast and added it in. Because of course adding more yeast most of the way through the first rising would fix it. >.<

The bread still not rise particularly well, and was dense like a block of bread dough which does not rise. Literally. I may have stormed resignedly out of the kitchen, muttering darkly. The happy ending is that it made the Most Amazing bread pizza base ever, but it was not exactly a triumph (actually, it kind of was, those bread pizzas were DELICIOUS). 

I decided to go back to my original recipe. Similar, but not quite as drastic, rising bread problems. I did it AGAIN, but primed my yeast for longer (this is where you dissolve the yeast in water with a bit of sugar first). This time it turned out almost right. 

By this point I had begun to suspect that my yeast was perhaps not the one I was used to, and that the package didn't tell me to prime it because Maybe I Wasn't Supposed To. Priming yeast is one of my favourite steps, and I had figured that even if Dried Yeast wasn't the same as Active yeast, or some such that it would still benefit from a bit of activating time with water and sugar, but after the failed batch of pizza dough (it should still be fine, if maybe a bit denser once again) of tonight, I think I will try not priming it at all. 

Australian ingredients being Almost but Not Quite what I am used to keeps tripping me up. I shudder to think what is going to happen when I make pie crust from baking lard as opposed to Tenderflake. Everyone wish me luck! 

(Also, to those Canadians moving to Australia [Americans, I have not checked for your Crisco, you crazy people, that stuff is gross], they totally have baking lard, but keep it in the chilled area with the butter instead of near the baking stuff. There, two hours in the grocery store saved!)

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