And we all fall down

I’m still working away at my bread baking. It’s slowed down a bit here in the dead of summer. I’d baked a pretty good basic hearth bread (The Bread Bible pg305) and a couple of mostly successful pugliese (pg 346). Last week it was time to get back to the basic white sandwich loaf (pg 244).

I’ve gotten in the habit mixing up my sponge and letting it sit and ferment for a couple hours and then I stick it in the fridge overnight. It adds to the flavor, yes, but mostly it allows me to not be so impatient with that first rising time. The next day I pulled the sponge from the fridge and popped the bowl into the stand mixer.

Everything was going so well. At the end of the 7 minute mix with the dough hook my gluten was amazing. It was really the best gluten stretch and window I’d had the entire time I have been working on my bread. The dough is enough for 2 loaves so I popped it into a 4 quart cambro and let it rise. AND IT ROSE!! At about an hour in it had risen to the top of the cambro, just filled it up completely. I was all pleased with myself! Look at what I did! My skills must be amazing, so very very amazing! I did a stretch and fold and put it in for a second rise. A second magical rise! Like what the hell, bread?!

Its shaped rise in the loaf pans was slower and not as dramatic but it was going well. In the oven I watched it through the window. I wanted to see it form the most perfect loaves I’d ever baked.

But they didn’t. They didn’t rise. In fact they were deflating. The sadness of my heart! What the hell happened to my magical bread? Just 4 hours earlier I was some sort of doughy bread wizard. I was magic. Now this? When they were done I took them out and let them cool before I sliced in. They were what you would expect, dense. Squashed and dense. But bread is bread and butter is butter and we started eating.

I was poking at the bread, I was reading my notes (I take lots of notes when I am making bread), trying to figure out what went wrong. Then it hit me, the bread didn’t taste right, it was kind of bland. I forgot the damned salt. There was no salt to keep the yeast under control and it pretty much proofed itself to death. That’s why it had risen so fast and with so much vigor. The yeast was just free to eat and fart and eat and fart as much as it could. Lesson learned and I am glad there was an actual reason. It wasn’t some mystery to beat myself up over, just a stupid mistake.

Once we get past this current mini heat wave I am going to try it again.

This past weekend my aunt and my cousin came to visit and I made chocolate sticky rolls with the brioche dough (pg 487 and 503). It took me too long to get the dough rolled out, filled and rolled up again before cutting. Everything got soft and moodgy. The cut rolls were popflopped into the pan and promised to be ugly. I fridged them overnight and got up early to get them out and risen before baking them. I was afraid that with all the humidity and heat the day before that I’d have killed the dough and we would be left with swirly chocolate paddles. No bad luck there. They rose as expected and baked up perfectly. We had chocolate rolls and ice cream and hot chocolate for breakfast. The brioche is futzy and time consuming but if you have the time it is definitely worth it.

Failures and successes, that’s the way it goes. The project clock is ticking and I have 18 months to learn croissants so I better get going.

Meat’n Greet

Corned beef! I want to write it all out in exclamation points. CORNED BEEF!!!

I made reubens and they were exclamation point fantastic. I used the recipe from Ruhlman’s Charcuterie, corned beef page 65 and pickling spice page 68.

The meat counter had brisket on sale so I popped over and asked for 5ish pounds. The guy behind the counter is not a butcher and did not really know how to deal with a full brisket. He didn’t separate the plate before cutting. He got me a 6 pound slab taken directly from the center where the plates overlapped. This meant I got that great slap of tendon running right through the middle. I considered trimming it myself but then I would have been left with two thinner slabs of meat and this is definitely the kind of thing I wanted to do with a honking chunk.

Made the brine, poured everything into a 2.5 gallon ziploc and fridged it for 5 1/2 days, flipping every 24 hours. I took that time to practice my rye bread.

I hated rye bread as a kid. There was nothing grosser than eating a good sandwich and having an entirely unexpected caraway seed explode in your mouth. Actually, onions and mushrooms are grosser, but…you know. I worked on my caraway seed acceptance by making cheese crackers with caraway seeds. It worked. I can deal with caraway seeds even if I am not a huge fan of them.

I used the Levy’s Real Jewish rye bread recipe page 325 of the Bread Bible.



You know what? It was good. A little underproofed and therefore a bit dense but for a first trial run I was very happy. Still trying to find the sweet spot on the oven dial. The oven cooks hot but not consistently above temp. I’m running anywhere from 10-25 degrees hotter than I’m setting it for.

A couple days later I did it again.

This is where my camera decided to crap out on me. Pictures were taken with my phone. My phone is made from old shoes and lost dreams and its quality can be seen in how crappy the pictures are. I’ve got my camera working again, my phone has just continued to decline.

Rye bread #2

Rye bread #2

Definitely better on the second try. Good chew, good flavor, not as dense as before but could have been given another 30 minutes or so to rise. Underproofing is my weakness. I’m so afraid of overdoing it and having it fall that I just cause the same problems but in reverse.

Went with a batard rather than a round loaf because I find round loaves to be futzy when I’m making sandwiches.

The day came to cook the brisket and I realized it was a good thing I upgraded from the 6 quart to the 8 quart Instant Pot. Six pounds of brisket takes up a lot of room. I rinsed the meat off and threw it in the Instant Pot with fresh water and 2 tablespoons of pickling spice. I used the slow cook function and let it go about 4 hours. Probably could have pressure cooked it but for a first time I wanted to stick to the recipe as well as I could. I was definitely worried about that huge tendon in there. As the day went on it just kept contracting itself and getting stiffer. After 4 hours I turned the temp down and let it go for 2 more hours. I pulled the meat out and let it rest about 45 minutes.

I used the Russian Dressing recipe from Epicurious. I didn’t have the time to make my own sauerkraut so the sauerkraut and swiss cheese were both store bought.

Then I sliced the meat.
Corned Beef

You can see the tendon there running through the middle. I’m glad I kept it in for an extra couple of hours. The collagen just about melted out. The mouthfeel was amazing. The meat was not in any way dry or chewy, it was full of flavor and the texture was better than I could have hoped for with a first brisket.

When you couple the pickle spice mix recipe with the super fresh spices from Penzeys you get a spice blend with a lot of flavor. You could really taste the allspice and cloves in there. The real problem was the saltiness. It was very very salty. Not inedibly salty, not by a long shot but still it’s something I’ll to figure out before next time. The brine is at about 12% salt solution, I might bring it down to 10% and see how that goes.

Corned Beef

The meat was rich, that’s the best word I can use to describe it. It was full and rich and a little overwhelming. I wanted to just cram those sandwiches full of corned beef, I wanted to make big monster sandwiches! But I really couldn’t, we’d have fallen into some sort of meat coma if I tried.


I’m counting the whole thing a huge success (except for the saltiness, we have to work on that). The best part is that when it cooled, half went right into the freezer. We can do it all again.

And next time I can tell you all about my bread superfailure!