Thursday, January 10, 2008

I'm in Love with a Girl!!!

I'm in love with a girl. She is strong and buff, has gorgeous curves and is feisty as hell. She has shiny eyes, looks damn fine in red and her name is...


As you know, right before Christmas, I got myself my dream mixer, the Kitchenaid Pro 5 Plus and named her Isabelle. Since it was right before I went home to Michigan for two weeks, I really didn't have much of a chance to use her other than to make an awesome coffee cake I'm going to tell you about a bit later this week and a few batches of cookies.

But, since I got home from Michigan, there hasn't been a night that Isabelle and I haven't spent together. We've been inseparable. We've made cookies for the little girl upstairs and her friend. We've made pie and this incredible savory tart. We've made brownies for the office. We've made three batches of cinnamon rolls for folks who have ordered them from me. And, we've made bread. Lots and lots of bread.

We've made French baguettes, classic Farmers White, low fat whole wheat cinnamon pull-apart bread, pumpkin bread, and tonight we made honey whole wheat.

I just love to watch Isabelle knead the bread. I love the way she gathers the dough and twists it around her dough hook. I love how all I have to do is scrape the flour from the bottom of the bowl and Isabelle grabs it and tugs and pulls it into the dough. I even love the sound of the finished dough going "thawk, thawk, thawk" agains the side of her pretty, shiny, metal bowl.

Does this new love of my life mean I'm not going to extol the virtues of making bread completely by hand? No, absolutely not. In fact, even though Isabelle had been doing most of the heavy lifting, there hasn't been one loaf of bread that I've made that I haven't finished by a few minutes of hand kneading or that I haven't stopped Isabelle during the kneading process to touch the dough so I can get a feel for how the dough develops with a dough hook. Even with all Isabelle's speed and grace, there is something said for the therapeutic and cathartic experience for making a loaf of bread from hand.

Loving Isabelle just means that I now get the best of both worlds of love...

Breadchick's Honey Whole Wheat Bread - Stand Mixer Version

(Note: If you want to skip the sponge portion you can. Just put all the ingredients together in the order they appear in the mixer bowl, combine them with the paddle attachment until just combined, switch to the dough hook, and let rise. Follow directions below from that point to finish)

1 package (1 Tbsp) active yeast
2 Tbsp warm water (75 - 85 degrees)
1 1/3 cup warm water (75 - 85 degrees)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup honey
1/2 cup bread flour
1 tsp wheat gluten
1/4 cup powdered milk
1 1/4 tsp salt
4 cup wheat flour

Step 1 - Proof Yeast: Activate 1 packet of active yeast in 2 Tbsp of warm water. Combine until smooth and let sit for 5 - 10 minutes until bubbly and/or really "yeasty" smelling

Step 2 - Make Sponge: Combine activated yeast, 1 1/3 cup of water, and 2 cups of wheat flour into a bowl and cover. Let sit for 2 hours until mixture is bubbly.

Step 3 - Make Dough: In stand mixer bowl, combine sponge, oil, honey, bread flour, wheat gluten, powdered milk, salt and 1 1/2 cup of wheat flour, reserving the 1/2 cup and mix with paddle attachment until just combined. Switch to dough hook and slowly add remaining flour one spoonful at a time until the dough is shaggy looking. Stop mixer and touch dough, it should feel tacky and stick to your fingers but not in large clumps (Note: you may need to add additional flour, one spoonful at a time if the dough is too wet). Continue to knead dough until it is firm and not tacky, about 5 - 7 minutes.

Step 4 - First Rise: Lightly dust counter and let dough rest for five minutes. While dough is resting, wash out the bowl, grease with butter and put rested dough in bowl and cover bowl. Let dough rise until doubled, about 2 1/2 hours.

Step 5 - Form Loaf/Second Rise: Punch down dough and on lightly dusted counter, press out dough to form a 12" x 5" rectangle. Starting at short end of rectangle, fold dough like a business letter, into thirds. Place dough into buttered 8" x 4" loaf pan. Loosely cover with plastic wrap and let rise until top of loaf is 1/4" above rim of loaf pan.

Step 6 - Bake Loaf: Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Bake loaf for 35 - 40 minutes or until internal temperature is 200 degrees. Let cool for 15 minutes and then spread butter on top. Let cool completely before slicing.