Gluten Development (with Windowpane Photos)

I took (actually, my husband T took, while I “windowpaned”) some photos of the stages of gluten development. I hope someone will find these useful. Most of the breads I make call for the gluten to be developed to a medium stage.

Gluten development is tested with the “windowpane test.” Pinch off about two tablespoons of dough and try to stretch it into a thin membrane (windowpane).

If you can do so without tearing, but the membrane is mostly opaque, you have barely developed gluten.

If you can stretch a paper-thin, very translucent windowpane, the gluten is fully developed.

A medium level is in between these two extremes: the windowpane is translucent with some opaque areas.

The progression from minimally to fully developed gluten:

Low gluten development Medium gluten development High gluten development

BreadBakingDay #01 Roundup

bbd.jpgWhat a bunch of terrific breads! Zorra of kochtopf hosted breadbakingday #01, themed “bread with herbs.” It was a great success, with 33 baker/bloggers from 13 countries showcasing creations using more than a dozen different herbs – perfect for summer baking. I can’t wait to start trying some of these breads. Thanks to Zorra for hosting this!

BBD #02: Bread with Fruit will be hosted by Becke of Columbus Foodie. I’m looking forward to participating, and even more to seeing what everyone else contributes.

Why Worry About Water (Nifty Calculator Included)

water.jpgI know what you’re thinking: Can she really have written this much about water, the most boring of bread ingredients? This girl really needs to find something to do.

But wait: water’s function is much more interesting than simply that of the matchmaker that brings flour, yeast, and salt together. The quality of my bread really improved once I learned how to adjust the amount and temperature of the water to control some characteristics of the dough.
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Steam

No Steam vs. SteamSteam is important during the initial phase of baking most hearth breads. It facilitates oven-spring by preventing the crust from setting too rapidly, and enhances crust color. Breads baked without steam can taste fine, but the crust is likely to be a dull, pale grayish color rather than the rich brown most of us are after. Ready for a photo quiz? Hint: the top thing is not a peanut on steroids.

I have spent way more time than I should have scouring books and online articles and discussion groups looking for the perfect way to introduce steam to my baking loaves. I’ve spent hours and hours, and more than a little money, trying just about everything. But in the end, it’s come down to two methods that work for me.
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Sweet Rosemary-Orange Bread, or How I Stumbled and Mangled my Way to an Edible Loaf

How embarrassing.

The breadbakingday #01 challenge, as presented by Zorra, was to bake a bread with herbs. Yes, I thought, I can do this!

I have a beautiful couple of rosemary plants that have really taken off this year, but today I didn’t feel like doing my oft-made rosemary-olive sourdough. I had the brilliant idea that I would create something quite different from my usual fare, to present for my first blogging event.

rosemary-orange-bread-slice.jpgLet’s just say this was not my finest example of clear thinking. But my thought when I started this blog was to document the bloopers as well as the unqualified successes, and in the end this didn’t turn out too bad anyway.
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What It’s About

Let’s be clear up front: I really have no credentials, no business writing a blog, much less one that has anything to do with food. I’m not young, hip, witty, artistic, or visionary. I’m not a foodie, a chef, a writer, a critic, or a photographer. I can’t cook, although I sometimes try, but I don’t eat out much either. I’m still trying to wrap my brain around the concept of a “trackback.”

Yes, the sad truth is that I possess a solitary qualification: I bake a lot of bread. [Read more...]