Accompishment Unlocked: Cinnamon Pull-apart Bread!

Over the weekend I woke up with a serious desire for cinnamon rolls. Saturday morning is made for cinnamon rolls and cleaning the house. Bonus for me: I get up earlier than the rest of the house, especially on Saturday, so nobody is playing Skyrim, and I get a little quiet time to myself and the dog. I can even play video games, if I want, but I almost never do. Usually, what I do is pick up the house and make some breakfast.

I didn’t take any pictures of the dough-in-progress. I have been really enjoying using the bread machine to do the sticky/mixy/hands-on part of bread making. A tiny part of me feels bad about it, but really, it’s kind of the best. There’s a reason I have the bread machine, after all – I like homemade bread, and I like that the machine makes it easy and efficient. I’ll try to be better about taking pictures of that part of the process.

Aaaaanyway… my quiet toodling around Saturday morning was interrupted right at the point when I had rolled out the dough and covered it in a lake of melted butter and cinnamon-sugar. And honey.

A delicious lake of butter, cinnamon and honey

Me: I’m making cinnamon rolls!
Joe: I stumbled upon this thing the other day that was like a loaf of cinnamon bread, but all in layers.
Me: THAT! I’m going to make that!

So instead of rolling that bad boy into a tube and making rolls, I used the bench knife to cut it into quarters, then cut each quarter into 8 or 10 rectangular pieces. I didn’t take a picture of that, because fail. Then I crossed my fingers and hoped that I wasn’t going to cover my counter in butter-honey-cinnamon-sugar-goo, and started stacking the rectangles.

I stacked them pretty haphazardly, doing my best to keep them approximately upright. At no point in this process did I refer to an actual recipe; I’m sure there’s a better technique for accomplishing pull-apart bread, but this one did just fine.

This is literally immediately after it came out of the pan:

Yes, that’s a big chunk of the end missing, because people were eating it faster than I could photograph it. Except for the part where I wanted a picture of it, that’s not a problem.

Mmm, pretty, pretty cinnamon bread.

I’ll definitely be making this again. The layers mean that there’s no specific portion size, unlike a cinnamon roll. I may have eaten an unreasonable amount of this, but it’s impossible to know. I ate some layers, that’s all! Also, my utter seat-of-the-pants no-plan approach didn’t do it a bit of harm. I could’ve made some icing, but the lack of it was not a problem. And, thanks to the bread machine, the active time on this was probably 10 minutes, total. Not bad for a lazy Saturday morning.

Doughvember Disaster!

OK, let’s be honest – none of my Doughvember baking can be called a strong success. Flat pizza dough? Too-much-rye hockey puck of a loaf? I didn’t even take pictures of that one, I just ate it grumpily, and slowly. I didn’t even bring my sourdough biscuits to fruition, I just thought about them (that was because of a lack of fat in the house, though, I swear!).

I did have some success using the bread machine to mix the pizza dough. For a unitasker, I do love the bread machine. Usually.

After the pumpkin incident last week, I knew that I needed to make some bread, and some pie cookies, and I knew that my hands and elbows were not going to be up for rolling pie dough and kneading bread. Enter my friend the bread machine.

As I mentioned, the pizza dough was my first experiment using the bread machine with my sourdough starter. Even though the dough didn’t rise as much as I would’ve liked, I attributed that to my impatience/not feeding the starter sufficiently before trying to use it. And as far as the dough itself went, I had no complaints. It came out a little wetter than I would’ve liked, but that was acceptable, considering that it was my first experiment. And it was easily solved by a little actual kneading.

mmm, butter

The second-hand bread machine cookbook that has been my go-to guide does have a sourdough section. I chose the most basic recipe from there and went forth. My past experience with less-than-stellar yeast has been better when I used the “whole wheat” setting on the machine, because it preheats the machine, and gives slightly longer rise times. Since my starter has been a little slow, and my kitchen is chronically cold, this seemed like the way to go.

At first, everything seemed to be going just fine. The dough came together like it should have, it seemed to be rising, all was right with the world (relatively). I forgot about it for a while (I think I took a nap. It’s hazy.), and came back to find that it had under 20 minutes left on the bake time. And that it was both small and misshappen.

yes, it really is a loaf of bread

Oops.

Based on how this loaf came out, I think I’m going to continue with the system of mixing the dough in the machine, and do the shaping and second rise manually. Beyond being under-proofed, this loaf was also undercooked. I ended up putting it in the oven for maybe 20 minutes? I baked it until the interior was over 200 degrees. It was all I could do. As you can see up at the top of the crumb, there’s still a little dark band of undercooked dough, even after a second baking. Luckily, someone in the house loves bread, even bread that has FAILED ME, so the loaf is gone, and not into the compost.

No baking without patience

Yesterday I wrote a post about my love of sourdough, to kick of Doughvember. Today, I am eating the loaf of bread that was baking yesterday, and I feel I should tell you about it.

Here’s my single biggest lesson about baking in general, and yeasted breads specifically: patience is your most important tool.

I can already hear you groaning, as I am also groaning quietly to myself. “Patience? Really?” Unfortunately, yes. The best flour, the most perfectly temperate kitchen, the most magical yeasts (either from the wild or from a package), they’re all worth nothing if you don’t give them time to do their work.

My case in point: Someone *coughmecough* didn’t give her dough a sufficient second rise yesterday, and instead leaned on the superlong, low temperature (because my kitchen is freezing) first rise. And then made the opposite mistake once the bread was in the oven: did not set a timer, lost track of time, over-baked.

Sheesh.

Of course, the other mistake I made was one that no amount of patience could have prevented: I remembered that rye flour is the key to a healthy and vigorous starter, but forgot that I don’t like a bread with lots of rye in it (at least, not all the time).

Luckily, the taste isn’t bad, just a little heavy on the rye, and the crumb is, ahem, sturdy enough to stand up to cold butter, and there’s something very satisfying about sour bread and sweet butter. We’ll call that the positive.

I fed my starter yesterday to make this somewhat disappointing loaf of bread, and I’m not planning another loaf today. Reminder to myself for Friday: take a deep breath, give the bread some time.

Much love for the sourdough

Back at the beginning of this blog, I talked about confirmation bias, the tendency to notice things that support your existing expectations. Earlier, we were talking about pie being everywhere (also, shrimp plates, but that’s not relevant). Lately, I have been noticing something else.

When I made arrangements to make bread with Wendy, we also discussed making sourdough starters. At one time, I had about half a dozen active starters, because I went to Evergreen and it was a legitimate part of my educational trajectory. Because, you know, Science! Or whatever. But after I finished school, I didn’t have any interest in maintaining that many starters, so I chose the best one, and then failed to keep it alive properly. Of course, it was really the second-best one, since my housemate had already killed the best-best one. Good times.

I did love the sourdough, though, really. It is delicious, versatile, and satisfies my inner pioneer. What’s not to love? Wendy had attempted to start a culture, to no avail, so I sent her to the store for rye flour. Rye flour is the answer! Her new starter is bubbling happily away, getting ready to be put to use with her newly-honed bread skills. I started one of my own, as well, which is now making its first loaf of bread in the oven. Hurray!

I was also delighted to see a tweet this morning about a challenge that a couple bloggers are doing, right up my alley. Doughvember! The general gist is to be in the practice of using your sourdough starter, and thereby improve your skills. I am down!

I think it’s particularly cool that Linda of Salty Seattle is giving away some of her starter. I hope you’ll follow along!

Making Bread with Wendy

Hello! Want a quick peek at a one-on-one bread lesson? Of course you do!

The beginning:

You have to get your hands in it!

Kneading is the best part:

It starts out small,

and gets bigger.

And then it becomes bread!

I love a happy student! I was a little jealous that the bread all left with her, though.

As much as I love delivering pie by Vesapa (it’s awesome!), this is really the best part of my job. Thanks, Wendy!

Busy Kitchen

Currently happening in our kitchen:

Soon this will be soup

I made some kinda-sausage to go into my favorite fall soup. It’s ground extra lean turkey, seasoned to an approximation of a spicy Italian sausage. It’s an entirely experimental undertaking. Wish me luck.

Also happening: I am having a little trouble getting back into my bread-making groove. I made some cinnamon rolls last week, but I cheated a little and used the dough setting on my bread machine. Yay, inherited bread machine! I can make pie dough in my sleep, but my bread-by-hand skills are a little rusty.

Beer actively fermenting

And! The Mister was busy this weekend! He made a new batch of ginger ale, which smelled amazing, and then we took a grand motorcycle adventure to the homebrew store. (And I do mean adventure: we got trapped on the wrong side of a football game, with some seriously unwieldy cargo. A story for another time.) To my great surprise, Mr. Pie had never made beer at home before! This weekend we have set about remedying that.

There are so many things fermenting in my kitchen right now! I’m having a really hard time leaving the carboy of beer alone. I know it’s not really doing anything, just bubbling, but I want to look at it! Fermenting continues to be a valuable exercise in patience, it seems.

Not pictured: Pie Crust! Wednesday I’ll be out and around town, bringing pie to your face. And then again on Friday! Pie faces for everyone! There will be Plum Basil! Also, Old School Apple! It’s that time!