Sunday, April 25, 2010
It sounded interesting, but the recipe had a serious flaw. The instructions said the batter should be beaten by hand or with an electric mixer - the mixer no doubt being an update to the original recipe - but there was no way the dough in that recipe could have been beaten. I had calculated the liquid/flour ratio in the recipe, and the resulting dough would have been very kneadable and not at all a batter.
Either someone mis-translated someone's handwriting, or the elder relative used teacups and coffeecups as measures rather than using standard measuring cups. It also said the finished dough was poured from the bowl. Yeah, no way was this tested before it was published.
Okay, maybe not right away, but I had no doubt I could make something like it sooner or later.
My first version was interesting. One thing I learned was that trying to mix batter-like bread dough with a hand mixer might be more trouble than it's worth. The dough crawled up the beaters, and at anything over low speed, clumps of dough were flinging themselves all over me, the countertops, and the cabinets. Hand beating with a standard kitchen implement seemed easier and was much less messy.
Of course, the cookbook didn't give any instructions as far as how much beating was necessary, so that little detail was part of the learning experience.
The directions in the cookbook did include instructions to stir it down the dough once before baking, much like you'd punch down a regular dough. That seemed to make sense in terms of flavor development, but I wasn't convinced the the timing in the recipe made sense. Yet another thing to experiment with.
The object that came out of the oven was bread-like. There was some rise, but not much. And unfortunately, it didn't want to come out of the pan. Some chiseling along the sides and some ripping got it out of the pan in two pieces big piece and some ragged bits, The interior had holes, but I'd have a hard time calling it a successful bread.
It didn't taste horrible, but presentation points were lost, for sure. But it gave me some ideas as to what needed to be changed.
Still, not a great bread. Not even a good bread. But unlike the first version, it was recognizable as bread, so it was getting better. If you want a comparison, it was like a generic version of beer bread. It was okay, but not something you'd get excited about making a second time.
Still, I don't want to make a bread that has to be toasted to reach its potential. So while this one was servicable breakfast bread for a few days, tweaking was still necessary.
In the previous versions, I tried hand beating with a fork and a wooden spoon and a silicone spatula. The wooden spoon was the best option, but once the dough started developing its gluten, hand beating became much more difficult. It's possible to make this bread by hand with a wooden spoon, but it's a lot of work.
I also tried beating with an electric mixer. It worked well enough at the beginning, when I was working with a dough that could have been a cake batter. But again, once the gluten started developing, it got more difficult as the dough gathered around the mixer's beaters and climbed up. Increasing speed simply caused the dough to fling off the beaters. The answer was to beat slowly, which is doable but tedious.
Finally it's bread. This version looks a lot more like a dough-based bread with a little bit of doming on top. And the bread slipped easily out of the pan, with nary a protest.
And it tastes pretty good, too.
Batter Bread v. 4.0
1 cup semolina flour
1 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon butter
Mix all the dry ingredients in the bowl of your stand mixer.
Put buttermilk and butter into a microwave-proof bowl, and microwave gently until the butter has melted and the buttermilk is just warmed. Add the 1/2 cup of water, adjusting the temperature so the liquid is lukewarm. If it's a little too warm, let cool. If it's too cool, warm it up in the microwave.
At first the dough will be like a cake batter, but as you beat, the gluten will begin to develop and you'll see the dough starting to come together and stretch. Keep beating. Eventually, the dough will start to gather around the paddle. It will slump down off the paddle when you stop the mixer, but will gather again when the mixer is running.
When it's done, the dough should be smooth, glossy, and very very stretchy.
Spray an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 loaf pan with baking spray and sprinkle liberally with cornmeal. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Remove the bowl from the mixer, cover it with plastic wrap and let it rest for 1 hour.
After one hour, stir it down, cover the bowl with plastic wrap again, and let it rest an additional 1/2 hour.
Cover the pan with plastic wrap and let it rise until it is just below the top of the pan, about an hour.
If the plastic drapes down inside the pan, it will stick to the dough and it doesn't release easily. However, you can remove the plastic for the last 10 or 15 minutes of the rise, if need be. This is a very wet dough, so it's not going to dry out much in that time.
BOTD: Batter Bread? Oh, really?