As I have mentioned in previous posts, I love to cook, but baking is not my forte. And this was made so much more obvious to me today when I attempted for the first time to make my own bread...using yeast. Until now, the contact I have had with yeast was through my work as a research scientist, growing them on agar plates and using them as a means to an end. I know how to grow them, I know what they need to survive...but for the life of me, I don't know how to make them make my bread rise!! However, I believe I have made a progressive step forward today in my quest to become a (half) decent baker....albeit a small step, but I felt a sense of accomplishment when I took my focaccia bread out of the oven and it looked like it should and upon tasting...was actually pretty darn good :)
My day started with making a foamy yeast solution...the directions said put the yeast in luke warm water and wait 10 minutes for it to foam. Well, after 10 minutes, there was no foam, just a gross bowl of murky looking water with a severe lack of bubbles. Ok, I think...perhaps my idea of "luke warm" was not on the money. So, I look more carefully and the recipe gives a temperature range...so, I get out my trusty thermometer and measure my new batch of water, which is exactly 115F..great! Put in my yeast...but again, no foam, just some water that looks like I could have collected it from the lake outside of our house...blech!
Well, that was the last of my yeast, so in the car I get, drive to the supermarket, pick up more yeast and head home again. I read the back of the packet where it says that to make a foaming yeast solution,you should add some sugar....ah hah!! That makes sense to me. Yeast like to ferment things and fermentation makes bubbles, hence they must not have had any food source to become active the first 2 times...at least, this is my rationalization. So, third time is a charm...115F water, stir in the yeast and add a pinch of sugar to my mix...and sure enough, bubbles form, yeast start churning and after 10 minutes I have an active, foamy brew that I can now add to my dry ingredients.
Now, as I am no expert, I do not know if what I did was right, wrong or indifferent...but it worked. Perhaps just having a new batch of yeast made a difference, but I doubt it. Anyway, below is the recipe as is from Weight Watchers New Complete Cookbook, however if you have trouble with the yeast, you may want to follow the directions above.
So there it is, my small accomplishment in bread baking, which is enough for now, to keep me on track with my quest to be a decent baker. This bread should hopefully make an appearance in tomorrow nights dinner...if it makes it until then!!
(Makes 12 servings)
1 envelope dry active yeast
1 cup minus 1 tbs warm water (110-115F)
2 cups + 2 tbs all purpose flour
2 tbs whole wheat flour
1 tsp salt
rosemary and salt for topping
1. In a small bowl, sprinkle yeast over water and let stand for 10min until foamy.
2. In a food processor, combine flours and salt. With machine running, scrape yeast mixture through the feed tube just until the dough forms a ball. Knead the dough by pulsing 30 times; the dough with still be sticky.
3. Spray a large bowl with non-stick spray and place dough in the bowl. Cover loosely with plastic wrap or a damp towel and let the dough rise until it doubles in volume, about 1 hour.
4. Spray a baking sheet with non-stick spray. Punch down the dough. Flour your hands and form the dough into a ball. Place it on the baking sheets and press into a 10 inch circle. Cover loosely with plastic wrap or a damp towel and let it rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubles in size, about 30 minutes.
5. When the dough has risen, pre-heat the oven to 425F. Without piercing the dough, make dimples all over the surface with your fingertips. Add salt and rosemary, then bake in the center of the oven until browned, about 15-20min. Serve hot or at room temperature.