Monday, January 29, 2007

Bread and Soup

As yesterday's pictures showed, it was a cold and snowy day here in PA. The boys and dog got outside to play in the first measurable snow we've had all winter. All in all we got about 2 inches - not a lot, but enough to make a few snow balls and to give us a 2-hour delay for school this morning. While the snow fell, DH and I warmed up the house with homemade soup and bread, and a roaring fire in the fireplace.

The soup, from Cooking Light, is one we've tried before, but it's been ages. I forgot how delicious this one is! It's a cross between a beef and noodle bowl and French onion soup. The broth is very flavorful with the addition of beef consomme and worcestershire sauce. The balsamic from the marinade also comes through gently, adding a nice dimension and brightening the flavors. We used Barilla's Angel Hair Pasta Plus instead of soba noodles, just one pound of beef, and Asiago cheese to make use of what we had on hand. We skipped the croutons - in a regular French onion soup, croutons or bread are a welcome addition, but with me making homemade bread and with noodles in the soup, we figured that was plenty of carbs for one meal. They weren't missed at all. Delicious. The kids loved it too.

Since DH was taking care of dinner, I was free to do some baking. I really wanted more of a whole grain Artisan bread with a firmer crumb and a crusty outside, better suited for dipping in soup, but I couldn't settle on anything. Finally, running out of time, I decided to make this sandwich loaf from King Arthur Whole Grain Baking.

My attempts at this bread for only marginally successful. To be sure, it was tasty, but it was a bit fragile and crumbly for my tastes. However, I cannot confidently say that this was a flaw in the recipe itself and not a flaw in my bread making techniques! It's been quite while since I tried my hand at making bread and even then, I don't recall making but 1 or 2 sandwich loaves.

Honey Wheat BreadMicro-Brewery Honey-Wheat Bread
The KAF book calls for instant yeast for virtually all of their bread recipes. There has been some confusion on my part, and on the part of others, as to exactly what instant yeast really is. Is it the same as Rapid Rise and/or Bread Machine yeast? Some say yes, some say no. The majority of what I have read, however, claim it is the same. Well, no wonder I have not been able to find "instant" yeast on the stores! It's been there all along, just under a different name. I've used Rapid Rise before, but I'm quite certain that I've proofed it, though that's not necessary and one of the conveniences of using it in the first place. Next trip to the store, I'm going to buy the Bread Machine variety since it comes in a container instead of packets, making it easier to measure out the desired amount.

Back to the bread. When I made the bread yesterday, I used regular old Active Dry Yeast (ADY). Since you have to proof ADY first, I skipped the orange juice and proofed my yeast in an equivalent amount of water. Since ADY seems to do best with warm liquids, I also warmed up my very cold, straight-from-the-fridge beer. The bread rose nicely and within the time specified in the recipe.

My biggest problem with this bread was how it looked. It seemed too poofy and flopped on top and was irregularly shaped - mostly because I didn't review my notes about how to shape bread before you put it in a loaf pan and I was in a bit of a hurry.

I really like the taste of this bread - slightly sweet and a little buttery with only a very faint hint of "beeriness" - although I used a light beer, not an amber ale. I'm afraid that my particular loaf would not do well at all for sandwiches - it's far too crumbly - but it's hard to say whether this is the true nature of this bread or if the crumbly texture is due to the relative inexperience of the baker.

In any case, it was easy to put together and gave me very little trouble, so even if it did not turn out perfectly, it was an enjoyable baking and tasting experience and I look forward to my next attempt. Only next time with instant yeast. Whatever that is.


  1. Oh - I remember the days of school delays...How I miss them!

    The soup looks tasty! I will have to try this recipe since it is a little nippy down here now. Thanks!

  2. Pebbles - It's a great soup! :)

    Delays are kind of nice - you get a little break and you don't have to make them up at the end of the year!

  3. Anonymous6:29 PM

    Alysha - I have had great luck using SAF Instant Yeast. I have been able to find it at Williams-Sonoma. It doesn't require proofing at all.

  4. Thanks for the SAF recommendation - I'll look for it. I got some bread machine yeast to try in the meantime.......