Saturday, January 16, 2010

Chipotle-Cheddar Bread

For a first attempt at this bread, it ended up almost perfect. It went over very well overall, and the two loaves were eaten in a matter of hours. I'm already beginning to find that it's hard to test these things out and get constructive feedback besides "om nom nom!", but for the most part people said the spiciness of the bread was good but not overwhelming, and that more cream cheese might be good. The crust was my favorite part, and usually I don't like crust as much. It was crispy and crunchy, like the bottom of a pizza, or the top of a pan of baked macaroni. I ate the ends, actually, since it was more than half crust, and it was so delicious.
Each loaf was about nine inches long and gave 10-12 slices each. Obviously this isn't a vegan bread -- it has cheddar, cream cheese AND parmesan -- but I am sure it could be modified to make a really delicious vegan bread, maybe with mango chunks or tomatoes. Or both. Yum. I am also sure I could make a decent gluten-free version of it. There are a few things I might do differently next time, but I think overall this bread is really awesome and a total keeper.
It's amazing how simple the basic process of making bread is. It's less about the ingredients and more about how you go about it. Yeast is really hard to work with, but once you know the secrets, it's really easy.
To make this bread, I first took 2 C. warm water and dissolved 1 T. sugar. The warmth of the water is incredibly important. I think I might have made it too cool and as a result the yeast didn't expand as much as I would have wanted it to. A good rule of thumb is to make the water warm, but not hot -- if it's too hot for you, it's too hot for the yeast, and will kill it. But if it's not hot enough you won't get as good of a reaction, so if it's comfortably warm to the touch, it's probably a good temp for the yeast. So after dissolving the sugar I added in 1 t., or one packet, instant dry yeast, and let it sit for 5 minutes, till it was bubbly.
After that, I added 5 1/2 C. all-purpose flour. I added it gradually, one cup at a time. After adding the first cup of flour I added 1 T. salt. It is really important you add at least one cup of flour before adding the salt, because yeast doesn't like salt, and the salt will retard the yeast's expansion. Adding the flour first acts as a sort of buffer between the yeast and salt so then there's no worries about your dough blowin' up. Once the dough is pulling away from the sides of your bowl, it's time to take it out. Place it on a lightly floured surface and start kneading.
This is my favorite part. I love kneading. Although with the chipotle-cheddar bread it makes it a little more difficult, since you have to add so much stuff. I added 4 pureed chipotles first. I left the seeds in for a little extra heat. It made the bread a little slimy and took some work to get it fully incorporated into the dough, but once it was, it made the dough a pretty pinkish color. I added 1 1/2 C. cubed cheddar cheese at the same time as the chipotles, which was a mistake. The chipotles made the dough slimy and it was harder to work the cubes of cheddar in. Next time I'll add them afterwards. Next I threw in 4 oz. cream cheese and 1/2 C. shredded parmesan. Next time I will add the cream cheese very last. It incorporated a little too much. It gave the effect of having a few nice veins of cream cheese in the finished product, but I'd like that a little more. Also, the combination of the chipotles and the cream cheese made the dough very sticky and a little slimy, so I think another 1/2 cup of flour might made the dough a little more pliable.
I let the dough rest and greased up a bowl. I kneaded the dough a few more minutes and then let it sit in the bowl over the warm stove for an hour and a half. It didn't rise as much as I would have wanted, but I think it's a combination of the cold, dry environment and the fact that the water the yeast dissolved in wasn't warm enough. After that I punched the dough down (very satisfying) and let it sit another half hour. I divided it in half and put it in two loaf pans to rise for another 45 minutes, and it looked awesome pre-baking.
I set the oven to 450 degrees and put the loaves in. I forgot to slash the tops before putting them in and did it 5 minutes into the baking, so the slashes don't look as awesome as they should. I also didn't mist or wash the tops of the loaves with water, butter or oil, which I will do next time to make it really soft.
Overall it was pretty time-consuming, but in a bakery setting the rising can be reduced with the purchase of proofers.

Next up: Pear-Cranberry pie!

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