Week Three: Bread
WEEK THREE: BREAD
I have to admit I was super looking forward to bread week in RPTTC. I figured literally from page one of the first chapter that if we were dividing into weeks there must be a bread week and I COULD. NOT. WAIT. FOR. IT.
I used to be terrified of baking bread. I remember so much fear of yeast and rising and etc. etc., but I so got over that and now I absolutely love it. Baking bread is one of my absolute favorite things. And Alain's little digs about people who bake their own bread? Well. He can go fuck himself.
Blind Bake: Sourdough
This was perfect for a post-pandemic-sourdough-craze challenge. I will admit, I am one of those people who did pandemic sourdough. I grew my own starter from scratch, and I named her, well... her name is... Alexis.
Which is a coincidence.
I know it is hard to believe, but hadn't even heard of Alexis Hall when I named her. She's named for Alexis Rose as she was started with champagne (well, Prosecco) and whole wheat flour from this local mill that I ordered back when flour was super scarce, and I was watching a lot of Schitt's Creek at the time.
Despite having made a lot of sourdough last year, I'll admit I never really got the hang of it. I can crush a challah or a babka. My one and only attempt at bagels came out decently. Apparently my success at the baking of bread and breadythings is directly proportional to my religious upbringing, is apparently what I didn't realize I m trying to tell you. Anyway, the point I was trying to make is that though I love making bread and I love sourdough... baking sourdough is not my strongest. My mom makes these beautiful sourdough loaves with a starter she got from a local restaurant and their recipe. And I've used both that starter and my own, and they both come out fine, but not to the same success as she has. Maybe it's that good salty air because she lives at the beach as opposed to my South Philly nonsense? Anyway, that recipe takes much longer than they're allowed in RPTTC, so I went with the first recipe I've ever used with any sort of success, that seemed to fit in the timeframe they were allotted fairly well.
It's called, "Beginners Sourdough Bread" from Little Spoon Farm, available here. I'm not really going to go into it because I just follow those instructions and, frankly, if you had any interest in making sourdough you've done it by now so lets save space for the character's bakes below, right?
And as you can see, I still suck at shaping sourdough. I didn't cut a neat pretty swirl into the top and it looks lopsided and stupid.
But check out that texture inside... the bubbles... the crust...
I KNOW RIGHT? I'll admit I was pretty darn happy with it. And it tasted lovely.
So that's it: my hot take on sourdough. If you have hot tips on shaping one, hit me up. Cuz I'm keeping these starters alive and really need to up my game.
Rosaline's Anatomically Correct Brioche Heart
I won't lie. This one terrified me to try. I don't know what a heart is supposed to look like. It's been years since the Girl Scouts sleepover where we slept in the giant one at the Franklin Institute... my age was still in single digits. And despite my childhood insistence that I was going to be a biophysicist when I grew up, I am distinctly unscientific. I went to law school.
And also like, that's a level of detail that seems difficult to achieve in a bread sculpture. But for you all, I tried.
I've never made brioche before and I won't lie, I was tempted to do a challah cuz I've made a lot of challah in my life, and I've made challah that I've swirled with fillings before, so I felt fairly comfortable there but no, the book said brioche so brioche I tried.
I used this brioche recipe. And it is lovely. The dough is kind of weird and greasy feeling from all the butter, but it fluffed up beautifully and it tastes great.
To fill the heart chambers, I made a blueberry and a cherry compotes. I used 2lbs each of frozen blueberry and cherry, each with a bit of sugar (maybe a quarter cup). I blended the cherry with a hand-blender and just smushed up the blueberries. It was more than enough for two loaves since I, to be perfectly honest, did not expect to knock this out of the part in one go, and there was more than enough for two. So if you're attempting this at home, you need max a pound each, probably half a pound would do fine, and just a splash of sugar. And maybe some Chambord (other raspberry liqueurs are available) at the end. Which I may have done with my cherry compote for round two to loosen it up a bit....
I separated the dough and filled two pieces with the blueberry and cherry to make the main chambers of the heart, and twisted other pieces for the rest of it and then I tried to figure out how to make it heart-like.
It came out... well... the individual parts of the heart didn't quite grow together as I'd hoped and it looks, I think, not QUITE as heart-like as it could...
Though it bled prettily enough. Though the blueberries bleed more purple than blue and the cherry blend was a little stodgy.
So, I tried again, this time filling two chambers with their related goos, and then wrapping them all in a thinly rolled piece of brioche, and made the aorta and other bits a bit thicker...
And it came out... I don't know... it bled cherry goo in the oven, which was annoying, but otherwise I think it came out... better? Anyway they both tasted good and I don't think either was terrible but I think I'll resume things that are a bit more my speed than human anatomy.
I will say, it was tasty. Which is good, because I'm probably eating it for days on end. maybe I'll manage to turn some into French toast and reread Boyfriend Material while I'm at it.
Anvita's Bell end... I mean, Big Ben
Just taking a moment to shout out my love for Anvita. She's such an excellent character. Excellent and sexy. Her penis freakout is hilarious and I absolutely love it.
As for the bread... there was basically no description of this bread other than that it was crusty and tasted good and looked like a penis, but I went for it anyway because, well, as discussed at length in this chapter... is it really a bake off if nothing comes out phallic? (For the record, my bake every challenge of Bake Off project had zero dicks, but I'm trying to do this by the book, as it were.)
So, ignoring the five hour challenge rules, I went for this baguette recipe that required the bread be started the night before. Once it had rested and risen and all that I did my best to shape Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, and instead of making traditional baguette slashes with my lame, I took the razor blade and tried to sort of make it... I don't know... Parliament-and-Big-Ben-like?
And when I baked it I was pretty happy with the result. I didn't quite manage to get my steam in my oven as well as I could've so it for sure could have been crustier, but the bread itself was lovely.
And I sent a picture of it (and the first heart) to my mom with no explanation beyond that they were meant to look like a heart and Big Ben, and she replied, "The heart looks good, Big Ben looks a bit like a penis." So I think I hit the brief! Thanks, Mom!
Harry's Rock Pool
I was excited about this because 1. I love Harry. 2. I love Harry. 3. I love Harry. And 4. shaping bread like crabs and starfish just seemed way more my speed than an anatomically correct heart. Also, pesto flatbread sounded yum and as previously mentioned, I have historically succeeded with Jewish bakes so rye seemed likely to fit in my wheelhouse.
In the end, I'll say this is the opposite of my usual bakes as it's... all style and no substance. I'm happy with how it looks, and the pesto came out lovely, but the rye was dry and overworked (despite me kneading for significantly less time than the recipe called for), and the flavor was extremely bland. The focaccia I used for the pesto flatbread was... fine... but really nothing to write home about. Or blog about, as it were. So honestly, I'm not even going to link the recipes. I just put the picture up cuz it came out cute, but not terribly tasty.
That's it for bread week. Tune in next time for... biscuit week! (aka cookies) (lots and lots of cookies)