Tuesday, December 13, 2011

My Bread and Butter

My Whole Wheat Bread
It seems the My Bread post was quite popular. I have been baking a lot of bread since that first loaf. It still blows me away that I can make an artisan bread at home in my 55 year old oven. I have tried a few different breads besides the standard Italian loaf from the original recipe. I've experimented with Olive Bread, Cheese Bread, Olive & Cheese Bread, and even a Pumpkin Yeast Bread. All of those are very good, but the recipe I have perfected is for a whole wheat bread. I started with the wheat bread recipe that was published in Jim Lahey's book "My Bread." However, I felt like his wheat bread recipe wasn't as wheatie as I like. I experimented with several ratios of bread flour and whole wheat flour until I got close to what I was looking for. Then, I could taste what was missing. In my recipe there is a small amount of rye flour. The rye gives the bread just a little bit of that tangy rye flavor. I really think it makes a wonderful whole wheat bread.

Homemade Butter Ball
When it comes to the standard Italian bread I like the bread by it self or with a really nice high quality olive oil. However, with wheat I tend to go for butter. Last night I was baking a loaf of my whole wheat bread for a potluck at work. I was thinking about going to the store to get my favorite brand of butter. I couldn't tell you what the brand name is, all I know is it is imported from Italy and it comes wrapped in wax paper with blue lettering and is riveted closed on both ends with brass rivets. The butter is quite different from your every day butter found in most grocery stores. This butter is slightly sweet and has a flavor closer to fresh cream than what I usually think of as butter. The trouble is I only know one place to get it and I didn't have time to go before the potluck today. My solution was to make my own.

I had never made butter before, but I can tell you it is quite simple and not very much work if you have some kind of machine to agitate the cream for you. I've been told that butter making is a great activity for kids. You give them a jar with cream inside and have them shake until it becomes butter. I can't wait to have kids some day. This should keep them occupied before meals. Anyways, I made my butter in my stand mixer, but you could also use a food processor or blender.

I think the key to making good butter since there isn't any real technique involved is to start with good cream. I used the best cream I could find at Trader Joe's since TJ's is only a short walk from my home, but I know that isn't the best cream available. The organic heavy whipping cream at TJ's is fine and it made a pretty good butter, but it is ultra pasteurized, something you should avoid if possible. Around the Bay Area and certainly in the East Bay we have a remarkable dairy, the Straus Family Creamery. The Straus Family Creamery's products are available in most better grocery stores. If it is convenient then by all means use their products, especially if you are going to go through the trouble of making your own butter. I will next time. Heavy whipping cream is all you are likely to find in the stores, but the best cream to make butter with would be manufacturing cream. Manufacturing cream has a butterfat content of 40% or more where heavy whipping cream is between 35% and 40%. It is really difficult to find manufacturing cream in the stores since the restaurants buy it all. If you find manufacturing cream please, please, please let me know where you got it!

Whole Wheat Bread and Home Made Butter Recipes follow

My Whole Wheat Bread
  • 234 grams bread flour (approximately 1.85 cups)
  • 133 grams whole wheat flour (approximately 1.1 cups)
  • 33 grams rye flour (approximately 1/3 cups)
  • 8 grams salt (approximately 1 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 2 grams active yeast (approximately 1/2 teaspoons)
  • 320 grams water, room temperature (approximately 1 1/4 cups)
  • flour or wheat bran (not the cereal) for dusting
Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Add the water and mix the dough until it forms a fairly wet sticky dough. Mixing shouldn't take more than a minute and if the dough seems dry or stiff add 1 teaspoon of water at a time until it is wet and sticky, but not runny. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm place for 18 hours. Scrape the dough out of the bowl onto a floured baking sheet. Fold the dough over twice and form into a ball. Place the dough seam side down on the baking sheet and dust with flour or wheat bran. Cover with a cloth and allow the dough to rise for 2 more hours.

Half an hour before the end of the second rise place a 4 - 5 1/2 quart cast iron or stoneware pot with a tight fitting lid in the oven and preheat the oven to 475º F. When the oven is hot remove the pot from the oven and dust the bottom with flour or bran. Working quickly so the pot doesn't cool too much place the dough seam side up in the pot and cover. Place the pot back in the oven and bake covered for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes remove the lid and bake for 15 - 25 minutes more or until the bread is as dark as you like.

Remove the bread from the oven and pot. Place loaf on a cooling rack. Allow the bread to cool for at least 40 minutes. You must resist the temptation to immediately cut into your bread. The bread will keep best in a paper bag at room tempreture for 24 hours. After 24 hours the bread will start to become stale, but it can be "refreshed" by toasting lightly. After 48 hours you should just cut your losses and make bread crumbs. The bread crumbs or the whole loaf will freeze well for up to 3 months.

Homemade Butter (simple sweet cream butter)
  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • salt to taste (about 1 teaspoon)
The cream should be really cold, but not below 34º F. Refrigerate your mixing bowl, blender jar, or food processor work bowl and blade for 1 hour before making your butter. Everything needs to be as cold as possible.

You can make this butter in a stand mixer, blender, food processor, or paint shaker.

The whipped cream broke!
Pour the cream into the mixing vessel and whip the cream into whipped cream. Keep whipping until you get stiff peaks. Then keep whipping. Keep whipping. Then, all of a sudden the cream will start to look like it is getting watery. This is the sign that your cream is about to break. When the whipped cream breaks it will be very clear to you that it has broken. You will see a white milky liquid and yellow butter. When you see this you can stop. It took 17 minutes before my cream broke.

Using a cheese cloth or thin kitchen towel and a strainer strain off the liquid. Save the liquid, this liquid is butter milk and you can use it in your next loaf of bread instead of water or any other applications that call for buttermilk. (It should be noted that this buttermilk will not taste like cultured buttermilk).

 Take the butter and the strainer to the sink and rinse the butter. Knead the butter under the watert until the water that runs out of the strainer is clear. Use the cheese cloth to squeeze the butter into a ball and twist the cloth to wring as much water out of the butter as possible. Open the cloth and knead salt into the butter then reform the ball. Remove the butter from the cloth. Keep the butter refrigerated.
Notes: After about 12 minutes I switched from the whisk attachment on my stand mixer to the paddle attachment because it didn't splash as much and did a better job of clearing the cream stuck to the side of the mixing bowl.

Homemade Butter, Variation (a shortcut for cultured butter)

Cultured butter is usually made of cream that has live cultures growing in it. This is similar to yogurt and cultured buttermilk. This is a shortcut to making a butter that has some of the flavor elements of a butter made with cultured cream.

  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • salt to taste (about 1 teaspoon)
Method is the same as above. It may take longer for the whipped cream to break.

Notes: I liked the cultured butter, or butter made partially with buttermilk better given the cream I had available, but next time I will try with the ultra high qulity Straus Family Creamery cream to see how close I can get to my favorite store bought Italian butter. I took the lid to my butter dish and lined it with plastic wrap and pressed the butter into the top to form it into a stick that would look nice in my dish. I removed the butter stick and plastic wrap and placed it in my butter dish.

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