Playing by the Rules (my first Tuesday with Dorie)

I am a rule follower.  I need rules to create order out of chaos.  Bread from flour.  My first challenge from “Baking with Julia” was to bake white loaves.  Baking yeast breads in general inspires anxiety – I’m more of a banana butt bread girl myself.  Banana butt refers to the cleavage right down the middle of every loaf I make.  But here was an opportunity to bake with the guidance and experience of a group…

I must have read the directions through 20 times before beginning and still almost added too much water, forgetting that I had halved the recipe, hoping to mitigate disaster by limiting myself to making just one loaf to start.

It is unlike me to stray from a recipe, but all I have been able to think about when thinking about baking bread is Dave Benfer’s chocolate bread he made us over the holidays.  He treated us to chocolate, cinnamon raisin, and his special white with accents of wheat and rye.  John was so inspired, we bought a top of the line breadmaker for his birthday (still in the box).   I determined that my first loaf would be chocolate, not just “white”.

My Kitchen Aid mixer looked and sounded as if possessed by a poltergeist.  The shaking and rumbling as it seemed to travel across the counter…the bread hook mixed and kneaded the dough.  During the last minutes of mixing, after the butter was incorporated and my dough regained its shape, I threw in almost three quarters of a cup of mini semisweet morsels (frozen – a tip from Dave).  Until they began to adhere to the dough, there was a minor barrage of chips flying from the mixer.

My dough looked beautiful, studded with chocolate.  I began to think I can do this…can you substitute vanilla or coffee for some of the water?  Someone on the P & Q (Problems and Questions) board had suggested a cinnamon swirl.  What about fresh rosemary and parm?  Once you have the basics, can creativity move you beyond?  My fear is always that it won’t come out right, and to some extent,that it won’t be perfect.  I always tell the girls that we learn from our mistakes, but setting out on a course to make mistakes?  Sounds risky.

All is still pretty euphoric on the first rise, right up until I had to punch it down and shape it for my loaf pan.  Then one more rise, in the oven with just the light on – it looks askant, one half is rising more than the other.  Then I bake it, filling my home with its aroma – popping it easily out of the tin and letting it cool on a rack, resisting the urge to slice into it.

I don’t know what it is with me and bread cleavage – the top of my loaf looks a like a Sharpei.   (see bad photo above) But the bread was delicious – a true pain au chocolat in the French tradition – the only sweetness provided by the bits of chocolate.  A perfect accompaniment to a cup of coffee in the morning – this was my breakfast for several days.

What I Learned:  Instead of letting my dough and butter come back together and then adding the chocolate, I will add the chocolate with the butter – I think it will incorporate and perhaps even melt into the bread a bit.  I’m not sure how to avoid the wrinkles on the top of my loaf – maybe that’s a question for the group.  The Kitchen Aid bread hook is truly magical – the dough comes together easily and it does all the kneading for you.  How easy will this be in our new bread machine, after we take it out of the box, of course.

Next Tuesdays with Dorie post will be chocolate tartlets which I will be making next week for my valentines!