Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Cartoon Bread

My kids like it when I make "Cartoon Bread"... When a loaf looks like that drawn in illustrations or cartoons with the exaggerated, over-developed top.                                                                                                                             
I usually get Cartoon Bread when I have too much dough for 4 pans and not enough for 5, so use 4.  The pans are simply a little overfull, and other than a top that makes the bread into more of a caricature shape, nothing is hurt.                                                                                                                              
Last night's Cartoon Bread, though, was the result of a multi-tasking comedy of errors ...so I guess that makes it somehow appropriate.  I started dinner, a batch of roasted pumpkin seeds, and a batch of bread almost simultaneously.  After all afternoon on the computer, finally completing the cabinet hardware order for my in-laws' house, it felt good to be in the kitchen and accomplishing a few things at once.  I even started the boys on rolling oats for a new batch of granola.  Things were moving along like clockwork.                                                                                           
Then I sat down and ate... when my brain relaxed, I guess, because I forgot all about the pumpkin seeds and the bread sponge I'd started.  Hours after beginning all the projects, I remembered the bread.  Even after returning to the kitchen to resume the breadmaking, it took me a bit to realize the pumpkin seeds were still baking.  Amazingly, 3 1/2 to 4 hours at 275 (without stirring) does NOT turn pumpkin seeds into smoking, little black pebbles, as I'd feared.                                                                                                                
The lengthy sponge time was not a hazard to the bread, so I confidently finished the dough and shaped the loaves, then set the timer for the rising time.  But, oops!  I never remembered to preheat the oven.  I think it was because of the nice, long sponge time, the loaves were a little over-risen by the end of the usual rise time.  Because of the almost cold oven, they had to wait while it preheated, rising more in the meantime.                                                                                              
Only a few marks from their encounter with the upper rack
15 minutes after putting them in the oven to bake, I opened the door to insert the temperature probe into one loaf.  By that point they had risen so much more that they were running into and around the upper rack.  Yikes.  It's as if I'd never baked bread before.  I was surprised and happy to have been able to remove that upper rack without destroying the loaves entangled in it.  

Collapsing under their own weight

When I take bread out of the oven, I immediately remove the loaves from the pans and onto a cooling rack.  That is where I ran into trouble this time.  The large tops were so heavy, the main part of the loaves couldn't sustain them, and were getting crushed.  I tipped them over on their sides to try to help.  Too little, too late, I think.                                                                                                                       
The most comical part of this particular batch of Cartoon Bread showed itself when we sliced into a loaf today.  The pressure of the poofy tops created a tiny 'waist.'                                     
I expected a large air pocket under the crust, as is the usual result of over-rising, but it isn't there.  The texture of the bread is nice.  Prince Go-for-it says it's the best bread I've made yet.   These may have been fine if I'd divided the dough into 5 pans...So maybe I've inadvertently discovered an improvement to my usual technique.                                                                                      
As will almost always guarantee that something 'off' will happen, I'd intended to give one of the loaves to our bowl-making friend, but he'll have to wait for a prettier one.
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