My newest Internet addiction is the food blog TasteSpotting. I have been looking through the more than 3,500 pages of recipes since my cousin introduced me to it a few weeks ago. There are lots of recipes I want to try, but two that I have already experimented with are for bread. The first was cornmeal honey bread, and it looked great in the photos, but it turned out hard as a lump because the yeast didn’t rise.
I was a bit perplexed because I’ve made homemade pizza dough many times, and it’s never had a problem rising. I did some investigation online and found out temperature is very important when using yeast. If the water you mix with the yeast is too cold, it won’t activate; too hot, and it will die. I really had no idea how warm my tap water is, so I bought an inexpensive food thermometer. The hot end of my tap is around 115 degrees F, ideal for yeast; lukewarm is about 90 degrees. The water I’d used for the cornmeal honey bread was way too hot because I’d also heated it in my microwave for a bit.
The next yummy-looking bread recipe I saw was for French baguettes. I love the baguettes I get at the store and with my soup at Panera, so I thought I’d try making my own, now that I had a better idea how to proceed. And sure enough, with the right water temperature the yeast proofed right up. The rest of the mixing and kneading went well. My only problem came when I put the baguettes in the oven. My oven runs extremely hot, so I have to keep a careful eye on whatever I put in there. Unfortunately it also means things tend to brown faster on the bottom than on the top. I rotated the bread pans a couple of times, but the bottoms still came out crisper than the tops. That might also be because I used too much egg wash on the tops.
Overall, though, this experiment went much better than the previous one, and I’m eager to try again. One of these days I’ll figure out how to get an even browning! If you have any good tips to share, feel free.