Monthly Archives: July 2020

You Are Probably Making Your Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich Wrong

Or not, as the case may be.

Well – it depends. Some weirdos like soggy bread. They get haphazard with the jelly.

Soggy bread is gross.

What do you? You take the peanut butter and you spread it on both sides of the bread. A thin layer.

Peanut butter is incredible. I eat it off the spoon, too.

But, two thin layers make one thick layer!

Then, spread the jam. This is an odd opinion.

Not controversial.

But odd.

Jam is a superior spread to jelly on sandwiches. There’s chunks of fruit in there, man! The chunks stick into the peanut butter.

Jelly doesn’t spread so well. It makes jelly chunks.

It’s just not the way to go.

So, I add that jam and I slap it on, and then I add the second slice of bread. And its pretty dang good.

Bay-gel? Bag-gull?

One of the easiest, but impressive, bread making tasks you can take on is the world of bagels. Bagels taste like normal bread. It’s the texture. There’s  a real texture thing going on with bagels.

How do you get the texture? If you’re already thinking about making bagels, you probably know. You boil them! Bagels are boiled.

The water has a little bit of sugar. In fact, the best bagels often use malt syrup to add a malty taste. I use brown sugar. Just a little.

A kitchen tool people don’t think about when baking is an electric skillet. We use ours for pancakes, bacon (if not roasting), camping, and breads that need boiling.

The skillet provides a great measure of control both for boiling and for simmering. I set it to about 200F for a simmer and 250 for boiling. Leave some room for raising the temp – if the water drops in temp, it gives you some spurs.

Water boils at 212F or 100C, and it won’t heat up above that. If you keep your skillet over that temp, it will always add some heat. Which is nice.

The boiling of bagels – remember those? – is what gives it the thinnish, chewy exterior. After boiling the surface is also wet – which is great for adding some seeds or chunks of crunchy salt. Sesame seeds are my favorite.

I also like salt.

I also also like swiss cheese – but only with green olive cream cheese spread.

If you are feeling very for it, you can also learn how to make your own cream cheese! I am happy to buy this at the store. Why would you make your own cream cheese?

(I will likely do it some day).

Bagels also have the classic bread twist of being cooked after being cooked. It’s nice to split them in half and toast them. There are folks who act like this is a crazy proposition, and to them I say, you guys are kind of being jerks! Let me eat my bagel how I want!

Bagel pontification ends with some sorrow. My stomach won’t let me eat lox. Something about the processing gives me gastritis, and it is very painful. So, I only eat lox once a year.

It’s painful, but delicious.

Yeah, Buddy! Grill That Cheese!

Homemade bread, especially with a chewy crust, isn’t always my favorite for sandwiches. Basic sandwiches, that is. Grilled cheese on the other hand…Oof!

Grilled cheese is a terrific addition to your day.

Grilled Cheese is amazing. It can get real fancy, real quick. Or it can be good and slummy. Take your pick!

The same basic procedure for every kind – butter both sides of the bread. Grill each slice side by side, then flip it over. Put the cheese on the toasty side and let the other side toast before slamming together.

It’s freaking delicious. It is sunshine for your rainy days.

BASIC SLUMMY GRILLED CHEESE

It’s not that slummy, because you are using homemade bread. If you want to get real decadent, buy some white processed trash bread. I find upping the bread game delicious, though.

Don’t get too oily, but find some American trash cheese. Sliced up thin. This cheese will melt better than any cheese you will find in your life. It’s the kind that gets ooey-gooey. This sandwich MUST be finished with a diagonal slice. Wait a few seconds before cutting, or all the cheese will vanish. It’s, frankly, incredible.

Garnish with a dipper of tomato soup.

RUSTIC IS NOT A REAL ADJECTIVE BUT YOU KNOW EXACTLY WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT

Take some “real cheese.” Usually a very sharp cheddar. Slice it up, or shred it. Don’t use the pre-shreds. They don’t melt as well.

Get yourself a thickish slice. This works best open face. Sure, you can make a true sandwich, but then it’s silly to put the whole shebang under the broiler.

Load that cheese on, bro.

ADD JAM

That’s it. Or some fruit slices, like apples. Use more than one cheese. It loses some flavor when it melts. I like to heat the fruit up.

GRILL IT

Instead of using a pan. Use a grill.

It can catch fire very quickly. I’d still eat it.

TRUSTY CRUSTY

So, take the bread and grill both sides. Add the center cheese. Let it melt, then slam the sides together.

With me? Good.

Now, you add cheese on the top. Throw a towel or lid over it for a few seconds. When it’s started to melt, flip it over. It’s going to sizzle. It’s going to smoke a bit.

Trust the process.

Use your spatula and really get under that melted cheese. Get it off there. It’s a cheese-crusted grilled cheese, and it’s freaking fantastic.

Garnish with a dipper of tomato soup.

OTHER CONSIDERATIONS

Garlic salt.

That is all.

 

So You Can’t Eat Gluten

I am spoiled.

Not only can I consume gluten, I love the results. It is a privilege.

You, however, may not be able to digest gluten. This is more than discomfort – it’s health. People with celiac’s or similar conditions can get very sick when eating gluten.

Gluten-free products can feel dense, dry, or gross. Gross bread? Who wants that?

Not me.

Luckily, you have options. Modern science has fused with modern baking so we can all enjoy fresh-baked bread.

It is worth the time to look for quality gluten-free flour. Often, this bread gets mixed with some flax or similar food to up the fiber. A little almond meal or dry milk powder provides some protein that doesn’t glutenify.

Instead of yeast, many gluten-free breads will use baking soda and powder for leavening. These bubbles form during baking, which can mitigate the lack of a protein network.

Some flour is stripped of gluten-causing protein, which calls for the addition of xantham gum. If you like control over your baking, purchasing a flour without xantham means you add it.

“An extra step?” you might be saying. “Bogus!”

But the added control is very nice. You will be able to experiment more and achieve a loaf YOU like.

See, that’s what you would do with gluten bread, as well.

However, gluten-free flour is a wholly different substance from gluten flour. It involves different plants, starches, and the like.

They can’t be substituted.

If you love baking, and you are learning to be gluten-free, I am very much not the person to guide you. However, I do think its important to know there ARE plenty of resources out there.

My champion King Arthur has a great tips for gluten free flour. My favorite celebrity cook, Alton Brown, has some good cookies.

Gluten is part of my world, but it’s not part of everyone’s. I wanted to make sure that was out there.

Enrich Yourself

If you know a little bit about eggs and sugar and things, you can tell a bit more about your bread. Bread is usually not flour, salt, yeast, and water.

Why would you leave a perfectly good dough alone?

I guess some people use a little oil on the outside at times. Still, I prefer my bread “lean.” This is an actual term because “bread” was apparently not good enough.

If you knead really well, and then start mixing in quite a bit of butter, you can get a brioche. The butter about 30% of the flour. You also add a few eggs.

What you have to do is proof the yeast in this case, too. It needs a little extra help. Trust me.

The extra fat and a little sugar makes it a bit easier to shape. This is how you get donuts, as previously mentioned. It’s also how you might get a challah.

Enriched dough is pretty good for plaited loaves. It holds it’s shape well, so you can make the long cords needed.

If you are a British Baking Show fan, you know what I’m talking about. One thing that makes it so hard is not the plaiting – it’s making sure the dough rises properly with the extra fat, etc.

My favorite enriched dough is pizza crust. I do about a 70% hydration, 1% Salt, 2% yeast (that might be backward) and then some Olive Oil. Only a few tablespoons to the dough, the rest in the pan.

The oil in the pan prevents sticking, but it also seeps into the dough during cooking which causes it to fry a bit.

It’s delicious!

If you are going to make any bread other than sourdough or normal bread, I would highly suggest you get your pizza crust game nice and strong.

Your family will thank you.

 

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Bread Comes in Shapes

Loaves can get a bit boring and they also can sound a bit like bathroom code.

Your fanciest loaves might get pinched stolen as well!

There’s a lot of great stuff you can make with bread. It’s like an edible clay! Not just the loaves and boules of yesterday – but interesting things. For example, you can make soft pretzels. Bagels. Even yeasty donuts are bread related.

Let’s stick to the yeastilogical arts, here.

Pretzels and bagels CAN honestly be made with the same good old fashioned bread ratio! It works!

The major difference is a thinner, but chewy crust. You do this with bagels by boiling in slightly sweetened water.

Pretzels get to “lye” down. Ha ha! No, they get bathed in lye, it’s very dangerous. I really only use baking soda at home.

Pretzels get rolled out and knotted. Bagels start as little boules and you poke the hole through with your hand. It’s quite a lot of fun.

Donuts are a bit harder. Bagels and Pretzels do work a bit better with some enrichment (adding eggs or milk or things that aren’t flour, salt, water, or yeast). Donuts need it.

The extras make the dough less chewy.

Donuts also benefit from softer AP flour. Less gluten.

Donuts aren’t shaped. You cut them out. They are very fun to make because when they are done, you have donuts you can eat.

The hardest thing about making donuts is using a deep fryer. Deep fryers aren’t that hard to use, but they are hard to clean.

Sometimes, I’ll make donuts and pan-fry them. But there is still quite a lot of oil that is needed to make sure the dough all gets golden-brown. Then, you get to coat them in cinnamon and sugar! (Or whatever you like)

Pretzels need their salt (or what you like) before baking. Bagels, too. Donuts benefit from a little bit more last minute.

Sweetening your bread game is always a good idea.

Crusty On Bread

I met someone who didn’t care for a hard crust on bread. This was news to me.

I have always enjoyed a nice, crisp crust. You get a nice, crisp crust when you bake bread in the Dutch Oven. Steam does it.

It’s like a bagel.

If you don’t have a dutch oven, throw a few ice cubes on the floor of the oven when you start baking. The cubes will sublimate into steam.

Steam has an awful lot of power.

If you are, in fact, not a fan of crisp, thick crust, you can cook your bread right in the oven. It will still have a crust, a colorful one. But it won’t be so thick.

Bread comes in different shapes as well. There’s the boule, the loaf, the baguette. You can braid or plait it.

A boule is the flat ball shape. It is the kind I make the most. What I like about it is that it looks fancy. It’s also easy to fold garlic or other aromatics into, if you really want to be fancy.

Any bread can be dropped into a loaf pan as well, if that’s a bit easier. This means you probably shouldn’t crustify it – it’s not as good for sandwiches.

A baguette is a long loaf. Truth be told, there’s a bit more to it. The hydration is usually a bit different. You don’t see crusty, crusty crust on it, either.

They are all pretty tasty.

What’s very nice about a sturdy loaf, if you let it stale a bit, it’s nice to make croutons or french bread from. Again, bread is so strange! It’s already been cooked, but we cook it again!

Pasta isn’t cooked first. It’s just dried. I guess, technically, some deli meat is cooked first before being used in melts.

Bread is a unique item.

Well, What About Some Butter?

Boy, I do like jam.

Yes, butter is nice. Melty, savory butter, keeping my bread from getting to soggy. A bit of jam, though.

That’s pretty darn good.

Of course, I mean any jam, spread, fruit putter, preserve, jelly, or various spreadable. There’s an awful lot of taxonomy that gets thrown around.

It’s okay to ignore it.

What you do is, you take a bunch of fruit and take out all the bits you don’t want to eat. Stems and leaves are about all I won’t eat, which is why I’m more of a jam guy.

Cook it, mash it, add a bunch of sugar, and you’ve got jam. It’s easy to can, easy to freeze. Easy to take out and put on toast.

Strawberry is one of my favorites, but I’m also partial to cherry.

For jellies, I stick to smaller fruits. Fruits I don’t care to eat around. Blackberries are good for jelly – I don’t like the seeds.

Currants are a beautiful jelly. It is translucent and red and a bit tart. Very nice on a variety of toasts.

If I’m feeling bearish, I’ll have a swipe of marmalade. Citrus is not my favored fruit in these terms, but a zingy marmalade can be quite nice every once in a while.

Bread is such an interesting product, in its benefit of being cooked twice. Toast is a tasty treat.

And butter and jam are quite good on it.

What I like to do is take a thin layer of butter, and let it melt a bit. Sometimes I melt it in a pan and put the bread on top.

The jam can be a bit thicker, than. A thick layer of fruit jam is even tastier. Be careful not to knock the jar onto the floor, though.

That’s a sticky situation, indeed.

Jam is Good On Bread

Butter is essential.

(“Jam is good on bread?” And he starts with butter? There’s no cohesion here!)

Well, it is.

What is butter but a long stick of fat (and some water)? Let me push my spectacles up my nose and make another proclamation.

Bread hates water!

(“This dude JUST said water was essential for bread a few days ago, what the hell?”)

Once bread bakes, it can be moist in the middle. Hit a slice with some water, though, and you’ll have soggy pap.

I don’t eat soggy pap for breakfast. Well, maybe with brown sugar.

Butter is essential, I say it again. Because a thin spread of butter keeps your bread dry. It works with mayonnaise, too, but I don’t want mayonnaise and jam.

I want butter and jam.

I’ll even million-dollar it sometimes and use peanut butter.

At least butter, though. Thinly spread. And then I top it with jam.

There’s an enjoyable level of jams (spreads, jellies, marmalade, whathaveyou) in the world, but really only two kinds of butter. Salted and unsalted.

Unsalted butter doesn’t have salt in it.

Salted butter does.

Unsalted butter can last at room temperature if you make it, but it’s not going to like that much. In retribution, it may go rancid.

Salted butter is happier. All the salt kicks out the germs a bit better. It still likes having a lid, though.

Unsalted butter is good for baking. It offers a bit more control.

Salted butter is fine as well, but then you never know how much salt you’ve got in there.

Salted butter is the best butter for toast.

Sometimes, you have a grandfather who spreads butter on toast and still sprinkles a little salt on top. Sometimes, you start doing the same thing because it’s absolutely delicious.

Toast is a fantastic way to eat bread. And if you’re going to have toast –

Butter is essential.

Water!

Our tap water is filled with iron. It’s a very hard water. Luckily, not too hard for bread making. Although, there are times I use the water from the cooler we have (the tap water flavor is all over the place), I am pretty happy using the tap water if need be.

Minerals in water can affect your yeast. They can also affect your gluten formation.

Gluten is a serious concern for some, both positively and negatively. For my sake, I want it! And with water that is too hard, that might not happen.

It is also important to make sure you aren’t using completely soft water, with nothing in it. Distilled water won’t make good bread. You need a few minerals to get things moving.

Some folks with municipal water will find the chlorine poor for yeast development. In this case, you only need to let the water sit a while. The chlorine will go away. You can also heat it up or pour it back and forth between two cups. This will all help.

Water is the least considered of the four bread areas, in my opinion. It’s tricky to weigh, tricky to make sure it is just right.

However, there’s a lot about water you can ignore, too.

Room temperature water is typically just fine to use. Cold water is, too, but not as good. Water that is too hot will kill your yeast, but warm tap water is usually fine. Of course, hot tap water may have even more weird minerals in it – hot water is quite the solvent.

A dough with more water – 75% or more -will act weird. It will usually be easier for a crust to form in a dutch oven process, since there will be more steam. The oven spring will be a bit more aggressive. Too much oven spring (the dough expanding as it cooks) can cause a dense loaf. The loaf will eventually shrink.

This is why I try for about 60-70% hydration in most of my loaves.