I baked this past weekend. A lot. The total was 2 loaves of the master recipe from Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day (HBI5), 2 loaves avocado-guacamole bread from HBI5, 5 bagels and 4 soft pretzels from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day (ABI5). I also made a sandwich loaf from the master recipe in HBI5 on Friday. Yes. 5 loaves and 9 miniatures. A whole lot of baking.
My successes: The bagels! The pretzels! I have been wanting to make bagels since I got the book over a year ago. I was scared, though. Boiling pot? Sounds tricky. Guess what? Not tricky at all. Actually, super easy. Both the pretzels and bagels were well received and they both use the same dough. The difference is what you add to the water in the pot when you boil them. The bagels take baking soda and sugar whereas the pretzels take cream of tartar and baking soda. The resting time is shorter than for the big loaves so they are faster to get in the oven which means they are faster to get out of the oven too. We ate both the bagels and the pretzels warm – yum! The only thing I really found tricky was rolling the dough in long ropes to form the pretzels. I did it with difficulty and they turned out fine. I made some more pretzels after school on Monday for the girls and made the pretzels into sticks instead of twisting them. So much easier and the exact same taste. Another word to the wise: my edition of ABI5 had a significant error in the bagel recipe. A quick check of the official website told me that the oven temperature should be 450 instead 400. I also searched the site for soft pretzels and found that although the authors say the cooking time is 15 minutes, it really takes about 30 minutes. Check the errata before you attempt any of these recipes.
Mixed results: the avocado-guacamole bread. If you have been a reader of this blog for any length of time, you know that I love Mexican food. Accordingly I had high hopes for this bread. It has whole wheat and white flours with avocado, tomato and garlic. The taste profile is fantastic! I baked up the two loaves and took them to a party where the bread got great reviews. I was a little disappointed, though. My dough seemed overly wet even though I followed the recipe to the letter. Accordingly my loaves were a little flat. Next time I make the dough, I will add additional flour to see if that helps. But the taste is there so I will definitely make this bread again.
The other mixed result I had was the HBI5 master recipe. I was really excited to make this because it is a whole grain bread. My loaves turned out very dense and too wheat-y for my taste. Don't get me wrong – I like wheat bread. In fact, when I buy bread, I almost always choose the wheat. This dough looked great, smelled wonderful and rose exactly as it should. When I cut into it, though, the crumb was dense. I think that I was the issue here. I don't think my oven was up to temperature – I had forgotten that 450 on my oven really isn't 450 degrees. I have to set it to 475 to have my oven thermometer register 450. Duly noted. I will try this again at the correct temperature and hope that it's more to my taste.
Failure: The master recipe in HBI5 as a sandwich loaf. It was tiny and I kind of guessed it would be based on the loaf pan size that the authors call for. The taste is nutty and nice, but it's not great for sandwiches and only ok for toast. I'll try it again, using a bigger pan and maybe it will work out. There are a couple other loaf recipes in HBI5 that I want to try too.
All in all, I love both books. Both ABI5 and HBI5 have made baking bread doable for me. The fact that I have tubs of dough in my refrigerator and can bake a loaf as it is wanted is amazing. I love that HBI5 has many more whole grain recipes and interesting ones at that (banana bread for french toast, anyone?). It also has a whole chapter full of gluten-free recipes – that alone should be a selling point for many people. The recipes in ABI5 were revolutionary to me and the ones in HBI5 only add fuel to my baking fire. And, especially, I love that it is easy for me to bake bread. Easy, people. So easy that I made blueberry bagels without a recipe telling me exactly what to do.