A long long time again in a galaxy far far away . . . wait no not quite. A long time ago in a state far away, I bought a bread machine and proceeded to make bread bricks (literally – just ask my kids). Along the way I got better at bread baking and found a recipe on a usenet or forum for bread machines called “Trashy Wheat Bread” which was lighter than whole wheat. My twist was to use honey instead of sugar, so it became “Trashy Honey Wheat Bread” and my go-to favorite receipt for my many bread machines (I’m on my fourth one now and thinking about upgrading to the latest Zojirishi this year).
Once my kids left me an empty nester, the need to bake bread two or three times a week lessened, and my bread machine gathered dust. I’d pull it out of storage for Thanksgiving and Christmas for the dough cycle only (to make the family traditional Sticky Buns).
Early in the pandemic, I had a brief resurgent interest in sourdough but after a few months, the carbs weighed on me and both the sourdough starter and the bread machine suffered from my neglect.
Now that I’ve moved halfway across the country near my kids and grandchildren, I’ve been paying my rent in bread. Of course, my daughter asked for the aforementioned trashy honey wheat bread, which I attempted to make multiple times but could never quite get the recipe right. I went searching for a blog post here assuming that I had written up the original recipe for posterity, but the link took me to an old blog posting that was no longer viable.
So, I searched the internet hoping to find the original forum post but again no luck. Instead, I took a different tact and searched for recipes specific to my Zojirushi and found a Half-and-Half Bread recipe that I began tweaking to more closely resemble my Trashy Honey Wheat recipe. Two days ago, I hit the proverbial bread ball out of the park when my daughter took the loaf out of the bread machine and proclaimed success.
Terry asked me earlier this week to make some hamburger or slider buns for Sloppy Joes or grilled hamburgers since the weather is starting to warm up. My son had provided me a recipe he’d made a few weeks ago. I compared it to three or four recipes I found at the King Arthur Flour web site. The first one I leaned towards trying (and dividing in half) was the Hamburger or Hot Dog Bun recipe (and I do actually have the KAF hot dog bun pan). The second one I looked at was the Beautiful Burger Buns recipe, which required a quarter cup of sugar and no milk.
I chatted with Amanda at the King Arthur Flour live chat and asked if I could substitute honey for the sugar. She confirmed I could but I should halve the amount. So for the Beautiful Burger Buns recipe, I would use two tablespoons of local honey instead of a quarter cup of sugar. I also added milk to the water (a half cup of each).
On my sixth day of self-exile in my own home, and several sourdough loaves later, I wanted to try something different. My lazy self, before the world turned upside-down, would buy a loaf of Pepperidge Farm Oatmeal bread once or twice a month. Baking bread, especially sourdough, isn’t onerous (Thank you Lord for my bread machine!) but does require you set aside the time necessary to manage the process. It doesn’t require a lot of brain cycles, but in my previously ‘normal’ routine, starting bread after six o’clock at night meant being up past my bedtime before it was done and cool enough to bag. Weekends were usually spent running errands, volunteering, shopping, visiting friends and relatives or attending events. For the foreseeable future, my bread machine and I are going to be BFFs!
How I spent the first winter storm weekend of January 2020.
Until Friday, this January has had the weirdest warm weather I’ve ever experienced in northeastern Kansas. Usually, I’m bundling up because the temperatures outside are nudging into single digits or a raging snowstorm with a wicked north wind blows through to remind us of what our Canadian neighbors endure daily. I actually looked forward to a three-day cold snap with a soft blanketing of snow. My pantry was stocked and I could wait to shovel the driveway until Sunday afternoon (which I did). I avoided the ice forgotten under the snow from Friday’s all-day rain. I stayed snug in my home with my sourdough, my movies, my books, my dog and my hubby.
Just like last weekend, I set out my sourdough starter to feed, but this time I did it Friday morning, not Saturday morning, because my plan was to try the much longer process necessary for the Extra Tangy Sourdough bread recipe. I thought I’d take advantage of the low pressure system to boost my wild yeast production. And I wanted to try out my new covered ceramic baker I received on Friday, thanks to a free shipping promotion last week at King Arthur Flour.
The oven timer pinged before I finished writing my second phase post yesterday afternoon. I had hovered over the publish button many times, but kept finding things to fix and change. Once I heard the timer beep, I had to save a draft and retrieve the first loaf from the oven.
I’m happy but not completely satisfied with the first loaf results. I think I should have let it rise before shaping it. And I think I need a new lame. My slashes were not deep enough so the loaf did not expand as well as it could have with properly deep slashes. The loaf passed the taste test.
Welcome back! I’ve just popped the first sourdough loaf in the oven and in a few minutes my house, at least the main level, will smell amazing. And as my uncle commented on my fist post, he’s already salivating and soon I will be joining him. Nothing smells better than baking bread . But first, let’s back track about ninety minutes and catch up.
The Second Act ~ The Not-So-Meaty Middle
About an hour after I published my previous post, I pulled the dough out of the bread machine, gently kneaded it by folding the very sticky dough in upon itself from the four corners (of a ball, yeah, I know, doesn’t make much sense and is difficult to make a video while actually performing the action). I sprayed my glass stove-top with cooking spray and coated my my hands as well. I’ve learned from experience that the easiest way to handle high hydration doughs is to grease yourself and your surface to avoid getting stuck.
Today is the twelfth day of Christmas and it’s been eight days since my daughter gifted her sourdough starter to me when she returned to Seattle. I fed the starter late last weekend and set it out from the fridge yesterday morning to warm up to room temperature so I could feed it again in anticipation of baking sourdough bread today. Very early this morning, I checked the started to see how ripe (or vigorous) it appeared and it was quite bubbly. So instead of feeding it again (to enhance its vitality), I reviewed the Basic Sourdough Bread recipe at King Arthur Flour that I had decided to try today to see what to do to prep starter to use in an actual bread recipe.
The recipe required two cups of starter so I put eight ounces of water and eight ounces of all-purpose flour in my small mixing bowl (see first photo above). To this I took all but a half cup of the starter from the crock and stirred vigorously. I covered the small mixing bowl with my tea towel and then re-fed my starter as I would normally – half cup of water and a cup of all-purpose flour.
I received a call from my son Thursday evening. This is a somewhat unusual occurrence as the last time I spoke to him was on the occasion of his 31st birthday back in early February. In our defense, we are both busy professionals working much more than your typical 40-hour work week, so we don’t have a lot of spare time for idle chit-chat.
We exchanged pleasantries and got caught up on the latest antics of their new pet Rottweiler, Ton Ton, when he popped the question. You know, the one you always expect when your offspring call you because they never call you unless they … wait for it … want something. But this time, my son surprised me. He wanted my Italian Herb bread recipe.
Seriously? This was too easy and too good to be true.
It was raining and thundering this morning. That means a perfect day to make bread. I asked Terry what type of bread he would like me to bake and he said ‘honey oat.’ So I went to my favorite flour company (King Arthur Flour) and searched through their recipes for an oat bread. I landed on the Vermont Whole Wheat Oat Honey bread recipe with 207 reviews and an above four star rating. I thought I’d made this recipe in the past, so I blithely started dumping the ingredients into the pan of my bread machine. My first clue that this was NOT a bread machine recipe should have been the two cups of water. Most bread machine recipes are between one and one and a third cups water with three to four cups of flour.
Since the temperature broke into the mid-60s yesterday under clear sunny skies, I decided to uncover the grill for dinner. I started this recipe in the bread machine in early afternoon so the buns would be done when the burgers came off the grill.
I did not butter the buns before baking nor after baking. Nor did I do an egg wash with sesame seeds. I went completely easy and simple and just shaped eight bun balls and baked them. Next time, I’ll probably divided the dough into ten or twelve pieces for smaller buns and perhaps add the sesame seed topping.
Both my husband and I loved the buns. They taste and smell like great hamburger buns from a bakery, only very fresh! I highly recommend this recipe.