The lack of posting on this site has not been due to a lack of cooking, but more due to a lack of motivation to record it. I haven’t been going out as much, so I haven’t been taking my stuff out to parties as much, and thus my initial motivation for keeping a publicly available recipe blog — to easily share how I made something people like — has declined. At some point, though, I’m going to want to look back at what I’ve done just to refresh my memory, so here I am laboriously climbing back on the horse.
I started my mania for baking bread this year when I had friends over for board games on what happened to be Epiphany, and, knowing my penchant for feeding people any time they visit, my gent commented that it would be nice to try a recipe that’s traditional for the day: a King Cake. A quick perusal of Google results showed me a lot of recipes that looked like more work than I cared to do on a day I was supposed to be gaming, but one blogpost — which particular one I don’t recall — referred to a brioche recipe from The Picayune’s Creole Cookbook, the dough from which was to be shaped into a ring and dusted with gold, green, and purple sugars.
The recipe as written looked good to my naïve eye, but the proportions and instructions were for early-20th-century ingredients and environments, so after following the recipe to the letter I ended up with a very sour and very runny dough. I saved it by dividing it into two, wrapping and freezing one half, and adding fresh flour to the second until it was the appropriate consistency, as well as cinnamon and orange zest to help complement the sourness of the dough. After letting it rise again, I opted to roll it out, fill it with nuts/sugar/spices, and roll it back up, then form that into the ring to be baked. It turned out just about perfectly, but it had risen in the oven to seal up the centre hole, which had the effect of leaving the centre doughy and only partially cooked. That day, I fixed the problem by punching a hole in the middle with the centre of a two-piece tube pan as an impromptu heating core and baking it a bit longer, but for future such things I will grease up the tube pan and use it from the beginning of the bake.
I went on from there to experiment with standard lean sandwich loaves, but at some point I picked up Bernard Clayton’s New Complete Book of Breads and finally flipped through it to have a look at exactly what it is, which is a collection of various bread recipes from various sources the author has encountered in his life. I like the introduction to a variety of breads that it offers, but I would prefer two changes: firstly, give all measurements by weight or baker’s ratio as opposed to volumetrically; secondly, since the preface includes instructions for how to knead by hand, using a mixer, or using a food processor, each recipe should make note of when the procedure in the preface is adequate and, if not, what changes need to be made, so that the procedures aren’t repeated in their entirety in every single recipe and you get a good understanding of what is common to every recipe vs. what is special. I’m confident that the book can be reduced to less than half of its current size as a result of those changes, and it would also make it easier to quickly skim recipe titles for what looks interesting.
This cinnamon oatmeal bread recipe is being highlighted because it’s the first recipe I’ve decided to try from the book, owing both to a craving for raisin bread and a desire to not go out and buy additional ingredients, because it’s been snowing all week and I’m pathetically short on appropriate snow wear. I’ve adapted the recipe to make just a single 8″x4″ loaf (though the original recipe will fill a 9″x”5″ loaf pan) and to cut the instructions down to the minimum required verbiage. I let the second rise go on for a couple hours longer than called for, since the density of the bread meant it was slow to double, but the result was still a little denser than I prefer. I also would prefer cinnamon in the dough itself as well as in the filling, and a higher proportion of raisins. Still, this was a good experiment, and I’m glad I gave it a try.