Baker Diaries #1

Smitten Kitchen's Whole-Grain Cinnamon Bread

 

I’ve talked about how much I love baking before, but if you’ve ever been in the kitchen with me while I’m baking, you might think that I actually hate it. In my head, baking is relaxing. Just measuring ingredients and mixing them together — always in the right order, and always with the perfect tool.

 

In reality, baking is rarely like that (at least when I’m doing it). I’m notoriously bad at mis en place, and even when I read the recipe beforehand and try to gather all the ingredients and tools I need, odds are I’ll forget something. Then I’ll be checking my next step, and oh *#$%, I was supposed to melt the butter before adding it, and my butter is sitting in the fridge, totally not melted.

 

But I still love it and somehow find it therapeutic — although maybe not when I’m standing on tiptoe trying to find the paddle attachment I forgot I needed to use before the dough hook, and the cabinets are too $%*&@#* tall for me to find anything. I wonder if other bakers swear as much as I do. At least the cat can’t get in trouble at school for using a bad word she learned from me.

 

While I’m definitely not a pastry chef, I do really like baking, and I miss it when I haven’t done it for a while. A month ago we thought I’d have to stop baking entirely, but then we noticed that if I switched to whole-grain pasta and bread (and only ate it occasionally), I still managed to lose weight. (17 pounds so far!) Teddy suggested that since we have bread, fruit, and cheese nights for dinner about once a week, maybe we could make whole-grain bread instead of buying it. (I knew I kept that boy around for a reason.)

 

So I thought it might be fun to write about my bread/ whole-grain baking experiences here. Not necessarily an original recipe (although those might sneak in every once in a while too), but more of a recipe review of sorts. Baking is interesting because something could go wrong at any minute, and while baking flops are always disappointing, I actually like trying to figure out why it flopped. Was it a dumb mistake on my part, or a recipe failure? Or did the oven just decide to hate me and cook the bread unevenly?

 

For my first experiment, I decided to make Smitten Kitchen’s Whole-Grain Cinnamon Bread. And I was really blown away! It’s delicious and doesn’t taste too “healthy,” if you know what I mean. Whole grain flours have really come a long way since I was a kid (or maybe I’m just more accepting of bread with seeds in it now). Here’s what I learned while making this recipe:

 

  • I cut this recipe in half because I only have one loaf pan, which made some of the measurements wonky. Thank goodness I have a kitchen scale! It would have been a total nightmare without one. I even used it to cut an egg in half because the original recipe called for a whole egg for 2 loaves.
  • I used a mix of whole wheat flour and white whole wheat flour (which is from a different type of wheat that’s lighter in color and tastes a little more like all-purpose flour). I really liked the mix, but Teddy said that using white whole wheat would make the bread even more decadent, so I think either way would be great.
  • I had to add extra flour while I mixed the dough because it was really wet, and I was afraid that I was going to add too much and make it tough. But I think it turned out great! It was nice to know that I remember what dough should look like, even if I haven’t made it in a while.
  • I had never heard of using egg and water as the binder for swirl bread, but Deb is totally right — it holds the bread together much better than melted butter would. (Plus you don’t have to feel bad about putting some butter on it after you toast it!) But I got nervous that the egg made it too wet, so I wiped some of it off of the dough before I added the cinnamon, which I kind of regretted. I think using the full amount of egg would make the swirl really gooey and delicious. So if you try this recipe, just be aware that the egg might look more wet than melted butter would, but don’t worry, it’ll work just fine.

What do you think of this series idea? Would you try out this recipe? Let me know if you have any recipes you think I should try!

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