'Bread Illustrated' Bake Off | KNKX

'Bread Illustrated' Bake Off

Apr 18, 2018

Nancy Leson and I love to bake our own breads and often enjoy weekend baking projects.  Recently we both picked up the America's Test Kitchen Bread Illustrated book and decided we'd each make a recipe or two from it and report back to you.  

Before we'd finished, Nancy had made a deli rye and a whole wheat sandwich loaf.  I baked off a NY rye, a set of bagels and a dozen English muffins.   

I've attempted English muffins several times in the past with disappointing results.  The Bread Illustrated recipe finally produced one with proper nooks and crannies.    As directed, I shaped and refrigerated the dough for an overnight ferment. and next morning browned them lightly in a dry skillet.

Credit Stein / KNKX

Next, they went into a 350-degree oven for 15 minutes.  Bread Illustrated says to check for an internal temperature of 205 to 210 degrees.  I'd definitely go for the upper temp, maybe even five degrees warmer.  Let cool for 15 minutes, split with a fork and pop 'em down.

Better than Thomas'.  Really.

My toasted muffins. Just like the picture in the book!
Credit Stein / Knkx.org

Nancy's husband Mac said that the deli rye she baked from the book was exactly what he'd grown up eating in Chicago.

Thus emboldened, she also baked off a loaf of Bread Illustrated's whole wheat sandwich bread with equally stellar results.

BI's bagel recipe called for short ropes of dough to be twisted before being joined, then fermented overnight in the fridge.

After boiling, they're baked on a rack over a rimmed sheet pan with a half cup of boiling water added.  That was a new one on me but it produced excellent results.  

As as you can see I need some shaping practice.  

A bit mishapen but wonderfully chewy.
Credit Stein / KNKX

Further Baking Resources

Nance and I both buy yeast in bulk and keep it in the freezer.  I'm just now running out of a package I bought almost two years ago and it's still working fine.  For more on the varieties of the one-celled wonder see Stella "BraveTart" Parks' excellent treatise.  

King Arthur Flour and The Fresh Loaf websites are also valuable sources of baking lore.

"Baking is like washing.  The results are equally temporary." – Patricia Briggs