Monday, July 16, 2012

Successful Bread

Bread sponges are officially the best thing ever.
Teaser image of the bread you can make.
This light, fluffy bread was made with a sponge.

I found this post about how to make delicious bread from a sponge on Well Fed, Flat Broke quite a while ago and have been wanting to try it since I saved a blob of dough from the slightly unsuccessful if still delicious whole grain "Healthy Bread" from a while ago.
Just to clarify, a sponge here has nothing to do with cleaning and everything to do with letting yeast ferment overnight before putting it in dough. It's a lot like sourdough starter, but with store-bought yeast instead of sourdough starter.
I halved the recipe for my purposes, but it's an easy halving to do as long as you know that 1 tablespoon equals three teaspoons, or have a 1/2 tbsp measure. I'd never heard of one before, but my housemates have one. I love it so much.
Anyway, that was leading up to me telling you that I won't be posting the recipe, although I did take copious pictures. It's Emily's recipe with no changes, so go there and check it out.

Bread sponge just after mixing up.
It all starts with milk, flour, and yeast, and a blob of dough if you saved some from the last time you made bread.

Sponge ready for sitting overnight, all covered in plastic wrap and a towel.
I'm not sure why the sponge needs to be covered with plastic wrap and a towel; maybe for insulation?

Sponge all bubbly after 12 hours or so.
Fermenting happened!

Sponge after stirring in the yeast, water, and sugar mixture.
The sponge was all gloopy even after I added the yeast/water/sugar mix. I used agave, actually, and it worked great.

All ingredients incorporated into the sponge, which is now a dough.
The dough seemed dry, but it really wasn't.

Dough pressed into the bowl to show amount of dough.
I kept stirring the dough, then pressed it into the bowl for a prettier picture.

The dough, kneaded and oiled and waiting to rise.
This is the dough after kneading. I used about 3/4 c flour while kneading, then made a ball and used a little melted butter but mostly olive oil to grease the bowl.

The dough, doubled in size.
The dough rises really well in hot, humid weather.

The dough, pre-second rise in its pan.
The dough is pretty easy to work with; just smoosh it into a smooth log and plop it into a greased pan.

Very puffy dough after about five minutes in the oven.
I forgot to take a risen picture of the dough, so I snapped one about five minutes into the baking time. It rose about another two inches in the oven.

The finished, browned loaf cooling on a rack.
Ta da! I rolled my dough into a loaf. I don't recommend this method.

Loaf of bread looking artsy with a slice cut off.
Isn't it gorgeous? Other than the way it falls apart because I rolled it up and it didn't mesh.
My doughs always collapse and go dense. This was super successful, and I highly recommend the method, even though you have to plan ahead.

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