Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Of Yeast and...

Having recently acquired a beautiful Food Processor (FP) with a contraption and buttons that knead dough, I decided it was time to try my hand at a yeast bread...again. yikes. I've attempted a number of yeast breads in my 4 years of marriage. In all these attempts, I don't recall a success. What I do remember is hours of work and mess and waiting and more work and flour everywhere and at the end of all that, a rubbery underbaked non-risen lump of breadish substance. To put it bluntly, yeast bread and I are not friends.

As already mentioned, one of the reasons I desperately wanted this FP was that it removed me from the grotesque and laborious process of kneading. Yes, Amish though I will ever claim to be, I must admit that God knew what He was doing when he gave me life during this gadget-filled era.

While grocery shopping last week I managed to muster up enough courage to pick up 2 packages of yeast. For those frequent bakers out there, you know that a package is actually 3 packets in a row. How much each of those packets contains was heretofore a mystery to me. Thank you, yeast sellers of the world for simplifying and thereby confusing something so important. To my knowledge, there are no other baking items that are sold in individual portions for the "ease" (read: confusion) of the inexperienced baker who has to use that nifty invention called a measuring spoon/cup for EVERYTHING else that goes in a baked product. Well, complaining aside, I bought them.

Yesterday was THE day. I was going to put my beautiful FPs kneading thingy to work. Gloriously, both kids were sleeping and I knew I had a couple of hours free from motherly duties. I settled on cinnaomon rolls figuring that even if they ended up like my previous yeast bread attempts, at least they would still be sweet and cinnamon-y. In otherwords, I would still eat them.

Breaking the Cardinal Rule of cooking - make sure you have all the ingredients BEFORE you start -I realized too late that I was short on flour...about 1/2 short. Oops. My cupboards are full of an odd assortment of flour and flour-like substances. I quickly nixed the whole wheat option. I'm sure 1/2 whole wheat wouldn't have been too bad, but thinking I must have a better option, I kept hunting. That's when I came across an unopened package of wheat-free, gluten-free flour that I had bought for Iain a while back. It claimed a 1:1 substitution for wheat flour. Perfect.

Prior to adding the flour, I had to add the dreaded ingredient...the YEAST. The recipe, from my mother, stated "2 yeast cakes." Looking at my little row of yeast packets and knowing there was nothing resembling a "cake" inside, I picked up the phone and called my mom. Dad answered. Mom was not home. What I should've done next is turned to the internet, but no, I had a vague notion that the package would tell me. Low and behold, it stated clearly that 3 packets of yeast (1 package) equalled 1 two-ounce yeast cake. Problem solved. I had 6 packets which would equal 2 yeast cakes.

Looking at my recipe and my 6 packets of yeast, this seemed to me to be a great quantity of yeast, but I, the inexperienced and wounded yeast-baker, figured that I should probably err on the side of caution and add all the yeast that I thought was being called for rather than risk the alternative, with which I was too well acquainted.

In went 6 yeast packets, followed by a harmonious mixture of gluten-filled and gluten-free flours. I pressed the dough button. Hey presto, my mass became dough. Hurray!...until I took off the lid. PEEE-YOU! Something didn't smell right. Well, it's not like it was rancid (though that was my first guess, but the dates were all fine) but it certainly didn't smell like the cinammon roll dough of my youth. Nor did it taste like it.

By this time I was chatting on the phone with my sister, Heidi, who had by then suggested that perhaps a "yeast cake" equaled a single packet of yeast (which, by the way, was later confirmed by my mom) rather than the erroneous 2 oz yeast cake substitution mentioned on the back of the package (no doubt put there by yeast sellers who are trying to make a tidy profit off of inexperienced bakers who don't know what a "cake" is.) I explained the whole flour substitution to Heidi and how this mass just didn't smell right. While talking, I reached for the gluten-free package to determine exactly what "flour" I had just made my dough with. Ingredient number one: GARBANZO BEAN flour. Need I say more? fava bean flour was also mentioned.


Instantly I knew exactly what I was smelling/tasting. I was making bean-flavored cinnamon rolls. With about 3x too much yeast. So much for a healing-of-memories baking session.

Looking at my rising mass of sweet bean dough, I knew I had 2 choices: forge ahead or chuck the thing in the garbage. Knowing that the hard part was behind me, I figured I might as well perservere too the end and if it was all as bad as I feared, the garbage would still be standing in the corner as a willing recipient of my hard work.

A bit of melted butter and a veritable ton of cinnamon/sugar (yes, I was trying to drown the bean flavor) a bit more rising and I threw them in the oven. 15 minutes later, out they came, looking absolutely beatiful and promising to be delicious morsels of tastiness...a promise I knew they couldn't possibly keep.

Iain and I tasted them while they were still warm. Iain enjoyed them, but then again, I don't think he's ever had cinnamon rolls so bean or no bean, he would love them. I on the other hand, definitely detected the bean flavor. Fortunately, post-oven the flavor was significantly reduced. Today, a day later, either my taste buds have completely failed me, or the cooled and rested rolls have assumed a near-normal flavor. The only significant evidence they give of the bean flour is their crumbly texture. As for the yeast, my mom further explained the yeast needs gluten to work, and using gluten-free flour probably wouldn't produce an adequate rise. Therefore, my overuse of yeast most likely worked in my favor.

Thank you FP for inspiring me to plunge into a yeast education. And thank you to my mom for returning my call.


Reenie said...

Hahahahahaha. Awesome post Fester. Loved it. Although the thought of bean flavored cinnamon rolls made my stomach turn a little. It's also funny because I've never had trouble with yeast bread, but I do use my kitchen aid and it works marvelously and I don't have to knead (thank God). Anyway, happy baking. Thanks for the great post to start off my morning :)

Jesse Ray said...

Way too funny. Good for you for trying again, and again. It seemed like we had to try everything three or four times before we got it right, too. I only remember giving up on something once: Ocra...or should I say mucus soup.

Hannah said...

Betsy, you made me laugh so hard I almost cried! I'm getting pretty good at making bread now, but it's been a long time coming. I did have to read some books about it, and try a few recipes (that also weren't great) but I found a winning combination. A bread machine and I haven't tried bread in a food processor, but I think it kneads the same. Check out the website for bread recipes, though. I have made french bread and oatmeal bread, and they are absolutely delicious!