Every couple of months, I declare that I’m going to try to make a loaf of bread. This is usually met with eye rolls and complaints of “Here we go again.” Maya will inevitably bring up the fact that I have tried to make bread approximately 800 times and none of them have worked. While I can make amazing cinnamon rolls, the ubiquitous loaf of bread eludes me. Sometimes it comes out dense and grainy. Other times it doesn’t rise at all and is more like a brick. Every attempt seems to start out well but then end in disaster. Today was no different.
Back at Thanksgiving, I needed some good bread for making stuffing (because what’s Thanksgiving without stuffing?). Rather than use plain sandwich bread, I picked up a loaf of sweet french bread. It was a whole loaf bread that had a nice chewy crust but was soft as a cloud on the inside. It cubed like a dream and our stuffing was heavenly. I can’t always find it in the store, though, so I thought why not make it? You’d think that I’d know better by now.
After much research, I settled on a recipe: Soft and Fluffy Milk Toast (Take 2) from Kirbie’s Cravings. This recipe uses the Tangzhong method developed by Yvonne Chen to create a super fluffy and slightly sweet dough. In addition to yeast, milk, egg, butter and sugar, the dough also uses a flour paste (the Tangzhong) to keep it soft and elastic. I had to make a small tweak to account for the fact that it’s near impossible to find dry yeast here but other than that, I followed the recipe. I even hauled out my KitchenAid and hooked it up to a transformer for the kneading process. After 20 minutes of kneading, I had a pretty good-looking dough ball. I closed my eyes and put it in a warm spot to rise while I hoped for the best. To my elation, the rise went well. It would prove to be a temporary triumph.
I didn’t have the same sized loaf pan she uses in her recipe. Remembering that another blogger mentioned over stuffing her pans to get a big loaf of bread, I thought that I could put all the dough in the pan and I’d just have a really big loaf. Oh I got a big loaf alright. After the second rise, my bread had grown to comically large proportions. In the back of my mind I knew this was bad news but I told myself it would be ok. I put it into the oven knowing full well that disaster was likely just 30 minutes away. I scurried upstairs to my craft room to avoid the inevitable.
It baked beautifully but it kept growing and growing and getting more and more brown. It was also drooping way over the sides of the pan. After sheepishly taking a peek at its progress 20 minutes in, I knew things were going south. I decided to take it out when it “looked” done. I knew it was probably a little bit too early but the top sounded hollow so I pulled it out and dumped it out onto the cooling rack. The second I removed it from the pan, it deflated like a helium balloon that had been left outside over night. The top was a delicious golden brown, but the bottom just flopped over helplessly. The longer it sat, the more it sank into the top. I flipped it back over and put it back in the pan for support but the damage had been done. I pulled off a piece to see if I at least got SOMETHING right. Surprisingly, the taste was there and, actually, the texture was there too (though a bit underdone). It just suffocated under its own weight.
I still have some Tangzhong left so perhaps tomorrow I’ll give it another go and divide it up between two pans this time. I’m determined to try again but I have no hopes of being successful. Some day, I will be victorious. Today is not that day.