A book titled - Baking and Pastry: Mastering the Art and Craft caught my attention recently. After reading reviews on it from Amazon, I decided to place a reservation for this book from the National Library. Having done some research on the price, I knew that I have to make that the book is worth its heavy price tag before getting it. This book easily costs above a 100 bucks in local bookstores and being an observant bakebook shopper myself, I know cookbooks and bakebooks hardly ever cross this mark.
I could not contain my excitement and eagerly flipped through the book the day I loaned it from the library. 'Wow' was the first thing that came to mind. The book spans over 900 pages and covers almost everything a baker needs to know, including bread, cakes, cookies, tarts, pastries, icings, chocolates even plated desserts, frozen desserts and savoury bakes. At the forefront of the book was an introduction to career opportunites for baking and pastry professionals, followed by introduction to ingredients and equipment, baking principles and food safety.
There are, however, some minor drawbacks. The section of baking principles could be explained in further details and the recipes need to be scaled down when intended for home use. Overall, the book would make a very comprehensive textbook or homebaking reference for inspiring bakers. So far, I have been impressed by the content and hopefully it will make its way into my library of bakebooks soon.
Back to the main intention of this post, I tried my hands at bread-making a second time today: raisins plaited ring bread from I Can Bake by Agnes Chang. The entire kneading process took me like 40 minutes, both using my hands and the dough hook. Compared to baking cakes and cookies, this is certainly a chore for me. I have always been less inclined towards bread making and this provided a good reason as to why I should stay away.
I managed to get the dough to the window pane stage by stretching the dough gently and slowly to reveal a transulent membrane like appearance. The plaiting, however, turned out to be nightmarish. For the first half of the dough, I separated it into two equal portions instead of three as indicated and rolled the portions out to about 35cm long and plaited them.When the plaited ring was proofed a second time, it went out of shape. To make matters worst, I overbaked the dough and ended with a hideous stiff-crust dark brown ring bread.
The second plaited dough turned out slightly better after baking. To prevent the dough from over-browning, I covered the top with aluminium foil halfway through the required baking time. In all, this bread making experience is not quite a success. I have no complaints regarding the taste but the bread turned out dry with a tough crust when cooled, not fluffy as seen on the pictures on the book. Wonder what went wrong...
Post Baking Analysis:
1) Possibility of underproofing as suggested by Wendy. Will do my 1st and 2nd proofing longer. Both took me more slightly more than an hour.
2) Baking temperature too high. I used 200 degrees C. Perhaps I will reduce it to 190 degrees C next time.
3) Baking time too long. I baked at 20 minutes at 200 Degrees C. Will reduce it in future.
4) I realised that my second proofing does'nt seem to be effective. Perhaps next time I might omit the second proofing. Need to do some research on this...
5) (Latest) Just realised that I added more flour than asked for due to a mistake. Oops! This should be the main culprit for the dry and tough texture.