Friday, February 08, 2008

Juicy bread?

This past Saturday I woke up thinking, "Hey, I betcha pineapple juice would be a good liquid base for bread!" The previous weekend, I'd purchased some juice because it was an ingredient in a teriyaki marinade I wanted to try. (It was good, by the way...) Being me, it didn't really occur to me until after I got it home that maybe buying an entire gallon jug wasn't the best idea considering a) the recipe only called for about a cup, and b) I live alone. Drinking a cup or so as a morning Vitamin C boost only goes so far when the jug is that huge. So it had been on my mind, and I was trying to think of other ways to use it up. I'd been reading up on sourdough starters (more on that later) and understood that yeast likes a slightly acidic environment, and with the sugar in the juice as just seemed like a happy mix. The recipe, more or less (I'm not a precise kind of baker...) was this:

1 1/2 cups pineapple juice
The equivalent of one packet of yeast
1/4 cup butter (half a stick), melted
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 - 3 cups of white flour (or however much it takes to make a soft dough)

1. Heat the pineapple juice until just warm (if it hasn't been in the refrigerator, this step probably isn't necessary.) Add the yeast and stir to dissolve. Set aside for about five minutes, until the yeast has started to grow and the mixture looks foamy.
2. Stir in about half a cup of the flour and the salt, then add the melted butter.
3. Slowly (about half a cup at a time), add more of the flour until the mixture just starts to gather into a ball. Spread a kneading surface with another 1/4-1/2 cup flour, and turn the dough out onto it. Sprinkle with an additional 1/4-1/2 cup flour, and knead until smooth and springy -- five to seven minutes. It's done when you can you can press your finger into it to about the first knuckle, and it springs back to almost fill the hole.
4. Place in an oiled bowl, cover (I use a damp towel), and let rise in a warm place for about an hour, or until doubled in bulk. It rose beautifully for me, and by that time already smelled yummy...
5. Punch down, turn out and knead again, just long enough to work out the air bubbles. Form into a single loaf, and place in an oiled loaf pan. Let rise for about 45 minutes.
6. Preheat oven to 400°F. Now...this is where I did a lot of because-I-wanna things. I brushed the crust with egg wash (1 beaten egg with a little water added) because I wanted a pretty, glossy crust. I also put a pan of water on the rack below the bread for the first fifteen minutes of baking, to create some steam, which in my opinion helps the crust. Totally personal preference. About halfway through the baking time, I lowered the temperature to 375°F. Total time was about 45 minutes. When it came out of the oven, I brushed the top with melted butter to keep it soft. Again, totally personal preference. Let cool in the pan for a few minutes, and then remove to a wire rack to cool the rest of the way.

The final result was a loaf that was attractive (albeit a bit lumpy, 'cause I formed it wrong), very even in texture and easy to slice (nice for sandwiches!), slightly sweet but not overly so, and kept really well. I just finished the last of it today, nearly a week later, and it was still very good -- not always the case with homemade bread, in my experience. I think that was likely due to all that butter, but in any case, the combination worked. I'll make it again. I'm also thinking it might make a good cinnamon bread. And I just got some good Vietnamese cinnamon. Hmm...

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