You Win Some, You Lose Some

Tonight, I attempted too much. It happens.

Dinner: pesto pasta with roasted asparagus and tomatoes. Fast, delicious, healthy, leftovers for lunch. The perfect weeknight meal.

But it wasn’t just dinner. We’re going to a cookout tomorrow night, and small group the night after, and I thought I could be all productive and get everything done tonight.

The menu? Vanilla cupcakes with strawberry cream cheese icing (mini-cupcakes for cookout, full-sized for small group) and homemade burger buns.

The mini-cupcakes exploded in the oven and turned into a delicious trifle instead. Yum! (That’s my breezy way of saying that I was heartbroken as usual when something fails, and after husband-y encouragement and a google search, I fought my way through the disappointment. Not hyperbole. I get really emotionally attached to what I am cooking. It’s part of that whole faith-and-food thing. I’m learning, one failed recipe at a time, that I’m still valuable. I can still cook. I just mess up sometimes. God takes care of me when it happens outside of my kitchen, and He will give me grace for myself when I will not.)

But back to the bread.

I have a problem with most store-bought bread, burger buns included. Enriched, bleached flour, preservatives, corn syrup. Yes, bleach … the actual process is called chlorination of flour. CHLORINATION. Think about it.

So I make my own bread, which is the most heartbreaking and rewarding of baking endeavors. It takes a lot of time, and it never turns out as perfectly as I want. (Hopefully that is a curse of the novice bread baker!)

King Arthur Flour is my favorite kitchen indulgence. It is one the most frequently visited web sites on my computer, and when the catalog comes, Price tries to hide it. I used their Beautiful Burger Buns recipe and tweaked it with whole wheat flour.

I use Active Dry Yeast when bread baking, which is a departure from the KAF standard. Mostly because I bought a pound of it a while back and I want to finish it before I move into the much-easier Instant Yeast, but also because the smell of proofing yeast is delightful. To activate the yeast, put it into a lukewarm liquid and let it bubble before you put it in your mixing bowl.

I used my beloved stand mixer, and threw in 2 cups of unbleached white flour, 1.5 cups of whole wheat flour, 1 egg, 2 tablespoons of butter, 1/4 sugar, a dash of salt, and 1 tablespoon of active dry yeast dissolved in 1 cup of lukewarm water.

Then I turned the mixer on and hoped. You can tell a whole lot about the eventual outcome of your bread by what happens in these first few minutes. Does the dough come together quickly? Does it leave no trace of itself on the sides of the bowl? These are good signs. Or does it stay crumbly, not coming together into the smooth ball of gluten-y goodness that you are praying for? The burger buns started to behave like the latter, but were revived by an extra splash of water. (It was really hot outside today, and believe it or not, it makes a HUGE difference. More liquid when it’s hot! Less when it’s not!)

It came together. Then comes the waiting. The anticipation. The hoping. The RISE. 1 hour of sneaking peeks under the cloth, checking the timer, thinking “how big was it when it started? is it doubled?” Thankfully, this dough rose BEAUTIFULLY and in my anxiousness to deflate the dough (it’s so fun!), I forgot to take a picture. Just trust me … it was beautiful.

Then I divided the dough into 8 rounds (though I should have done 12, which you will understand after you see the end result) and covered for another hour of waiting.

BEFORE RISE:

AFTER RISE:

Isn’t it cool? I love the rising process! It’s one of the reasons I resist a bread machine.

So after the second rise, it’s into a 375-degree oven for 12 minutes. And voila! What I hope will be a lovely, non-bleached, chlorinated, bromated, and corn-syruped addition to our burgers tomorrow night.The cupcakes may have been a near-catastrophe, but the bread rose.

Maybe I should always bake two things at a time, so that when one doesn’t go as well as I hope, I’ve got the other one to boost my spirits!

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