keeping one’s mitts about

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oven mitt, originally uploaded by poohba02.

I can finally show this project. I recently did a swap with Anna. I sent this oven mitt along with another little (purchased) goodie. (You might recognize the fabric from the mixer cover I made recently…I had just enough left for this project.) I took the pattern from Lotta Jansdotter’s book and combined it with instructions from Denyse Schmidt’s book. It was also my first experience with insulbrite, which does a much better job than regular batting for heat protection, but makes this unfortunate crinkly sound when layered. Next time I may only use one layer of the stuff, as this thing was a complete pain in the *** to stitch and turn. (I was being cautious because I’ve read elsewhere that one layer doesn’t quite cut it.)

Onto some bread…no pictures, just some thoughts on what I’ve learned from all my recent baking. (Lynn, this is mostly response to your recent post. I started leaving a comment but I just started rambling too much…and I figured maybe some other people out there will find this info helpful too.)

The recipe in the Artisan Bread book uses a good bit of salt. However, I do think there’s some room to fiddle around with the amount. That said, I would NOT recommend omitting the salt altogether…just try cutting it in half and play around with it from there. I like to taste my bread so I didn’t have problems with the salt content but I’ve heard a range of opinions on this.

As for the rise issue, here are some things I’ve figured out after several batches of bread:
1) Make sure to check the yeast brand that you use for water temperatures. I think the necessary water temperature can vary depending on whether you proof the yeast first vs. what you do with the recipes in this book—just dumping everything in together and mixing. (It has been my experience with the particular brand of yeast that I use that I get better results when I use water on the warmer side.)
2) I find that I get a better rise with wetter dough (usually yields larger air pockets)…that means being very careful not to add in too much flour when you portion out the dough. The downside is that it can be much harder to work with.
3) Also, I’m not sure if the measurements for dough portioning in the book are quite accurate. (I’ve read this on other forums too.) I find that a typical batch of master dough usually yields 3 good size loaves…you may want to experiment.
4) My parents house tends to be cold so I’ve gotten the best rise out of breads by doing their counter top rise in a slightly warm oven. (We’re talking really low.) An alternative is leaving the dough for its initial rise in a car on a warm day. (I know this sounds totally ghetto but I swear it’s worked.)
5) Make sure to get a good initial rise before chilling the dough. More often than not, it’s taken more than the 2 hours suggested in the book. (This affects the second rise and the taste of the bread.)
6) When in doubt consult the book’s errata page.

Those are my initial thoughts. Baking bread (like sewing and knitting) can be a lot of work but there are few things more rewarding than the smell of freshly baked bread.

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5 responses to “keeping one’s mitts about

  1. Thanks Sara! The oven mitt is fabulous, and your tips are really helpful. I think my next batch I will halve the salt and go from there. I think my initial rise was fine (it grew alot), especially since I had it rise for 5 hours because I went out for dinner. My bread was certainly edible, just not the size I expected it to be! Oh! I contacted Williams and Sonoma, and it sounds like their policy is “if at any time you want to return/exchange the product, bring it back” so I’m thinking of getting the pizza stone from there. Because I love pizza too!

  2. Super cute oven mitt! I’ve never tried insulbrite before, but I need more oven mitts, so I guess I should get my hands on some.

  3. really like the oven mitt!

  4. You always so sew the cutest stuff. I like the oven mitt, but I want see some bread!

  5. Wow, that baking instructions sounds a little foreign to me, but you guys are really tempting me to dust off my Kitchen Aid mixer and roll up my sleeves for some baking action… đŸ˜‰

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