Lessons in Baking Vol. 1 or Shit Real Bakers Already Know

A whole long weekend has passed and all I have to show is lots of not-good bread. I mean it’s edible. But it’s not good. …And in some cases it may not have been all that edible. In the hope that some of my baking-inclined readers might be able to dole out some advice and to prevent similar mistakes, here’s a rundown of What Went Wrong This Week (another potential title for this post).

Lessons from Garlic-Rosemary Buns
Inside is better than outside.

Clearly not enough garlicAgainst my garlic-loving inclinations, I followed a version of a garlic-rosemary bread recipe that calls for the garlic and rosemary to be brushed on the outside of each bun. I reasoned with myself. Perhaps the strong garlic flavor and impossible-to-wash-off rosemary scent will penetrate the bun during the magical baking process. The recipe was on a BBC website and the ingredients were listed by weight–surely such precision wouldn’t be wrong about something as important as the flavor!

Utter nonsense. You can be bet version two is going to be literally rolling in garlic.

Baking temperature matters. A lot.

Garlic Rosemary Buns in the OvenI made a lot of changes to the original recipes I found. Mostly because they all seemed to call for a more rustic bread, and when I picture Garlic Rosemary Buns, I always think of something soft and moist and begging to be gobbled by the half dozen (then regretted–but not enough to prevent it from happening again). You just can’t do that with rustic bread which is designed to withstand rain and the Middle Ages and the French. As a result, the make up of the flour mixture changed pretty significantly, but I kept the baking temperature for a bread that is basically all crust. Instead of soft, fragrant bread pillows I ended up with dry flour cakes.

Garlic Rosemary Buns Crust
It’s like a bad dinner roll.

Lessons from Jamdandies: Attempt II

Believe it or not, but the fact that Jamdandies are mentioned in this post means there will be a third attempt. I am beginning to think I should have picked the larger bag of flour at Costco. I’m going to be one of those people that has to use those flatbeds because all her stuff can’t fit into an over-sized cart. Like a business or someone building a shed at Home Depot.

Jam is awesome.
Cookie Moat Jamdandies
If I wanted a jam-less bite of cookie I’d eat shortbread.

That’s pretty much what the failure of Attempt II boils down to. I used regular sugar instead of that chunky raw variety that plows air tunnels into softened butter in unknown ways and found insanely fragrant vanilla beans at the always amazing Berkeley Bowl. Which means the cookie itself was a light, buttery delight. But in my attempts to speed up the cookie-forming process, the ring of cookie around the jam was too wide. A delicious, but effective cookie moat with the jammy prize stranded in the middle.

Dandyjams might have been impractical to make in large batches, but they had the perfect jam : cookie ratio.

Lessons from Oatmeal Bread

You would think after both cinnamon rolls and garlic rosemary buns, I’d have figured out this whole bread thing by now. Nope.

Don’t be lazy, knead your bread.

Oatmeal Bread Deflation

Kneading by KitchenAidOkay, I totally deserved this one. Even though Sunshine is repulsed with the idea of a bread doing your kneading for you, I left the Kitchenaid mixer on and did some work instead. It’s also possible I ate lunch…I can’t remember. Point is, I checked the consistency every couple of minutes, scraped the sides and bottom, figured the process of activating gluten would be basically the same, regardless if it was me or a mixer doing the kneading. Because science.


I think technically that might be true, but even more than that joyful feeling of warm, malleable dough under your knuckles, kneading by hand literally connects you to the dough. And if I’d kneaded the dough myself I would have felt immediately how much it needed more flour. According to a three year old post from someone on Yahoo! Answers and various baking forums (I can never tell if old baking answers are a good or bad thing. Is the answer so accurate it’s been adequately addressing the publics’ concern for years?) there are fifteen hundred things that could have gone wrong. My best guess is there was not enough flour. After the first rise, I took the bowl out of the oven and the dough deflated from just agitation. Since I wasn’t flinging it around, I think that indicates there wasn’t enough structure to support the rising of the dough even at the beginning.

Deflated Oatmeal Bread Dough

I also kept it in a warm oven (the rack inside was warm to the touch, but not uncomfortable to hold) so maybe it was over-proofed? And I used regular flour with 2 Tbsp. of gluten to shore up the bread flourness. If anything I would have thought that’d help prevent this from happening, but maybe not? Any other ideas?

Grease the pan – don’t use foil.

Okay, again, this was a pretty dumb mistake. I was half-hoping to have a thick enough dough to free form loaves on a baking pan, but as we’ve already established, the bread didn’t have enough structure and would have been a blobby puddle. And I couldn’t find my loaf pans. So I just finangled something. And my bread lacked sufficient crustitude. Washing and cleaning is my least favorite activity, but sometimes there aren’t any shortcuts. Use the pan, get your crust, be more environmentally friendly.

Oatmeal Bread "Crust"

Develop a recipe failure disposal plan

You could give the Mayor a good batch of Dandyjams, and good friends will take cookie-moat Jamdandies, but what do you do with nearly inedible failed Garlic-Rosemary Buns? I’ll eat the Oatmeal Bread or turn it into french toast sticks, but even re-purposing there’s still an incredible amount of breadstuff to work through. How do you faff it off onto the unsuspecting public?

Not as good as a working recipe, but it’s not like it could be easy, right? Because then I wouldn’t have any flaws at all. Except for that apple thing. Hope to have a gush fest on a perfect something soon, but at this rate who knows–this could take a while.


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