James Beard lied to me...

annie1992March 23, 2014

OK, I should have known better, men have lied to me before, but not James Beard. Oh no.

I needed to bake bread and decided to try a new recipe. I dragged out "Beard on Bread" and settled on his Buttermilk Bread recipe. The recipe says it makes one 9x5 inch loaf, so I get out that pan and start measuring ingredients into the Zojirushi for mixing. Wait, isn't that too much flour for a single loaf? Nah, it can't be, it's JAMES BEARD. I forge ahead.

The dough cycle completes and I take the dough out and put it into the pan for rising. That's a lot of dough for the pan, it just seems like too much. Nah, it can't be, it's JAMES BEARD. He must know.

Into the oven and in 40 minutes out comes.....this.

Yes, it was too much dough for the pan. The final instructions say to remove the loaf from the pan after baking and put onto its side on the rack and bake an additional 5-8 minutes. I did that, and that's why the loaf leans. LOL It has a lovely crisp crust and a soft and flavorful interior, but would easily have made two 8 inch loaves instead.

I've been baking bread for a lot of years and I should have trusted my instinct (as I should have many times in the past, but we won't talk about that now), but I trusted that James Beard would not lie to me.

I was wrong. It's a delicious loaf of bread, though.


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It is a post-modern loaf. Looks really good!

    Bookmark   March 23, 2014 at 10:09PM
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CA Kate

Did the cookbook specify pan size? I have bread pans that are longer than normal and hold about a half again as much dough.... I used them when I made all of the family bread.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2014 at 11:06PM
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Yes, the recipe specifically said a 9 x 5 inch pan. That's what I used, ignoring my experience that says that 4 cups of flour is too much for that size pan.

Ah well, it tastes good.


    Bookmark   March 24, 2014 at 12:18AM
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Y'know, it might have been meant to make two loaves. It might have been some overly helpful editor way down the line who thought that two pans couldn't be right. :)

It looks like lovely bread..."postmodern" for sure. :)

    Bookmark   March 24, 2014 at 12:20AM
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Fortunately, I care far more how it tastes than I do about how it looks, so it's being eaten without hesitation. It makes awesome French toast, by the way.

It also called for two packages of yeast, and in my 40+ years of bread baking, 4 cups of flour and 2 packages of yeast has always equated two loaves.

What made me go astray this time? Why, James Beard, of course. (grin)

Postmodern. I like that. It sounds so much better than "lopsided".


    Bookmark   March 24, 2014 at 12:56AM
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Normally, 4-cups of flour does fit into a 9x5-inch loaf pan, it's the 2 packages of yeast that doesn't "fit".

Mr. Beard must have been in a big hurry and wanted to reduce the time it took to double the dough in bulk. That is an old method used to make bread quickly - use more yeast.... OR, extra yeast is used if there was a lot of sweetener in the recipe. A lot of sweetener in the recipe will slow down the yeast action and adding extra yeast is used to compensate for that. I bet it rose quickly and was ready for the oven after 15-20-minutes after it was panned.

I have a recipe for 30-minute Hamburger Buns and it literally takes only 30-minutes to make the recipe because there is so much yeast in it.

Four cups of flour generally yields approx. 2# of dough, which is the amount of dough used for a 9x5-inch pan.

The other pan option would be a 10 x 4-1/2-inch, which usually requires 4-5 cups of flour or 2+ pounds of dough.

I always suggest scaling (weighing) the dough amount before choosing the pan (especially the first time you make the recipe). At that point you can decide if it would work better in 2 smaller pans, or take out enough for 6 hamburger buns, or an 8-inch pan of dinner rolls and a standard-size pan (8-1/2"x4-1/2") holding 1-1/2# of dough - or other combination - according to the weight.

For a visual, the amount of the dough log is equal to 1/3 of the finished size of the loaf and it should fill the pan no more than halfway. Allow that to rise to just under double the bulk (no matter how long that takes), which should be just over the rim of the pan, and that accounts for approximately 2/3 of the finished size. The oven-spring accounts for the final 1/3 of the size.


    Bookmark   March 24, 2014 at 7:20AM
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I agree with grainlady, two packages of yeast was too much for 4 cups of flour. I generally use 2 1/4 t. instant yeast (approx. 1 envelope of active dried yeast) to 6 cups of flour to make two 8x4-inch loaf pans of bread.


    Bookmark   March 24, 2014 at 8:25AM
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Kind of looks like a mushroom. I'm with you. I don't care how funny looking it is, if it tastes good, I'll eat it.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2014 at 9:34AM
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I kinda thought that's what it's supposed to look like - in my experience, anyway. lol


    Bookmark   March 24, 2014 at 10:04AM
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Nope, you can't even trust James Beard!

    Bookmark   March 24, 2014 at 7:42PM
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Apparently you are not the only one.


Here is a link that might be useful: Beard's Bread

    Bookmark   March 24, 2014 at 8:04PM
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Yeah, dcarch, I also found a thread on The Fresh Loaf, and the consensus was that it needed less yeast.

Teresa, my old white bread recipe calls for 5 cups of flour and 2 packages of yeast and makes two 8 inch loaves, so the amount of yeast seemed maybe a bit too much, but not so much that it made me suspicious. I just assumed it was an older recipe and many had more yeast than I normally use now. Until I baked it, yeesh.

Grainlady, it didn't really rise all that fast, until it hit the oven. But my kitchen is quite cold and it's still cold here, supposed to be zero again tomorrow night. So, I'm attributing the rise of about an hour to the cold temps, but the oven spring was astounding.

As for scaling it, it's never going to happen. I don't have a scale but Elery bought one. It's somewhere in the back of the cabinet, I used it once, to weigh a scoop of pig feed so I could figure out how many scoops made 32 pounds (8 pounds each for 4 pigs, LOL).

I'm not patient enough to deal with it and don't care enough to give the scale an easily accessible spot in my kitchen. The next time, though, I'll go with my instinct and not trust James Beard!


This post was edited by annie1992 on Mon, Mar 24, 14 at 21:48

    Bookmark   March 24, 2014 at 9:08PM
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As I recall that cookbook, I highly recommend the Carl Goh bread and I think he had a delicious lemon quick bread too.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2014 at 2:24AM
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In Judith Jones autobiography, she writes about James Beard's work on that book. He tested the recipes over and over again, and she tested some too. Maybe they didn't test them enough. I tried one of his recipes a while back from the book, and had trouble with it also, but I don't remember which recipe it was.


    Bookmark   March 26, 2014 at 9:35AM
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Back in those wonderful days when I didn't have to watch carbs, I got pretty good at bread baking. A scale with a tare function makes it SO much easier, and if you convert your recipes to metric it makes it easier yet. If you don't bake bread every day, though, it might not be worth it to dedicate some counter space to a scale.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2014 at 11:39AM
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I still have my scale in the drawer and never use it...BUT, I got this other scale by Joseph Joseph, and it's worth giving the counter space to. And worth every penny (around $50).

The bowl becomes a cover, it's easy to pour out of, easy clean stainless, and the unit button makes it easy to change between lb./oz., grams, fluid ounces or mililiters (does the conversion for you, based on the weight of water, I think--I almost never use that). And the big, vertical display is easy to read. Since I've had this scale, I've been using it all the time. Much easier than volume for measuring flour/sugar/salt/yeast, and makes Euro recipes a cinch. :)

    Bookmark   March 26, 2014 at 5:38PM
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Arley, it will never be worth it to me. I just don't care that much, I never weigh anything and sometimes I don't even measure. I do much of my cooking by "eye", depending on how it feels and looks and if my results are not perfectly consistent, I don't care about that very much either, as long as it tastes good.

Plus, making bread, you can't measure ingredients and get consistent results. You could weigh the finished dough and get loaves or rolls the same size, but bread baking isn't an exact science. There are differences in brands of flour, how long it's been stored and where, the wheat is different from year to year depending on the climate conditions, even if it's grown the same place. There is humidity and temperature, a lot of factors that have nothing to do with how much your flour or liquid weighs. Even where your water comes from makes a difference in bread, so I'm always adding more flour or more liquid until it's "right".

As for metrics, well, I refuse. I can barely remember the information I have now, let alone convert it to metrics. My theory is that the brain is like a computer. When my memory is full, nothing new can go in unless I get rid of old information and I have a bunch of information stored. Too bad much of it is useless, LOL. I know how much two liters is, because it's the size of a large soda bottle, although the local drug dealers use metrics, because they sell stuff by the gram. (grin) Plus I'd have to replace all my measuring cups, spoons, batter bowls, etc. Nope, I'm staying with cups and teaspoons, thanks. Add the fact that I HATE mathematics of all types any anything I have to do that involves numbers. I can do it, I just hate it, so a sure way to be certain I'll never make a recipe is to give it to me in metrics and tell me to weigh everything or convert it.

It's WAAAYYY more fun to just screw it up the first time and then fix it. Something about swamps and alligators...(grin)


    Bookmark   March 26, 2014 at 8:13PM
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