ANNOUNCING: Change is part of life, and apparently, it's part of blogging, too. As of September 5, 2013, I'm merging The Virtual Goody Plate with Disco Mom Takes on the World and whatever else may henceforth spill from my fingertips (and kitchen), into one great new blog. I hope you'll join me there in exclaiming, "THIS IS AWESOMELAND."

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Hot Buttered Popcorn Bread

I don't know if it was the "Popcorn Popper" Read Between the Lions DVD we got from the library this week, or the big bag of microwave popcorn my friend Rebecca brought as a snack in our car last week, but when I saw the title of this bread, it called to me. I mean, bread that claims to taste like movie theater popcorn? Right on!

Making this recipe brought a lot of firsts for me. It was certainly the first time I'd made, or even heard of, popcorn bread. I also almost never bake with yeast. I had some bad experiences in the past, and the extra steps involved just mean extra opportunities to mess up a recipe. But I decided to give it another go. I had to go hunting through the backs of cupboards to find my mixer dough hook, and I think it might actually be the first time I've used it. And it was definitely the first recipe I've made from an amazing baking cookbook my friend lent me, called A Passion for Baking by Marcy Goldman. I just got it and am still going through it, but I intend to write a more thorough review once I've tried a few more things. I've already got my list.

So the bread turned out good. Fresh bread from the oven is always good. And then brushing on melted butter and salt while hot helps of course. But I think the things that kept it from being amazing were my fault, not the recipe's. In baking you have to develop a feel for things - the balance, the texture, the look of a batter or dough that's just right. Cookies are my strength; I can usually take a recipe and trust my instinct enough to tweak if needed. Cakes and quick breads too, sometimes. Pies and yeasties are another story. I just haven't made them enough, which is the whole point of this exercise and blog.

I think I added too much flour. And I knew as soon as I'd done it - D'OH! - but then what can you do? Then I overmixed it hoping the extra flour would mix in and make a nice soft baby's bottom dough but it was already past that point. I also think my baking powder was not optimal. It was at least 6 months old, and freshness matters (which I learned reading the introductory "Baking Secrets" chapter of the book while my dough was trying to rise against all odds.) Finally, despite her cool trash bag proofing room technique, I'm afraid my kitchen was just too cold for a good rise. It was springy outside so I had the windows open in the house, and it was breezey. In the future I may try making the dough through the first rise in my bread machine, which is nice and warm and protected.

So I think that was the main problem; it just didn't rise as much as I had hoped, both times, so the bread had a fairly dense crumb. But the flavor was great and while it mostly tasted like yummy white bread, there was a hint of popcorn, with the hulls providing a little texture and popcorny nuttiness. Super fun! And everyone gobbled it at dinner, especially since we never serve bread, and my experimental slow cooker spaghetti squash was disgusting. Summary of the day: live and learn.

5 cups popcorn (about 1/4 to 1/3 cup unpopped kernels)
1 1/4 cups warm water (100 to 110 degrees F)
3 3/4 tsp rapid-rise yeast
2 T sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 T real or artificial butter extract, optional
2 1/4 tsp salt
5 to 6 cups bread flour
1 large egg
Pinch each sugar and salt
2 to 4 T salted butter, melted

1. Spray 2 9x5 loafpans with nonstick spray and place on a large baking sheet lined with parchment. Alternatively, you can bake this bread in one big round free-form loaf on 2 stacked baking sheets lined with parchment (to avoid burning), like artisan bread.

2. For popcorn, pop the corn in a hot air popper. Pulverize it in batches in a food processor or mini chopper until you have 2 1/2 cups. It is very lightweight and will fly around!3. In a mixer bowl, hand-whisk water and yeast together and let stand 2 to 3 minutes to dissolve yeast. Briskly whisk in sugar, oil, butter, and salt. Blend well. Add ground popcorn and 3 cups bread flour and mix. Knead dough with dough hook on lowest speed of mixer for 6 to 8 minutes, adding more flour as necessary to form a soft, bouncy dough.

4. Remove dough hook, spray dough with cooking spray, and cover entire mixer and bowl with a large clear plastic bag. Let rise 60 to 90 minutes or until almost doubled.(This is one of Goldman's signature techniques. Spraying the dough prevents a skin or crust forming. Covering the entire mixer and bowl with a plastic bag forms a "home proofer", which in the baking industry is a walk-in sauna rising room for breads. It's humid and free from drafts, and it saves you from messing up extra bowls or sticky, floury tea towels you usually use for the first rise. She says to use clear trash bags obviously so you can see when the dough has doubled. The best I could find at Safeway was clear blue trash bags which turned out to be not very clear at all, so I cut a small hole and covered it tightly with packing tape for a window. I hope that wasn't why I had rising problems. She references Royal Bag in her Source Guide, but like I'm really spending $50+ on 100 bags! I'll just keep my eye out for them.)

5. Turn out dough onto lightly floured surface and gently deflate. Divide dough in half and form into two loaves; place in prepared pans or form a ball and place directly on baking sheets for a free-form loaf.

6. Whisk egg and a pinch each of sugar and salt in a small bowl. Brush loaves with egg wash. DO NOT DISCARD EGG WASH. Cover loaves loosely with plastic wrap and let rise until almost doubled, 45 to 60 minutes.7. Preheat oven to 375. Brush bread again with egg wash and dust with some corn meal. Place bread in oven; immediately REDUCE TEMPERATURE to 350. Bake until golden brown, 35 to 45 minutes.

8. As soon as bread comes out of oven, liberally brush with melted butter. Let cool in pans 10 minutes before turning out onto wire rack to cool completely. Free-form loaf can cool directly on baking sheets.

1 comment:

Marna said...

This looks really yumy! I think your food pictures are always so appetizing.
I know this won't help with the extra bowl... but at my house I have to let the bread rise in a warm oven(to compensate for alttitude and cool temperatures). And after I discovered the instant yeast, my bread isn't half bad now.
I am just addicted to this new blog of yours...Its fabulous!

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