Sunday, November 28, 2010

Lean Bread

It's been over a month since my last post and although I took a brief hiatus from blogging after I completed the BBA challenge, I haven't stopped baking.  Today I baked a new recipe from Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Every Day: Fast and Easy Recipes for World-Class Breads.  The recipe I chose was "Lean Bread".  It's called "lean" because it doesn't use any enrichment--no sugar, milk, butter, eggs, etc.--just flour, water, salt and yeast.  It also involves very little kneading and is similar to the popular no-knead recipes.  I was especially pleased with the nice airy holes in the crumb and the crust was delicious as well.  I almost forgot to score the first loaves I put in but luckily Rachel reminded me. :)

If you want to try your hand at Lean Bread, the following should get you started.

5 1/3 cups of bread flour (680g)
2 tsp salt (14g)
2 tsp instant yeast (6g)
2 1/4 cups of lukewarm water ~95F (510g)

Combine dry ingredients in mixer bowl and then add water.  Mix on low speed for 2 minutes.  The dough should be quite sticky and "shaggy" but all flour should be hydrated.  After mixing, use a wet dough scraper to transfer the dough into a clean bowl that has been sprayed with cooking oil.  Let sit for 5 minutes.  Wet hands with water to prevent the dough from sticking to your hands.  Pick up the dough from one end and fold it over itself.  Fold from each side.  Flip the dough over and tuck into a ball.  Cover and let rest for 10 minutes.  Repeat the folding process three more times and let dough rest for 10 minutes between folding.  After the 4th and last folding, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and put in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.

On the next day, remove the dough from the refrigerator 2 hours before baking.  Transfer the dough to the counter using a wet dough scraper.  Divide the dough in half and shape each half into torpedo loaves or baguette's.  Prepare a peel or the back of a baking sheet with parchment paper and lightly dust with semolina flour or cornmeal.  Place the shaped loaves on the peel or pan, cover and let rise for 60 minutes.

After 60 minutes remove the cover to let the crust start to dry out.  45 minutes before baking, place a baking stone in the oven with a broiler pan for water and heat the oven to 550F (or as high as it goes).

After letting the oven and stone heat up, score the tops of the loaves and slip onto the baking stone.  Carefully pour a cup of hot water into the hot broiler pan and close the oven, reducing the heat to 450F.  Let bake 5 minutes.  Remove the hot broiler pan and dump out the extra water.  Bake for another 5 minutes.  Rotate the loaves to encourage even baking and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes until crust is a golden brown. 

Remove and let cool for 1 hour before eating.  Enjoy.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

I find sourdough a fascinating topic of study.  But it hasn't always been so.  When I first tried my hand at sourdough I was a little intimidated, mostly because it went against my upbringing which had drilled into me a deep fear of anything that had been left out of the refrigerator too long.  Chalk it up to too many close encounters with fermented potato salads at family reunions.  Leaving a wet flour mixture to ferment for days in the open air screams danger to me.  And the rank smell doesn't help.

However after making a couple sourdough starters from Peter Reinhart's book, The Bread Baker's Apprentice, my fears subsided and my fascination started.  Which is when I discovered Northwest Sourdough, a site dedicated to the exploring of making authentic, professional quality sourdough at home.  Teresa has a lot of great stuff on her site.  One pleasant surprise that I found today is she has published her book Discovering Sourdough: Professional sourdough breads baked at home using only the wild yeast in PDF format.  After reading the first few pages, I can already see this will be a great book to take my sourdough experience to the next level.  Check it out if you're interested in learning more about sourdough.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Finish Line

Yah!  I'm all done with the Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge.

Last January as I contemplated what I wanted to accomplish this year (I usually don't do New Year's resolutions--after all, if I don't make them, how can I fail?), I wrote down four things:
  1. replace the in-wall heaters in our house (done--next year I'll make it a goal to remove the thermostats),
  2. blog a couple times a month on my preparedness blog (I'm way behind and National Preparedness Month is long past),
  3. get all the paperwork together to become a dual citizen (everything takes forever; definitely not a 1-year thing),
  4. and lastly to bake 10 unique breads from the three Peter Reinhart books I have.
I made the last goal because I felt I was in a rut and my baking skills were stagnating.  At the time 10 recipes seemed like a lot but as I started to look at it I decided to run with it and bake all 43.  The BBA Challenge definitely broke me out of the rut and expanded my baking horizons. 

Having completed the challenge, I'm not sure I'll ever do a challenge like this again.  While doing the challenge expanded my experience, it also forced me to try recipes that I had no interest in baking in the first place and often the final loaf reaffirmed my original reluctance.  But not always.  And lastly, I must admit that at times it became an onerous chore.

Oh, and it also got a little tiring that every time I mentioned it to someone that they asked me if I'd heard of Julie & Julia.

So, what's next?  I think for now I'll start picking and choosing from the wide variety of books and material out there, taking a much more whimsical approach.  If I find myself getting into a rut again, I can always use the punishment of doing another challenge with one of the other two Reinhart books I have.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

#43: Roasted Onion and Asiago Miche

This bread was my final bread to make in the Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge!  And it was a pretty good note to finish on.  The asiago cheese was a delightful taste and the roasted onions--even though a little over roasted--added a subtle tone.  The two loaves were quite large and the crumb was nice and soft.  This bread is a sourdough bread which increased the bread's coolness factor.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

#41: Whole-Wheat Bread

Not including the two "extra" recipes embedded in the final grace note, the Whole-Wheat bread recipe is the last recipe in the Bread Baker's Apprentice.  I'm glad I have one more bread to blog about because if this had been the last recipe from Peter's book then it would have been a sad ending.  A whimper instead of a bang.

You know that I love lofty crusts and you can tell from the picture that I did not get the loft I crave from this recipe.  I even used the smaller loaf pans that I have and still the loaves are only a couple inches high.  I thought it was the low amount of yeast in Peter's recipe but when I sliced into the bread I found lots of big air pockets and the crumb was fairly airy and light, as far as wheat bread goes.  So my conclusion is that I should have just baked it in just one larger loaf pan.  I probably also could have gone with a commercially milled flour but again, given the nice crumb I saw, I doubt I would have seen the 50% higher rise to meet my standard.

The recipe involves an overnight soaker as well as a day-before-poolish.  Kneading the dough can be a little rough by hand because the wheat bran chaffs a little.  However the chaffing eases up as the flour becomes fully hydrated.  I like the whole wheat recipes from Peter's Whole Grain Breads book more than this recipe so I think I'll go back to making one of the recipes from there instead.

Only one more bread to go!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

#31: New York Deli Rye

I don't hate all breads made with rye.  After making the 100% Sourdough Rye, I honestly didn't think I'd ever say that, but my experience with the New York Deli Rye and earlier with the Swedish Rye have taught me that some rye breads can be downright tasty.

Well, to be completely candid, the New York Deli Rye is pretty far from 100% rye.  It's only 35% rye flour making it a little easier to work with and a whole lot easier to eat.  The sauteed onions that were added to the overnight soaker also greatly improved the bread and disguised some of the rye flavor.  For dinner we combined this bread with roast beef and extra sharp cheddar cheese in some panini's for dinner with marvelous results.

On a humorous note, child #2 was happily enjoying a warm slice of the bread until I told her that it had onions in it.  Even though she had been enjoying the slice, all of a sudden she didn't like it and wouldn't eat any more.

I was especially pleased with both the crumb and crust.  I intentionally went a little heavy on the water to ensure I'd get larger pockets of air.  The dough was a little tricky to deal with since it was very tacky and sticky but the effort paid off with the large pockets that you can see above.  The crust also looked beautiful, nicely golden with delicious texture, a result of the egg-white wash applied right before going into the oven.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

#24: Panettone

Panettone is a celebration bread rooted in the culture of Italy.  My first exposure to panettone was a couple of years ago at a family gathering where my brother-in-law brought a large panettone loaf.  I remember it tasting delicious but alas, my memory is not sharp enough to allow me to compare it with the loaves I made.

In making this bread, I used up the last little bit of lemon and orange oil that I had on hand as well as several different types of dried fruit, including raisins, cranberries, cherries, apricots and apples.  The added butter gave the bread a nice rich flavor not dissimilar to brioche.  The fruit reminded me of the stollen I made a few weeks ago which shouldn't be too surprising since the two breads are distant European cousins.

When shaping, I decided to make a dozen small muffin-sized "loafs" as well as the larger loaf above.  The larger loaf maintained moisture a little bit better and we ended up using for french toast a couple days after making it, which was also very tasty.

I'm a little puzzled as to why this recipe wasn't originally placed in the sourdough section since it called for barm.  However the addition of the barm gave this bread a very subtle flavor and in no way detracted from the final effect.

I really liked this bread and I'm considering adding it my collection of Christmas traditions.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

#42: Potato, Cheddar, and Chive Torpedoes

If you think that picture looks good then you'll be happy to know it tasted even better!  This bread was fun to make and the finished loaf was the icing on the cake.  You can see where the delicious extra sharp cheddar cheese oozed out of the scores on top and the cross-section view demonstrates the monstrous voids created by the cheese.  If you look close you may even be able to see the traces of fresh chives that increased the pleasure we all had in eating the bread (child #1 jokingly called it mold!).

This recipe incorporates a wild yeast barm but uses commercial yeast in the final dough.  When reading the recipe I didn't notice I was supposed to keep the potatoes unpeeled so now I have an excuse to try the recipe again.  That and the rest of the 2-lb block of Tillamook extra sharp cheddar cheese (child #2 wasn't too thrilled with the small sample I gave her while I was shaping the loaves but the other kiddies didn't mind).  I think I'll also try it with the medium cheddar that we usually buy and see if it tastes even better.

The dough was pretty wet and shaping the loaves was a little tricky.  The process involves spreading the dough into a 6 inch-by-9 inch rectangle, arranging slices of cheese on top, and then rolling into a torpedo shaped loaf.  The slashes on top needed to be deep enough to hit the first layer of cheese so it could ooze out.  I'm glad I had parchment paper there ready to catch the cheese instead of having the cheese or its oil slick ooze directly onto my baking stone.

Next I'll post my experience making Panettone, another hit with the family.  After that I have only three more breads in the challenge.  Over 90% of the way there!

Friday, September 24, 2010

#34: Pumpernickel Bread

What a cool name for a bread!  This bread's only flaw is that it called for rye flower in the sourdough starter.  Bummer.

However neither the dough nor final loaf proved as frustrating as my 100% Sourdough Rye attempt so it was a success.  While the final loaf was a little denser than I like, the taste was just fine.  And since the recipe called for four ounces of rye bread crumbs I was finally able to put the leftover 100% sourdough rye loaf to good use.*

Knowing I'm not a huge fan of rye, it probably won't surprise you to know that I did not spring for a special pumpernickel-grind rye flour (I don't even know where I would find such a flour without paying exorbitant shipping prices for something I loath) but the coarse crumbs from the rye bread approximated the desired texture.  I used cocoa powder and probably could have gotten a darker crumb with on of the alternates such as caramel color, but it was dark enough.  While this wasn't one of my favorite recipes but it also didn't rank among the worst either.  Somewhere in the middle.

Only five breads left in the Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge!

* Actually, when Rachel asked me what was going on with the rye loaf in the fridge, I told her it was undergoing a complex transition from fridge to trash can.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

#28: Potato Rosemary Bread

This recipe was delightful.  I'm not sure what happened but despite having difficulty while preparing the dough, the loaves turned out surprisingly well.  The crust and crumb where both soft and slightly moist and the crust had lovely color.  The rosemary gave a nice tone to the bread and everyone who ate it had good things to say.

After mashing the boiled potatoes and measuring out the biga, I realized that I had more than enough for two batches of Potato Rosemary Bread (also called panmarino in Italy).  My overconfidence resulted in having four loaves ready to bake when I had only space for two in the oven.  The dough was a little wetter than it needed to be but led to the soft and airy crumb.  I also skipped the optional roasted garlic which gives me an excuse to make it again.

In the end, it was a good thing that I made two batches because then I was able to take a loaf to work and share.  Everyone gave it rave reviews.  I'll be making this bread again.

Monday, September 20, 2010

#36: Stollen

Although it's a festive bread, there's no law against making stollen in September.  Hey, it's how I celebrated the fall equinox. Or something like that.

This is actually my second time making stollen, the other time being last Christmas time before I started the BBA Challenge.  Since it had been so long ago and since the bread tastes so good, I decided to make it again.  When I made it last December, I didn't have any marzipan on hand so I used sliced almonds so this time I decided to spring for the marzipan and it was delicious.

Unlike most of Peter's recipes, this recipe takes only one day to make.  I substituted lemon and orange extract for the brandy and used dried fruit instead of the candied fruit mix, both suggestions from the grace notes.  Kneading the dough is a bit difficult, a lot like casatiello, mostly because the chunks are a bit abrasive on the hands.  The kids where very sad that I would only give them a slice before they headed to bed and when I got back from work on Monday, it was all gone.

Here is a picture of the stollen I made last December:

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

#32: 100% Sourdough Rye Bread

I told my sister that I was going to title this entry "I hate rye flour" but decided later to keep the theme of using the recipe number and name.   But the truth is, I hate rye flour.  Perhaps it started when I was a youth with an innocent accident where I ground rye kernels instead of wheat berries while making a pancake breakfast for my family.  The resulting pancakes were green in color and had a distinctive, non-wheat flavor that didn't mix too well with maple syrup. 

Fast forward to this morning.  This recipe from Peter's book requires a very long fermentation period of 4 hours, followed by letting the dough rise several hours before baking.  If I started this after church, the bread wouldn't be done until after dinner.  So to speed things up and use the three hours of church to my advantage, I scurried to get it done before leaving for church.  Big mistake.  In my rush I forgot to mix in the soaker (I wondered why the dough was so hard to work) and it wasn't until it was too late that I realized my mistake.  Disgusted, I left the partially mixed dough on the counter and fled to church.

When I got home, the dough hadn't changed much, perhaps a bit dried out.  I realized that I would have to revisit the recipe to complete the Challenge so I decided to recover the dough and see where it took me.  I incorporated the soaker, as well as some normal bread flour (okay, it's not 100% rye but it wouldn't have been anyways since the sourdough barm wasn't either) and then added some more water and a bit of yeast to help out the dough.  I then let it sit a longer period of time before baking it per the recipe's instructions.  As you can see, the loaf turned out okay but as I broke into the loaf, I realized again that I DO NOT LIKE RYE.  The bread tasted okay, as far as rye goes, but this recipe is definitely not one of my proudest achievements.

By the way, did I mention I don't like rye?

Sunday, September 5, 2010

#37: Swedish Rye (Limpa)

Since Swedish Rye requires a sourdough barm, I'm not sure why Peter didn't include it on his section on sourdough.  This recipe involves some new spices that I've never baked with, including ground aniseeds and cardamom, as well as ground fennel.  The dough pre-dough sponge also involved some orange oil and molasses which invariably ends up giving a nice twist to the final loaf.  Despite calling for rye flour, the dough wasn't too difficult to work with and the final loaf had a very pleasant rise.  When we broke into the loaf, the tender crumb oozed with molasses goodness and the spices gave some nice after-tones.  My coworker's enjoyed the bread as did the family and this is a dough that I'd definitely consider making again.  Even with the rye flour (more on that in a later post).

Saturday, August 28, 2010

#33: Poilane-Style Miche

Since this bread was used in the pose on Peter's book, Rachel suggested I pose as Fumie, Peter's real apprentice in bread baking who graces the cover.  However we don't own any of the garb of a true baker so we improvised. A lot.  But hey, if you can't laugh at yourself, who can you laugh at? :)

Having failed to get satisfying loft two weeks ago when trying the basic sourdough recipe, I decided to spike the dough with some extra active dry yeast to ensure I got the plump I wanted.  I probably could have eased up on the yeast a bit but I wasn't taking any chances.  However, because the bread uses whole wheat flour exclusively the loaf is very dense and when we broke into it, my kids described the crumb as "chewy."  I baked it per Peter's instructions and Rachel was worried I was burning it because the crust looked so dark but the internal temperature was right at 200F.  However the taste has a definite rye-like, almost acrid taste so I'm thinking the cooking time could be changed.  This was not one of my favorite recipes from Peter's book.

Only ten more breads in the challenge to go, six of which are sourdough based.  I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Yeah!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Sourdough waffles with fresh peaches and cream

I've been feeding my sourdough regularly every three days but since I usually only make bread on the weekends, I had to find some way to use the extra starter.  So we've been making sourdough waffles during the week and they are delicious!  Yum!  The recipe we use comes from the following website.  There are also a lot of great sourdough ideas:

Here's a picture of the waffles we had Sunday morning, complete with whipped cream and fresh peaches.  I'm tempted to say "wish you were here" but then there would be less for me :)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Spiked sour dough

This last weekend I decided to give the basic sourdough another go.  However I was not going to rely on the wild yeast giving me the loft I crave so I decided to "spike" the dough with some active dry yeast.  And indeed, rise it did!  I got a little creative on my slashing and was pleased with the look.  If you look close, you can also see some fun cracks on the bottom of the crust.  This loaf was quickly devoured during dinner and the kids love it.

The only thing I'm a little surprised with is how subtle the sour flavor is.  I've been expecting it to be more sour and I'm tempted to start experimenting to see if I can get more of the acidic flavor to come through.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

#13: Focaccia

This is my second go at this recipe and both times were very successful.  In my first attempt I used a bit of fresh rosemary from the garden and the bread was delicious.  This time I went with a basil-infused olive oil and the results were just as stunning.

The bread has an airy and soft texture which is probably because the copious amounts of olive oil.  I was a little surprised to see the olive oil that I drizzled on the top disappear into the dough.  As a family we went visiting on Saturday evening so I took this bread along for the ride and it was very well received.  Everyone loved this bread.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

#35: Sunflower Seed Rye

I started the Sunflower Seed Rye at the same time as the Basic Sourdough Bread attempt but the outcome was much different.  Although this bread is also a sourdough bread, it called for a little yeast in the final dough, without it would have probably been as dense as the Basic Sourdough Bread.  The bread has a fun texture provided by the sunflower seeds and the rye taste is subtle enough without being overpowering.  I had fun shaping this bread and since I didn't have a French rolling pin to make the creases I improvised using the handle of a wooden spoon and it seemed to work out just fine.

The family gave it high remarks and everyone liked it.

As far as my sourdough starter, I'm starting to wonder if it would have succeeded better if I'd used distilled water instead of water straight from the tap.  While I don't have anything against municipal water, it's possible that the chlorine in the tap water could have stunted the sourdough development a bit.  Guess I'll have to experiment a bit.

Monday, August 9, 2010

#30: Basic Sourdough Bread

After blogging about the first couple days of my sourdough starter, I kinda lost track of time and didn't get around to posting the other days.  Luckily I didn't lose track of my sourdough starter (mostly!) and things progressed right along.

Day 1, Saturday: Nothing exciting; just a quiet mix of rye flour and water.

Day 2, Sunday: Again, not much exciting.  Feed with high-gluten flour and more water.  Starting to see some bubbles and a tiny bit of expansion.

Day 3, Monday: Woke up Monday morning and the culture had overflowed the 1-quart bowl and oozed out on to the counter.  Oops! I quickly moved the seed culture to a new bowl and then fed in the evening according to schedule.  Instead of throwing away half, I start a second batch, in case anything goes wrong with the first.

Day 5, Wednesday: Oops!  Forgot to inspect Tuesday night.  Rachel inspects while I'm at work and we decided to hold tight since it hasn't doubled according to the directions.  I hope Sunday night wasn't the doubling we are expecting and that it will rise some more by the time I get home from work.  However the culture rises some but not as much as I'm expecting.  There is also a slight skin to the surface and minuscule mold colonies are visible.  I scoop the top layer off (I needed to toss half any ways), feed, and return the culture to the counter.

Day 6, Thursday: This is the point where I would normally build the barm but it still hasn't got the expansion I want.  I decide to let it sit until Friday.

Day 7, Friday: More bubbles and another slight skin.  No mold in the morning but I again scoop off the top layer and build the barm in the morning.  Rachel slips it into the refrigerator during the day after it ferments for a few hours.

Day 8, Saturday: I take 2 cups from the barm and start two firm starters and return the rest to the fridge.  5 hours of fermentation and the firm starters are slid into the fridge.

Day 9, Sunday: Start the Basic Sourdough Bread dough before church and ferment during church.  I then shape the loaves and set them to proof.  They aren't expanding as much as I want and mostly expanding in the horizontal direction so I reshape the loaves into a makeshift couche made of parchment paper.  We need the bread for dinner so after giving them ample time to rise, I prepare the oven and bake them, hoping that I'll see a little oven-loft.  Alas, the loaves don't rise much in the oven and come out pretty dense.  However none of the three loaves survive dinner so they must not have been that bad.

I wasn't surprised by the ripe smells given off during the first few days but when I smelled the signature sourdough smell in the final days, I was excited for the end.  I think next time I'm going to "spike" the dough with a little instance yeast to ensure the expansion I want and still have the sourdough flavor.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

#40: White Breads

Several years ago, when I first started baking bread for my family, I started with a recipe from the Simple Dollar and I've made this recipe so often that I have the measures memorized. I've made some adjustments such as dry milk instead of wet and reducing the sugar from 1.5 ounces to only 1.  However I've been on the lookout for ways to improve my white bread and I decided that when making Peter's white bread that I would try not one, but all three of Peter's variations and do so all at the same time so I could compare them side-by-side.

So, in addition to making Peter's Multigrain Bread Extraordinare, I also launched three batches of white bread. Wanting to ensure lofty loaves, I multiplied Peter's measures by 1.5 (except the egg) and I was well pleased in the resulting loaves. Having only 4 bread pans on hand, I braided a loaf from both variation 2 and 3.  I sliced up a bunch of pieces so no one could distinguish the breads and then taste tested them on the family.

Variation 1 (2 votes): This variation is probably closest to my existing recipe with the exception that it calls for one egg (my current recipe has none) and melted shortening instead of vegetable oil.

Variation 2 (2 votes): This was the slowest of the lot, probably because the buttermilk I used was not at room temperature.  There was actually quite a big time gap between when I formed the loaves and when I baked it, mostly to give the loaves more time to get the loft I wanted.  You can see from above that the loaf from this variant was slightly shorter than the other two.

Variation 3 (0 votes): This variation involved a soaker with warm milk. The warmth of the soaker caused this bread to both ferment and proof faster. I actually baked one of the loaves with #1 because it proofed so quickly.

Over all, I was pleased with all of the variations, and I could not distinguish between the three so I abstained from voting.  And although I didn't compare any of them side-by-side with my current recipe, I feel they all had a better crust and crumb.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Sour dough starter, day 2

Only 15 recipes to go in the Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge, 9 of which call for sourdough barms.  Last night I started my sourdough starter and tonight when I fed it, everything liked great.  It did have a bit of a sour smell, which is to be expected.  I started with rye flour and I've got plenty of high-gluten flour on hand so helpfully that will keep me avoid the pitfalls of sourdough.  If all goes well, I'll be able to start kicking out the sourdough recipes come this next weekend.

Wish me luck!

#20: Multigrain Bread Extraordinare

Fortunately when I made the Poolish Baguette attempt I saved enough of the sifted wheat bran to use in the Multigrain Bread Extraordinare. However I had not saved the requisite cooked brown rice so I had to make a batch of rice just for this bread (actually Rachel made it; I'm sure the remainder of the rice will be consumed in short order).

The dough was a bit stickier than usual so I probably mixed in another 1/2 cup of flour. All of the bread pans were in use so I decided to make a round hearth loaf and it turned out beautifully. The crumb was soft and my scoring job resulted in an artisan look. As luck would have it, my timing allowed me to get this bread in before my three batches of white, sandwich bread.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

#15: Italian Bread

The Italian Bread recipe is very similar to the French Bread recipe except it uses a biga instead of a pre-ferment and calls for olive oil and barley malt powder.  The dough is also a little wetter and the final loaf is a little softer in both crust and crumb.  I'm rather proud of the slash-job that I did on the loaf and you can tell how much is spread during baking.

We paired this bread with homemade pasta and the loaves were gone in short order.

Monday, July 19, 2010

#27: Portuguese Sweet Bread

This is my second time making Portuguese Sweet Bread from Peter's book.  The dough has a fun citrus smell caused by the teaspoons of both lemon and orange flavors.  The dough was a pretty sticky affair but I got it whipped into shape by adjusting the flour.  The high sugar content gives the outer crust a dark brown glow but the inner crumb is a tender white heaven, providing a wonderful contrast when sliced.  The bread is good for snacking on or turning into French toast like we did the first time I made it.


Over the weekend I also made three more batches of Poolish Baguettes (nine loaves in total) and they all look beautiful.  Several of them are going to work with me today for a team potluck.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

#16: Kaiser Rolls

'Tis the season to slap some hamburgers on the grill and enjoy the weather.  I'm not sure if Kaiser Rolls are best paired with hamburger patties but they sure tasted great.  As with most of these recipes, the rolls used an overnight pre-dough that is incorporated into the final dough on baking day.

The dough was fun to shape.  Basically the shape is obtained by rolling a piece of dough into a long string and then tying the string into a knot.  The knot is then proofed and it gains the beautiful shape.


Sunday, July 11, 2010

#26: Poolish Baguettes

No, poolish is not a misspelling of Polish.  Instead it's "poolish", as in "made using a poolish."  A "poolish" is a very wet, pancake-batter-consistency pre-dough that ferments for three to four hours before being popped into the refrigerator overnight.  The final dough aslo takes some time, what with a couple two-hour fermentation periods in addition to proofing after shaping.  However, since the dough was raising rapidly in our 85-degree weather, I reduced the fermentation periods a bit.  Bake time is pretty brief, generally taking only 15 minutes which I found I needed to extend to 20, probably since the baking stone wasn't as hot as it should have been.

I decided to go risky by doubling the batch and ended up with six beautiful baguettes, three of which we promptly devoured at dinner along with the delicious BBQ'd pork that Rachel made.  I doubt the other three loaves will live to see another sunset.  The dough called for sifted whole wheat flour and a happy bi-product is a little bit of wheat bran that will go into my attempt on #20, Multigrain Bread Extraordinaire.  Stay tuned.

As with the Pugliese, I used a serrated knife to score the loaves and I'm so pleased with the effect that I think I'm going to permanently shelve the lame until I learn how to use it properly.

Last week I mentioned that I was going to start a sourdough starter, but alas, time got the better of me and I didn't get around to it until Tuesday, at which point I was a day too late to get the starter ready for the following weekend.  I think I'm going to put my sourdough dreams on hold an additional week and take it up at the end of this month.  As with #20, stay tuned.

#29: Pugliese

Just hearing the name of this bread made me excited to bake it.  Pugliese (pronounced "poul yay zay") is an bread with Italian heritage, made using a bigga (a hunk of wetter-than-usual dough started the night before) and incorporates 50% durum flour in the final dough.  The recipe calls for extra fancy durum and although I'm pretty sure my pasta-making durum isn't the same, I'm confident it will taste just as good.  Similar to pain a l’ancienne, the dough is pretty wet and sticky and treated gently during shaping and proofing.  Even though working with wet dough can be a challenge, I really enjoyed making these loaves because they look truly artisanal and--in my ever so humble opinion--rival anything you can find at a farmer's market.

If you want more information about how Pugliese is made, try this link from Joe Pastry.  Just seeing his brick oven triggers oven-envy.  I sooooo want one of those.

Monday, July 5, 2010

#21: Pain à l'Ancienne

Pain à l'Ancienne is probably one of my favorite breads from Peter's book.  The reason it's so enjoyable is because it's relatively little work but tastes really good, especially with a little butter spread on it or dipped in olive oil and basalmic vinegar.  Yumm!

The dough is made the night before baking and immediately put in the refrigerator after kneading it so as to minimize yeast activation prior to retardation.  In addition, the temperature of the water used to hydrate the dough is reduced using ice cubes for a couple minutes prior to mixing.  On baking day, the dough is taken from the fridge and set on the counter for a couple hours before shaping and immediately baking.

The recipe in Peter's book makes 6 loaves and the texture, color, and taste is simply amazing.  The top picture is my first attempt a few months ago and the bottom picture is from my attempt yesterday afternoon.  I let the bread bake a little longer my second go around for a deeper golden crust and YUM! it was good.

This next week I'm looking at starting the sourdough recipes.  Frankly it seems a little intimidating since it comes with a four day feeding schedule followed by two more days to make a loaf of bread.  My biggest concern is that the barm will go moldy before it's ready to go.

Wish me luck!

Monday, June 28, 2010

#39: Vienna Bread

The Vienna bread recipe is an enriched bread, calling for one egg.  The recipe was simple and I decided to take the easy route and sprinkle cornmeal on top instead of the Dutch Crunch topping that Peter suggests. The bread (like many of the recipes in Peter's book) uses indirect fermentation in the form of an overnight pre-fermented dough.  As with the Tuscan bread loaves, I used a serrated knife for scoring the bread and I think the knife did a pretty good job.

The kids enjoyed this bread especially when compared with the relatively bland Tuscan bread.  However they still wanted a little butter and jam to go along with it.

#38: Tuscan Bread

Making the Tuscan bread recipe proved a little tricky, mostly because of the moisture content.  The recipe calls for an overnight mash made by pouring boiled water into the flour.  The mash went well but building the final dough was a little tricky because I found the dough was constantly too sticky and required more flour.  I added at least an additional cup of flour--possibly more--before I was satisfied with the dough consistency.

The bread baked beautifully and I'm really proud of the scoring job.  I've had frustrations using the lame that I got a while back because it creates tucks that then bake into hard, pointed edges that tear the bags that I use.  However this time I just grabbed a serrated bread knife and dragged it quickly across the surface of the loaves and I'm very pleased with the outcome.

As Peter warns, this bread tastes a little bland due to no added salt.  However we spiced it up with a little butter and jam and it was passable.  Excellent bread for a low sodium diet.

Monday, June 7, 2010

#7: Ciabatta, Poolish Version

This is my second time with this recipe.  My first attempt wasn't as successful mostly because I was still learning the stretch-and-fold technique.  Now that I've practiced the technique a couple times, I had much more success the second go-a-round.

Ciabatta is a lean bread, consisting only of bread flour, salt, yeast and water.  Peter's technique is to mix a part of the bread the day before, let it ferment on the counter for a few hours, and then retard it in the refrigerator overnight.  I think the overnight retarding gives the bread a delicious flavor that you just don't get from a quick rise dough.

I still don't have a linen baker's couche so I improvised one using some parchment paper and a dish towel which worked well enough.  We quickly wolfed down two of the loaves with some homemade pasta.  I took the remaining loaf with me to work today to share with my team.

#12: English Muffins

Frankly I was about as excited to make English muffins as I was to make cornbread.  In my mind these little breakfast muffins barely deserve the butter and jam spread on them let alone the "pastry" label.

However, I now see that my opinion was all about store-bought English muffins.  Peter's recipe is surprisingly simple and the muffins have a pleasant texture vastly superior to commercial muffins.  My only complaint was that Peter's recipe makes only six muffins, hardly worth the effort.  From the onset I decided to double Peter's recipe and I was greatly pleased with the outcome.

Here's the recipe:

20ounces bread flour
.50ounce granulated sugar
.40ounce salt
.30ounce active dry yeast
1ounce shortening
16ounces milk, room temperature

Combine flour, sugar, salt, yeast.  Add shortening and milk and mix until it forms a ball.  Knead dough in mixer for 8 minutes (10 if by hand), adjusting with additional flour as necessary.  Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl and cover.  Let sit for 1 to 1.5 hours.  Divide into 12 pieces and shape into balls.  Place on a greased pan with several inches inbetween and let rise for 1 to 1.5 hours until doubled in size.

Heat a griddle to 350F and the oven to 350F.  I found it easier to do the muffins in two shifts.  Gently place balls on griddle for 5-8 minutes. The balls will naturally flatten.  Gently flip and fry on other side for another 5-8 minutes.  Immediately place on a pan in the hot oven for another 8 minutes to bake.  While the first batch is baking, start the next batch on the griddle.  Let muffins cool for 1/2 hour and enjoy with butter and honey or whatever spreads you like.  Yum!

Now go and try the recipe and tell me what you think.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

#22: Pain de Campagne

If you want fun shapes, Pain de Campagne is the dough to work with.  I've made this bread three times now and each time I've enjoyed working with it.  The first time I made a variety of shapes: a couronne bordelaise, a casquette, and an epi.  The second go around I made several epi loaves for a party we attended because they make delicious rolls and look beautiful.  This past weekend I made individual torpedo rolls onto which we scooped heaps of slow-BBQ'd beef.

#23: Pane Siciliano

This bread was a three-day process, even though I didn't notice that fact until day 2.  Luckily I had Memorial Day to finish the baking.  Day 1 was the pre-ferment which retarded in the refrigerator overnight.  Day 2 involved making the final dough, fermenting for two hours, shaping into S-shaped loaves and then retarding them in the refrigerator overnight to slowly proof them.  Day 3 was baking day.

The dough was delightfully soft and easy to work with and the semolina flour gave the bread a delightful taste that was similar to an enriched bread.  However that could just be the honey and olive oil coming through.  I topped with flax seed instead of sesame seeds because that's what I had on hand and would have had better success sprinkling them on during day 2 instead of just prior to baking.  The seeds didn't attach to the loaves very well.  I made three loaves per the recipe but next time I think I'll try more loaves, like around 6.  My three loaves expanded till they touched during baking and slightly spoiled the beautiful S-curve of the loaves.

This bread is definitely a keeper. 

Monday, May 24, 2010

#10: Corn Bread

This recipe reminded me of the Sesame Street song "One of these things is not like the other things".  The corn bread recipe is the only recipe in the book that does not involve yeast (the sour dough breads may not call for yeast but they utilize natural yeast as the leavening agent).  Corn bread is strictly a quick bread, using baking powder and soda along with buttermilk to get the rise it needs.  So why include it in this book? I don't know.  Maybe Peter has a soft spot in his heart for cornbread?

Peter attempts to spice up the cornbread by adding bacon crumbled on top.  While this does spice it up a bit, I'm not sold on it being an improvement.  It put the bread on the "heavy" side.  However the crumb was good but I wouldn't put it light years ahead of other corn bread recipes I've tried.

The kids did like the cornbread, however they weren't excited for the bacon on top which I thought was a little unusual since they typically like bacon.   While I can't say that I'll never make this recipe again, I can say that I'm glad I'm past it in the Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

#18: Light Wheat Bread

In addition to Lavish crackers, I decided to make Peter's Light Wheat Bread recipe. And since the kiddies were clamoring for hot dogs, I decided to make them a little more healthy by making whole wheat buns.

This bread is "light" in that only 1/3rd of the flour is wheat. The recipe called for either high gluten flour or bread flour and since I had both I decided to go with the high gluten flour. I also cheated and doubled the amount of yeast so I could get a quicker rise time.

I was very pleased in the rise I got with the loaf and the hot dog buns were pretty good. The timing was a bit of an issue with the hot dogs since the buns came out of the oven several minutes after the hot dogs had finished on the grill. But the kids loved the hot dogs especially since it was paired with root beer and tater tots.

#17: Lavash Crackers

I have to admit that I wasn't too excited about making crackers. Having spent the previous evening entertaining guests followed by a trip to the ER, I was unable to do any recipe that took overnight preparation. Lavish crackers happily fit my need for a one-day dough.

Making the crackers was pretty simple. A little dough goes a long way and I probably could have made the dough stretch onto a second baking sheet. I'm still working on timing my doughs so I ended up being unable to use the oven when I needed and the crackers had to sit for a bit and might have risen a little more than necessary. From the picture you can probably see that I was a little heavy on the Kosher salt so my crackers are more like saltines. A secondary effect of the delayed baking was that the salt bonded with the bread which made it a little easier to eat without making a mess.

The children liked the crackers (a testimony to Peter's quip about even a baker's mistakes being well received) and so did my wife. I think I'll try this recipe again and maybe even try making pita's as Peter's side note suggests.

Mother's Day

Last weekend was action packed. My mom was in town so I took a couple days off and enjoyed the gorgeous weather! We made it over to the Golden Gardens and Carkeek parks were we enjoyed watching the turtles sun themselves (they were so still that my mom suspected they were just plastic figures) and geocaching a bit. We also made it to the Pacific Science Center, missing the Mars exhibit by one day--oops! Luckily a kind museum worker took pity on us and took us through the exhibit since they hadn't started taking it apart.

One of the recipes I remember from my childhood is French breakfast muffins. There's nothing quite like having a delicious muffin coated with cinnamon sugar. Yum! I made a batch on Sunday morning and everyone loved them.

Because of my busy Mother's Day weekend, I wasn't able to get a post up. But that doesn't mean I wasn't cooking! In addition to the French breakfast muffins, I made another batch of Cranberry Pecan Celebration Bread and another batch of Casatiello. Both were hits, the second making an easy lunch at the Science Center.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

#14: French Bread

The recipe I use when making French bread in the past has usually been the one from Peter's Crust and Crumb. That recipe requires making the dough the night before and retarding it in the refrigerator over night. Because of the retarding, the final crust is covered with little bubbles where carbon dioxide bubbles formed during the retardation.

This recipe from The Bread Baker's Apprentice uses a different technique of making part of the dough the night before (called a pâte fermentée or "pre-ferment") and making the final dough the day of. The final loaves don't have the same little CO2 bubbles but are more in the line of traditional French bread.

I also applied what I learned during my class with Peter by both refraining from spritzing the actual bread in the oven and removing the extra water from the steam pan at the 5 minute mark. The crust of the bread, while still crisp, lacked the excessive chewiness that my French bread typically has. The crumb was soft and tender and I'm proud of my scoring which left a delicious pattern along the surface of the loaves.

I look forward to turning one of these loaves into French toast this week.

#11: Cranberry-Walnut Celebration Bread

This is my second attempt. I made this loaf last week but it didn't turn out exactly like I wanted it to. I made two loaves instead of one but forgot to adjust the bake time until they were an over-baked brown. Oops. The bread wasn't horrible--it was still gone in short order--but just a little more "done" than I wanted.

So I made it again this week. I still made two loaves but reduced the baking time and the loaves were perfectly toasty. I substituted pecans for the walnuts and I think the substitution was great. The tangy flavor of the cranberries complement the citrus-ey orange oil and the pecans provided a nice crunch to the bread. However, because I gave one loaf to my uncle for his birthday and the family has all but devoured the second loaf, I'm forced to take some less-than-exciting French bread to work tomorrow for my coworkers.

The recipe is a keeper. The family loved it and the double egg-wash was beautiful.

Monday, April 26, 2010

#9: Cinnamon Raisin Walnut Bread

I substituted pecans for the walnuts because (a) I prefer pecans to walnuts and (b) I didn't have any walnuts on hand. In addition, I increased the quantity of ingredients by one-third so I would get 2 lb loaves instead of 1.5 lb loaves and that worked well. I don't think it's strictly necessary to rinse the raisins and I think next time I would skip that step. Peter writes that the wild yeast on the skin of the raisins can affect the dough but I've read elsewhere that its effect is negligible.

It proved a little uncomfortable to incorporate the chopped pecans in the last couple minutes of kneading by hand. It's a lot like rubbing your hands with 16-grit sand paper. However the nuts provided great contrast to the soft, enriched texture of the bread and were worth it.

The children had already gone to bed by the time I sliced the bread but I promised them they could have a slice of it as toast in the morning with their breakfast. This recipe is a keeper.