The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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Several years ago, a baking buddy asked me to help him with a German recipe.

The formula, published by a German bakers' association, combined rye meal and cracked wheat with mustard and cheese. The amounts, of course, were calculated for a commercial bakery, as were the sparse instructions. I had to downsize the formula to home baking proportions.

A friend of slow fermentation, I re-wrote the procedure, from using just a small amount of pre-fermented flour, to preferment plus soaker (for the coarser grinds), as well as a long, cold fermentation of the dough.

For my first bread I used a medium-hot yellow mustard from Düsseldorf

I was very pleased with the result, a beautiful red golden bread, with a stunning, almost neon-yellow crumb. Pleasantly spicy (but not too much), it tasted great with cold cuts, and was a nice surprise when toasted: a bread with built-in grilled cheese!

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My first loaf had an almost neon-yellow crumb

After writing a post about the Senfbrot, I never got to baking it again. Like my friend Dabrownman, I find that there are always interesting new breads out there, so why make the same, when you can try something new?

But then I received an email from food historian, lecturer and author Demet Güzey. The Senfbrot had caught her eye, as she was doing research on mustard.

Taking this a sign from above, I revisited the formula, trying it with different kinds of cheese and mustard. I, also, substituted the preferment with a sourdough starter, and reduced the yeast in the final dough even more (down to 1/3 of the original recipe amount!)

If you prefer a more assertive taste of cheese, you can choose a sharper one. For me, a version made with sharp cheddar was a bit too much.

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With smoked Gouda and white Dijon mustard, the crumb is a much lighter in color, but has the same great taste!
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For the updated recipe, please follow me to my blog "Brot & Bread" (recently relocated to WordPress).

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hanseata

The looming deadline of a blog event, hosted by my blogging buddy Anna Antonia, gave me the much needed kick in the  energy to overcome my dog days' laziness and write a new post.

What to do with stale bread? For me a no-brainer: baguette or brioche leftovers usually end up as bread pudding. But for sourdough or other hearty breads there's only one option: grind, toast, and re-bake!

My favorite baker in Hamburg, Jochen Gaues, recycles old bread in many of his baked goods (like Sunflower Seed Rolls.)

Unfortunately, his (visually gorgeous) baking book "Brot” is so sloppily edited that only experienced bakers are able to figure out how to work with sparse instructions and missing ingredients.

One of his breads was the inspiration for my Nice-Twice Sunflower Seed Bread.

Old Bread

My crumb collection of many different kinds of old bread

What makes a dough with a larger amount of old bread (here more than 13%) so special? Not two loaves are the same, because leftovers of several different (and differently seasoned) breads go into my crumb collection.

Freshly ground coarse rye meal

With the Mockmill I just brought home from the Kneading Conference, I'm finally able to achieve finer and coarser grinds - something my old Nutrimill couldn't do. (No, I don't get any goodies from them!)

I was very curious how my improvised sunflower seed bread would turn out. We were absolutely delighted! It had an excellent taste - slightly sweetish and hearty, with a thin, crispy crust. One bite - and it was admitted to my "Bread Hall of Fame".

Nice-Twice Sunflower Seed Bread

My new favorite loaf: NIce-Twice Sunflower Seed Bread

The recipe you can find on my (recently relocated) blog "Brot & Bread".

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hanseata

When I first learned of genius entrepreneur Nathan Myhrvold's endeavor to create THE Ultimate Work on Bread Baking, pouring thousands of dollars in his state-of-the-art scientific laboratory plus baking station, I was rather skeptical. After Modernist Cuisine now molecular baking?

But a presentation last summer at the Kneading Conference in Skowhegan/ME, with stunning photos of the process, was so convincing that I overcame my doubts (and qualms about spending so much money), and ordered my copy at Amazon.

The massive metal box set (History and Fundamentals, Ingredients, Techniques and Equipment, Recipes I and II, and a spiral bound kitchen manual with formulas) arrived in November, too heavy for one person to carry. Totally awed by those gorgeous, atlas-sized tomes, I asked myself the obvious question:

"Am I good enough for this Rolls Royce of baking books?"

Modernist Bread Volume 1

Being the anal Virgo, instead of undisciplined rushing at the recipes, I started reading the first volume, History and Fundamentals. Though I'm generally not a great fan of non-fiction, remembering with a shudder the all-night-cramming before my final medical exams, I found the book a very pleasant read, interesting, full of fascinating facts, and beautifully illustrated.

My husband, a Vietnam veteran, travels to Asia every year, Singapore, Cambodia, and, always, Vietnam. Whether in Saigon or Danang, his favorite food are Banh Mi sandwiches, and he misses them here in Maine.

The toppings, meat, pickles, cucumbers, chili and cilantro, are not hard to come by, but the Banh Mi breads are a totally different matter. Though French baguettes are their ancestors, Banh Mi rolls are different, with a thinner crust and softer, fluffier crumb.

With Richard just back from Saigon, I decided on Banh Mi rolls, my first loaves to bake from Modernist Bread.

I had tried to make them before, using the only recipe (from Andrea Nguyen) that appears to be circulating in the internet. It wasn't bad, but, according to my husband (and my own memory from my trip to Vietnam years ago), it wasn't right, either, no crackly crust, and too chewy.

For many of Myhrvold's breads you can choose between two or (even three) different formulas, a classic version, a "best" version, and a "modernist" approach (with unusual enhancements, like gelatin).

But for Banh Mi, there is only one recipe.

Banh Mi Recipe Page

Though I often tweak formulas according to my own preferences, this time I didn't not stray from the Modernist's path, awed by the expertise of the authors. I wondered a bit about the shortening (or lard) in the bread - no fat in French baguettes, and why would bakers in a poor Asian country add a costly enrichment to their dough?

Instead repeating the mixing procedures and different steps for shaping, and proofing in every formula, Modernist Bread refers to detailed instructions in volume 3 (Techniques and Equipment). Fine.

But would it have killed them (or taken up too much space) to put oven temperatures and baking times into the recipes? You had to look under "filone entry in French Lean Bread Baking Times and Temperatures", several pages back, to find them - or not, since there was no filone in the list!

And why is cold bulk fermentation only very briefly and cursorily mentioned as an option? Instead, the Techniques section offered retardation of the shaped breads, along with fermentation at different room temperatures. Great, if you bake only one loaf - or have a walk-in refrigerator!

I started my mixing process, following the Modernist Bread's instructions - and was confronted with my first question: "add salt and mix on medium-low speed to low gluten development; add melted shortening or lard, and mix on medium speed to full gluten development."

How do I gauge low gluten development? I added the shortening after I mixed in the salt, drizzling it slowly into the mixer bowl. But, alas, my gluten development was faster, my dough did not welcome the greasy addition, resisting its incorporation, and, instead, swishing the liquid fat all around in the bowl.

It took a long time of mixing, until the dough looked somewhat homogeneous - but it was still coated in grease!

Banh Mi dough mixing

No help for that, I had to trust in the mitigating effect of long fermentation (I did the cold bulk), especially since my 7-qt Kitchen Aid, deciding, "enough is enough", switched itself off to avoid overheating.

Everything else, shaping and proofing, went according to plan, until it was time to bake.

Modernist Bread pooh-poohs every steaming measure we poor hobby bakers are able to employ, except for using a Dutch oven or a covered baker. Tough luck for home-based micro-bakeries like mine that need to process more than one loaf at a time!

I guess I have to live with my guilt of using my modest, pebble filled steam pan.

In the "French Lean Bread Baking Temperatures and Times" table I found only temperature for baking (470ºF/245ºC), not for preheating the oven. I remembered having come across it somewhere in the Technique volume, but couldn't find that paragraph again.

Assuming 500ºF would be okay, I preheated my oven (which keeps the correct temperature), with baking stone and steaming device in place. According to the time table, the small baguettes should be baked for 15 minutes with steam, and 10 minutes without, at 470ºF.

But when I checked after 15 minutes, to remove the steam pan, they were already fully baked, with an interior temperature of 211ºF.

Banh Mi baguettes

The baguettes looked okay from the outside, though the crust was not crackly. But when we cut the baguettes in halves to make sandwiches, we were in for a big disappointment. Instead of airy and fluffy, the crumb was dense and chewy.

And worse - they didn't taste like Banh Mi at all, more like brioche (made with shortening instead of butter). We ate our sandwiches, grumbling, and I was sorely tempted to throw the remaining two loaves in the trash - something I hardly ever do with my bread, even if it's burnt, or otherwise malfatti.

In the end the frugal housewife prevailed - I cut off the bread crusts and ground them into crumbs. And worked the loaves into a really nice bread pudding!

Leek Bread Pudding

Successfully recycled - Leek Bread Pudding, made of Banh Mi rolls.

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hanseata

Whenever I'm visiting my hometown Hamburg, I check out new bakeries. Two years ago I noticed people lining up in front of Bäcker Gaues, in lively Eppendorf quarter (where my Mom lives around the corner.)

Taking this as a good omen, I joined the waiting line. The shelves full of loaves and rolls looked promising, all with fairly dark crusts - boldly baked, as Ken Forkish ("Flour, Water, Salt and Yeast") would call it. A paradise for crust lovers!

I had no idea that eccentric baker Jochen Gaues was quite a celebrity, featured in the media as one of Germany's best bakers, but sampling his loaves I found this fame was well deserved.

Like Forkish, Jochen Gaues is a purist baker, his breads are made with flour, water, salt and yeast. No dough enhancers, no preservatives, no artificial flavoring. Only sourdough and passion for his craft. And he shared his recipes in a baking book, too ("Jochen Gaues Brot").

With its many beautiful photos this book would grace any coffee table. Unfortunately, it has some issues. You have to be an experienced baker to work with the brief, if not skimpy, recipe instructions. But there are also some serious mistakes. Like pumpkin seed rolls - without pumpkin seeds!

Since I use bread baking books mainly as source for interesting recipes and new techniques - I adapt them to my preferences, anyway - I like the book in spite of its flaws. (And, for the pumpkin seed rolls, it wasn't too difficult to calculate the missing amount of seeds.)

Gaues' Sunflower Seed Squares are hearty, crusty and delicious. The crumb is rather light and more airy than chewy. You can enjoy them with cold cuts, German meat salad, honey or jam.

I tweaked the recipe a bit, of course, as I always do: toasting seeds and old bread, and working the dough with stretch & fold and overnight cold bulk fermentation (while reducing the amount of additional yeast.)

FOR THE RECIPE, please, follow me to my blog "Brot & Bread".


 

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hanseata

This month Mini Oven challenged us fellow Fresh Loafers to create a special bread to commemorate the upcoming total eclipse of the sun. Spurred by astronomic ambitions I began to ponder how to go about this.

Just a new bread? Where was the connection to the total eclipse?

A two-toned dough? Once I baked a marbled rye bread and found its taste rather underwhelming.

Squid ink as a black dye? Not my cup of tea!

So it had to be a two-toned decoration. Black and white sesame seeds are in my pantry. Only a suitable recipe was missing. It couldn't be a loaf whose oven-spring would tear and destroy any decorative topping.

The answer was a flat bread that would spread more than rise.

I found a good starting point in Austrian baker Dietmar Kappl's Fladenbrot, tweaking it to suit my needs: with a long, cold bulk fermentation and the introduction of a little whole grain flour (I tried it with rye and emmer - both tasted great).

To emulate the eclipse I needed a ring-shaped utensil to press the outline of the moon into the dough. A large yogurt tub had just the right diameter (11.5 cm/4.5 inches).

We were so happy with my crusty, nutty flat bread that I baked it again, two days later, for my customers at the natural food store that sells my breads.

To see the recipe and pictures of the process, please visit my blog "Brot & Bread".

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hanseata

When I heard about breads made with spent grains - leftovers from beer brewing - I was fascinated.

How interesting! But, where on earth, could you come by those mashed grains, unless you worked at a brewery? We have two micro-breweries in Bar Harbor, so I left a message, asking whether I could purchase a small amount of their spent grains.

The sobering answer: the mash goes to the (dogs) hogs. All sold to pig farms - sorry!

Spents grains, though cooked, retain some of their sweetness

So I gave up on the idea. Then, two years ago, I found a Groupon in my emails with a real bargain on a small brewing kit. A beer drinker, and always curious, I ordered it  - but then the bulky package ended up in the basement, with other rarely used kitchen equipment, like the lobster pot.

The best of all husbands needs some quality solitude now and then, playing his guitar and recording his music.

Left to my devices, I unearthed beer kit and lobster pot (just the right size for the mash!), and went around in the house with a thermometer.

Our guestroom closet proved to be the ideal environment for beer fermentation: cool, but not cold. And dark. 

Looking at the packages with malted barley, I realized: here was not only the base for my first (hopefully successful) stab at brewing, but, also, finally, the source for spent grain.

I visualized us drinking my very own Pale Ale, while enjoying a loaf made with the leftovers.

It's alive - my nascent beer is bubbling away in the guestroom closet

Whether the beer will be drinkable or not, I don't know, yet. Its precursor is foaming, happily bubbling away, next to our winter boots in the closet.

Many of my bread concoctions are based on porridge breads à la Tartine, tweaked to meet my needs (a bit tangier) and accommodating all kinds of grain/nut/seed combinations, like the squirrel-channeling Acorn Levain.

The bread I came up with contains a good measure of spent grains along with whole wheat. It turned out to be a very pleasing, hearty loaf - this newbie brewer was delighted! Definitely a keeper.

Freshly baked Brewer's Bread

And I still have a bag of barley mash stored in the freezer, for my next recycling adventures.

To see the recipe and procedure, including a downloadable BreadStorm formula, please, follow me to my blog "Brot & Bread".

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hanseata

During my childhood, we kids used to gather acorns and chestnuts (not the edible kind) to make funny little gnomes from them. Nice and shiny as they looked, I knew that only pigs and squirrels could eat them, they were much too bitter for human consumption.

When I read a facebook post ("Bread History & Practice") about the possibility to use acorns in bread baking, I was intrigued - the huge European oaks in our neighborhood had produced a bumper crop of acorns this year.

To remove the bitter tannins from the acorns they have to be leached. This process, described in "Acorns: The Inside Story", takes a bit of time, but is pretty easy. Repeated soaking of the ground acorns in cold water (instead of boiling the kernels) works best for bread making, since this gentler method preserves the binding qualities of the acorn meal.

My resident bread tester (aka husband), helped me to gather a bag full of acorns, and I left them to dry for several weeks on our porch - the kernels shrink a bit, and are then easier to remove from the shells.

Cracking acorns is no more difficult than cracking hazelnuts

With a nutcracker, the acorns could be cracked like hazelnuts, and I ended up with about half a pound of kernels.

First the acorns have to be ground with water in the food processor (water prevents them from turning into greasy nut butter). The meal has to be rinsed in a fine-mesh strainer, before transferring it to a bowl, and soaking it in a lot of cold water. I rinsed, drained and soaked the acorn meal three times a day.

Grinding the acorns with water in the food processor

After two days I started testing the meal for bitterness, and finally, after three days of leaching, the tannins had been washed out, and the meal tasted similar to walnuts, but a bit milder.

The wet acorn meal had to be dried, either spread out on a baking sheet in the oven at very low heat, or, if you own one, in a dehydrator (lowest setting).

Now I had my acorn meal, ready to use. But what kind of bread could I bake with it? A simple, skillet bread wouldn't do it for me, I wanted a real loaf with a nice rise. My usual to-go bread (if I'm not trying out a specific recipe) is based on Tartine breads, and this is what I ended up with:

Acorn Levain à la Tartine

 

To continue reading (and see the recipe), please, follow me to my blog "Brot & Bread"

 

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hanseata

Just in time for World Bread Day 2016, I received my copy of Stanley Ginsberg's The Rye Baker in the mail.

I met Stanley several years ago at the The Fresh Loaf, when he looked for test bakers for his first book, "Inside the Jewish Bakery". Though, at that stage, some recipes still were a bit rough around the edges (my husband complained about feeling like a guinea pig!), the book was well worth it, and his Onion Rolls are still a great favorite with my customers.

Last year, I was happy to help with the translation of some German recipes Stanley considered for his newest book, devoted entirely to rye breads.

Leafing through the The Rye Baker, a cluster of spiral shaped savory rolls caught my eye. Not only because the "Swabian Rye Flower" looked so attractive - it was made with a laminated rye dough!

I had never even heard that such a thing existed.

Laminating the dough was not for the faint hearted. The recipe requires vegetable shortening for the fat layer. I had made croissants before, and if butter and dough are sufficiently chilled, the fat stays put during the rolling and folding process.

Soft shortening is more difficult to contain.

On this day neither my hands, nor the rolling pin or work bench needed any lubrication - Crisco took care of it! Fortunately, most of the shortening behaved, staying within the dough, and the fat leakage during baking was not more than to be expected.

We loved the hearty rolls! The laminated rye layers came apart and had a satisfying crunch, and the filling was delicious. The pretty flower shape, though, prevented the crisping in those places where the rolls touched. Being a sucker for crispiness, I would sacrifice form for function next time, and bake the spirals separate from each other.

But I will definitely make the Swabian Rye Rolls again!

To learn more, see the formula, the procedure (published with Stanley Ginsberg's permission!) and my take on it, please, follow me to my blog "Brot & Bread".

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hanseata

I'm a curious person and love trying out new things. When "Cook's Illustrated", one of my favorite food magazines, published a gluten free cookbook, I bought it, out of curiosity, even though I have no problems with gluten.

I was especially interested in how the culinary geeks from "America's Test Kitchen" got to their good looking results. My own trials, though taste-wise acceptable, left a lot to be desired regarding their consistency, and looked rather unappetizing.

My first gluten free sourdough bread tasted okay, but looked rather unappetizing!

When my lovely Brazilian hairstylist asked me whether she could order some gluten free rolls for her Christmas menu, I jumped at the opportunity to try a recipe for dinner rolls from "The How Can It Be Gluten Free Cookbook".

The rolls get their necessary structural support from psyllium husk, a fiber supplement from the natural food aisle, more known for its beneficial effect on all kinds of digestive maladies.

The additional baking powder and lemon juice help with softening the crumb, making it less dense. The flours should be finely ground - I used Bob's Red Mill brand.

Consistency a bit like English biscuits

My first trial resulted in nice fluffy rolls with a consistency like English Biscuits - better than anything I had seen so far in gluten free breads.

But I was less enthusiastic, when I sampled the dinner rolls. They tasted bland and a bit doughy. With jam on top this was less noticeable, and, when toasted, they were okay.

Fluffy crumb - but too bland and doughy for my taste

Danielle assured me, that she liked the gluten free rolls - but I couldn't stop thinking about them. I don't like selling something I'm not 100% satisfied with.

There was nothing to criticize about the structure of the dinner rolls - the test cooks with their scientific approach had really given their best.

But how could I achieve a better taste for my rolls without risking their fragile, gluten-less structure? Exchange a part of the rice flour, potato and tapioca starch for a gluten free flour with a more assertive taste?

Would I be really able to beat Bobby Flay the geeks of America's Test Kitchen? To satisfy your curiosity, please, follow me to my blog "Brot & Bread"!

 

 
 
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hanseata

After a rather underwhelming bread experience in an - otherwise nice - hotel last year, I challenged my co-bloggers, facebook friends and hobby bakers from The Fresh Loaf to help fill a basket with "Bread for Götz von Berlichingen", to provide Schlosshotel Götzenburg with a better breakfast choice.

I was so happy with the interesting contributions that I promised myself to bake as many of the 30 breads as possible, and, also, to showcase some of them on my blog - like  Khalid's Götzenburg Bread from Dubai, und Britta's Double Potato Loaf for Götz from the Lower Rhine.

Just in time for Zorra's World Bread Day 2015 I was happy to present Fresh Loaf blogger Dabrownman and his Swabian Potato Bread for Götz of the Iron Fist.

My version of DBM's hearty Potato Bread for Götz of the Iron Fist - my new favorite!

Dabrownman - "everybody calls me Brownman" (or DBM for short) - resides with his wife, college age daughter, and dachshund Lucy in Arizona.

An architect by schooling, he designed and supervised worldwide the construction, and ran the operation of distribution centers for the food industry. "Food and Facilities is what I did the last 23 years".

Dabrownman with his "apprentice" Lucy and one his fabulous bread creations

Meanwhile retired, he threw himself wholeheartedly into bread baking. With 429 posts since 2012, he is one of the most productive hobby bakers and bloggers that I know.

If you'd like to read more about our friend DBM and his (and Lucy's!) approach to baking, and, also, my version of his Swabian Potato Bread, follow me, please, to my blog:

 Brot & Bread.

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