The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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One of my most favorite cookbooks is "Ancient Grains for Modern Meals".

Award winning Author Maria Speck combines her German father's love for hearty grains, and her Greek mother's culinary talents in dishes that make you grab your shopping bag, hop on the bike or in the car, and drive to the next natural food store to buy those ancient grains, veggies and fruits for Maria's mouthwatering meals.

Normally I consider a cookbook worth its money, if it contains at least one recipe I really like to cook. "Ancient Grains" has so many, that I still haven't prepared all the ones I want to try. (No, I DON'T get a commission!)

 A few of the dishes are breads, among them the Aroma Bread. A no-knead bread by trade, its evocative name spiked my interest, and my love affair with the spicy loaf began.

"Ancient Grains" is very user friendly, with detailed, easy to follow instructions, no sophisticated culinary equipment needed. No-knead breads meet these expectations, a mixing bowl, a wooden spoon, a clean kitchen towel, a Dutch oven, and you are all set.

These low maintenance breads don't want you to slave over them, they are free spirits, and perfectly willing to go and develop themselves, if you give them enough time (and a little bit of yeast.) They show their gratitude by rising eagerly, and tasting better than many other loaves that had been kneaded, slapped and punched into submission.

You have the choice between a crunchy, and an XX-crunchy Aroma Bread. If you opt for the super chewy, you need to soak whole grain berries for several hours, before mixing them into the dough. This is definitely no impulse bread, so plan to bake it 24 hours ahead.

Maria called her loaf "Aroma Bread" for a good reason. This truly aromatic loaf is not for the faint hearted! But in our old home country Germany breads are often flavored with coriander, fennel and caraway, these herbs are even commonly referred to as "Brotgewürz" (bread spices.) You can use them whole, or coarsely ground.

Bread spices fennel, caraway and coriander

As easy as no-knead breads are to mix, handling wet dough always remains a bit of a challenge. And here comes the sticky wicket: the dough has to be shaped into a loaf, and transferred from the mixing bowl to a place where it can rise. And, after that, it has to be turned out into a piping hot Dutch oven.

That leaves you with two choices: either to lower the bread gently into the pot, risking nasty burns (aka Baker's Badge of Honor). Or you let it drop from a secure height - and have your bread sigh and deflate!

Maria solves the problem by having you scrape the bubbly fermented mass onto a well floured countertop (flour is your friend, creating a barrier between the sticky dough and its surroundings), so that you can fold it into a round.

Then you place the loaf on a floured kitchen towel, fold the corners over it, and, voilà, you have a cozy proofing place. Of course, it takes a rather amorphous shape from being bundled in a kitchen towel. 

My first bread went into a large, oval Dutch oven (I didn't have a smaller one), and eagerly spread to fill the void.

My first Aroma Bread - shaped like a roly poly!

Baked into a rather flat loaf, it reminded me of those little things that scurry away when you lift a stone. But when I took the first bite, my eyes glazed over. My flat roly poly bread tasted awesome!

The next time I decided to set the bread more boundaries, changing its Armadillidiida appearance. Instead of proofing it simply in a towel, I used my pretty brotform to contain it.

Proofed in a rising basket, the bread is round but still...

 

 

It came out of the oven nice and round, but still... way too much room to spread during the baking.

Alas! My main source for discounted kitchen gadgets, Home Goods, was letting me down when I needed it most. Still without the right sized pot, I decided to experiment with a free-standing, self- contained sourdough version, made with pre-doughs à la Peter Reinhart's "Whole Grain Breads".

Aroma Bread made as free-standing loaf (with sourdough)

My hearth baked sourdough loaf turned out beautiful. Though I couldn't find much difference in taste, this method is a good alternative for people who either have no Dutch oven, love wild yeasts, hate wet doughs, or prefer to bake their bread as free-standing loaf.

The next time I visited Marshall's (another treasure trove for kitchen stuff) I found a snazzy turquoise cast iron pot in just the right size - for half the price! And soon was mixing the ingredients for my fourth Aroma Bread - again the no-knead version.

And out of the oven came (TATAAA!): the perfect Aroma Bread - looking just as good as it tasted!

The last task left to do for inquiring minds, was to try the sandwich version of Aroma Bread, baked in a loaf pan. A cold cut-friendly shape, and the easiest way to make this wonderful bread. And it has an additional benefit: you can bake more than just one loaf at a time. (My customers will be happy!)

Aroma Sandwich Bread - the easiest version

 

COMMENTS:

  • If you use the optional whole grain berries (I made the bread with and without, both versions are great) add more salt: 9 g/0.3 oz instead of 7 g/0.25 oz. 
  • Instead of sunflower seeds you can also take pumpkin seeds (or a mixture of both.)
  • Toast the seeds, before adding them to the dough.
  • For an easier, risk free transport of the proofed bread into the hot pot, use a large piece of parchment paper as a sling to lower the bread gently into the pot. You don't have to remove it.

 

AROMA BREAD    1 (2-pound) loaf

 

Grain Berries (optional):

1/2 cup whole wheat, rye, kamut, or spelt berries

cold water, for soaking

 

Dough:

340 g/12 oz whole spelt flour (3 cups)

107 g/ 3.75 oz whole rye flour (1 cup)

  57 g/2 oz coarse or medium stone ground cornmeal (1/2 cup)

  67 g/ 2.35 oz sunflower or pumpkin seeds, toasted (1/2 cup)

  35 g/ 1.25 oz flax or sesame seeds, toasted (1/4 cup)

   2 tbsp. aroma spice blend*)

    7 g/ 1 1/2 tsp fine sea salt (or 9 g/0.3 oz if using whole grain berries)

    1 g/ 1/4 tsp. instant yeast

     all soaked whole grain berries (if using)

475 g/2 cups cold water

cornmeal, for sprinkling

 *) Aroma spice blend: mix 6 tablespoons whole coriander seeds with 3 tablespoons each fennel and caraway seeds (enough for 6 loaves).

 

 DAY 1

In the morning, place whole grain berries in a bowl and cover with at least 1-inch cold water. Cover, and leave at room temperature to soak. Before using, drain them through a strainer (by the way, the soaking water is an excellent fertilizer for your plants.)

Mixed dough - I used black sesame seeds for a nice contrast

In the evening, whisk together all ingredients for the dough in a large bowl, except for soaked grain berries and water. Scatter grain berries on top, and add almost all the water. Stir with a dough whisk or wooden spoon until all flour is hydrated. (Dough will be wet and sticky, if not, add a bit more water.) Cover with plastic wrap, and let sit at room temperature to ferment for 12 - 18 hours.

Overnight the dough grows to a puffy, swollen mass

 DAY 2

Use a rising basket, (or improvise by placing a clean kitchen towel over a basket or bowl.) Sprinkle with fine cornmeal (other flours work, too). Generously flour your work surface. Using a bowl scraper or rubber spatula, scrape the stringy, bubbly dough onto the work surface.

Scraping out the fermented dough you will see its spongy structure

 With floured hands (or two oiled bench knifes or bowl scrapers), fold dough exactly 4 times, always towards the center, from the top, the bottom, the right and the left side. Turn the dough package around and place it, seam side down, into the towel lined rising basket. Sprinkle with cornmeal or flour, cover with a kitchen towel, and let it rise for about 1 hour.

After 30 minutes, position a rack in the bottom third of the oven, and preheat oven to 475ºF. Place a 4 1/2- to 5 1/2-quart cast iron pot or Dutch oven (with lid) on the rack to heat up.

When the dough has grown about 1 1/2 times its original size, poke it gently with your finger. The dimple should not fill up again (it can come back a little bit, but should remain visible). If not, wait another 15 minutes.

Fitting snugly in the Dutch oven, the bread will rise more than spread

Remove hot pot from the oven and open the lid. Gently turn out the proofed bread from the rising basket into the Dutch oven, seam side up, guiding it with your hand, (or turn it out onto a parchment paper and, holding the paper on both sides, gently lower the bread into the pot (with paper).

Cover with the lid, and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover, and continue baking for 20 - 25 minutes, until the loaf is nicely browned, sounds hollow when thumped on the bottom, and an instant thermometer, inserted in the middle, registers 200ºF.

Remove bread from cast-iron pot and transfer it to a wire rack to cool.

 

AROMA SANDWICH LOAF

Grease a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan with oil, and sprinkle it with 1-2 tablespoons of flax- or sesame seeds. After folding the risen dough, place it, seam side up, right in the prepared loaf pan. (My suggestion: brush top with water, and sprinkle it with more flax- or sesame seeds.) Let it proof as described.

Preheat oven only to 425ºF, placing an oven proof pan or broiler tray for steaming on a the lowest level to heat up.

When loaf is proofed, place in the middle of the oven, pour 1 cup boiling water in the hot steam pan , and bake loaf for 30 minutes. Remove steam pan, rotate bread 180 degrees for even browning, and  bake it for about 30 minutes more, or until it registers 200ºF.

Let loaf cool in the pan for 5 minutes, than turn it out onto a wire rack (if it sticks to the pan, loosen it with a butter knife or spatula.)

 

AROMA SOURDOUGH BREAD 

Starter:

64 g/2.25 oz rye mother starter (100%hydration)

205 g/7.25 oz whole spelt flour

124 g/4.4 oz lukewarm water

 

Soaker:

  57 g/2 oz coarse or medium ground cornmeal

  75 g/2.65 oz whole rye flour

  92 g/3.25 oz whole spelt flour

168 g/6 oz water

    4 g/0.15 salt

 

Final Dough:

   all soaker and starter

  43 g/1.5 ozwhole spelt flour

    5 g/0.2 oz salt

    5 g/0.2 oz instant yeast

  67 g/2.35 oz sunflower- or pumpkin seeds, toasted

  35 g/1.25 oz sesame seeds, toasted

    2 tbsp. aroma spice blend (see original recipe)

182 g/6.4 oz water, add more as needed

 

DAY 1

In the morning, stir together all ingredients for soaker. Cover, and leave at room temperature.

Mix all starter ingredients at low speed (or by hand) for 1 minute, until all flour is hydrated. Knead for 2 minutes at medium-low speed (or by hand.) Let rest for 5 minutes, then resume kneading for another minute. Cover, and leave at room temperature.

In the evening, mix all ingredients for final dough for 1- 2 minutes at low speed (or by hand) until all flour is hydrated. Knead at medium-low speed (or by hand) for 4 minutes, adding more water as needed. Dough should be very tacky and not dry to the touch. Let dough rest for 5 minutes, then resume kneading for 1 more minute. (Dough should be tacky, but not sticky.)

Gather dough into a ball, and place it in a lightly oiled bowl, turning it around to coat it with oil. Cover well, and place it in refrigerator overnight.

 

DAY 2

Remove dough from fridge 2 hours before using, to warm up. (It should have risen nicely overnight.)

Preheat oven to 500ºF, with bread stone and steam pan.

Transfer dough to lightly floured work surface, and shape into a round. Place boule, seam side down, in a floured rising basket. Sprinkle with more flour. Cover, and let it rise for 45 - 60 minutes, or until it has grown 1 1/2 times its original size, and a dimple stays visible when you gently poke it with a finger.

Turn bread out onto a parchment lined baking sheet (or use a peel) and place it in the oven, pour a cup of boiling water in the steam pan and reduce heat to 475ºF. After 10 minutes, reduce heat to 425ºF. Continue baking for another 10 minutes, rotate bread 180 degrees, remove steam pan, and bake for about 30 minutes more, or until it is nicely browned, sounds hollow when thumped on the bottom, and registers 200ºF.

Cool on wire rack.

This Aroma Bread was made with whole kamut berries

 You can also follow Maria Speck on facebook or on twitter (I do!)

 (Reprinted with permission from Ancient Grains for Modern Meals by Maria Speck, copyright © 2011. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc.)

 Submitted to YeastSpotting

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Facebook friend and co-baker David Wolfe asked me to help him understand some terms in a German recipe. Google translate (always good for a laugh!) is not too fluent in professional German baking lingo.

The formula, published by a German bakers' association, Bäko Gruppe Nord, seemed quite intriguing, combining rye meal and cracked wheat with mustard and cheese. The amounts, of course, were calculated for a commercial bakery (19 kg/43 lb), as were the instructions.

My curiosity was wakened, especially after I saw David's appetizing photos in his blog "Hearth Baked Tunes" so I downsized the formula for two small loaves.

The original recipe requires 16% of the white flour as preferment, all the remaining flour, including the coarse grinds, is worked into the final dough. The breads are baked "bei Brötchentemperatur" ("at roll temperature") - leaving hapless hobby bakers clueless as to what that might be.

But I don't donate for nothing to Wikipedia, a quick research at the German site showed me the light: the breads were to be baked at 465ºF/240ºC.

Since I'm a friend of long fermentation (also from a physician's point of view,) I re-wrote the procedure from using just a small amount of preferment,  to preferment plus soaker for the coarse ground rye and wheat, as well as an overnight bulk fermentation.

I can honestly say I never noticed a difference between adding the salt with all the other ingredients, or adding it later to the almost finished dough, as the recipe stated. Peter Reinhart (my guru) mixes everything together at the same time, and I do, too.

For the cheese you can choose between Gouda or Tilsiter. I don't care for stinky cheeses, so I went for the Dutch. Though the recipe didn't specify what kind, I was sure that middle aged cheese (18-month) would work better, as I use it for gratins. Young Gouda is too mild, and really old Gouda unnecessary expensive.

I was very pleased with the result, a beautiful red golden bread, covered with seeds, with a pleasant spiciness, but not too much. It tasted great with cold cuts, and was a wonderful surprise when toasted: a bread with in-built grilled cheese!

The crumb has a nice yellow color from the mustard


SENFBROT - MUSTARD BREAD  (2 small loaves)

 Preferment

140 g/5 oz bread flour

  84 g/3 oz water

    1 g/ 1/4 tsp. instant yeast

    2 g/0.12 oz salt

 

Soaker

104 g/3.7 oz wheat meal, coarse

  70 g/2.5 oz rye meal

130 g/4.4 oz water

    3 g/0.12 oz salt

 

Final Dough

all preferment

all soaker

556 g/19.6 oz bread flour

  15 g/0.5 oz instant yeast

  16 g/0.6 oz salt

408 g/14.3 oz water

  66 g/2.3 oz mustard

122 g/4.3 oz middle aged Gouda (18 month old), coarsely grated or cut in chunks

 mustard for brushing

sunflower or pumpkin seed for topping (I used pumpkin seed)

 

After shaping the loaves are brushed with mustard - I used a medium-hot one from Düsseldorf

DAY 1:

In the morning, mix preferment and soaker. Leave at room temperature until using.

In the evening, mix all final dough ingredients at low speed (or by hand) for 1 - 2 minutes, until all flour is hydrated. Let rest for 5 minutes, then knead at medium-low speed (or by hand) for 6 minutes, adjusting with a little more water or flour, if necessary (but beware: dough should be somewhat sticky, clearing only sides of bowl, but stick to bottom!)

Transfer dough to a lightly oiled work surface. With oiled hands, stretch and pat it into a square, first fold top and bottom in thirds, like a business letter, then do the same from both sides.

Gather dough into a ball, place seam side down into a lightly oiled bowl, cover, and let it rest for 10 minutes.

Repeat S & F 3 times, at 10 minute intervals. After last fold, place dough in lightly oiled container with lid and refrigerate overnight. (I divide the dough at this point already in halves, and refrigerate them in two containers.)


DAY 2:

Remove dough from fridge 2 hours before using.

Preheat oven to 465ºF/240ºC, including baking stone and steam pan. Place seeds for topping on a plate.

Shape dough into 2 boules, brush them with mustard, and then roll them in sunflower or pumpkin seeds.

Place breads, seam side down, on parchment lined baking sheet, and proof, until they have grown 1 1/2 times their original size.

Bake for 15 minutes, steaming with 1 cup of boiling water. Remove steam pan, and rotate breads 180 degrees.

Reduce temperature to 210ºC/410ºF,  and continue baking for another 25 minutes, or until breads are a deep reddish brown, sound hollow when thumped at the bottom, and register at least 200ºF/93ºC.

Let breads cool on a wire rack.

 

After brushing the loaves with mustard, they are rolled in pumpkin seeds.

Submitted to YeastSpotting

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Brussels Sprouts Soufflé

My mother is an amazing woman. A retired gynecologist at 93, she is still going strong, grocery shopping with her bike, climbing up the stairs to her third floor apartment, staying on top of the news, and struggling to keep up with the pile of medical magazines on her table (I inherited those qualms to throw out unread newspapers - you never know what you might miss!)

Three years ago she even learned to use a computer in order to join Facebook. She didn't want to be the only family member not able to see my daughter's photos from Bhutan, my sister's from her garden on Mallorca, or pictures of my Maine kitchen ventures.

When I visited my mother last fall in Hamburg I wanted to bake something with her, something light, healthy and, of course, delicious.  No bread, alas - much as she likes it, she suffers from heartburn if she eats fresh bread.

Kitchens resemble owners - Mutti's kitchen is a spacious, cheerful place, a cooking/dining/living room with a no nonsense, no frills, and waste-not-want-not attitude.

  My Mom's no-frills kitchen

The tall cabinet - painted in neon pink, yellow and blue by my 14-year old sister (50 years ago, when my mother was not looking!) - holds an abundance of supplies, kitchen gadgets, odds and ends.

Many of those were left behind whenever my sister and I were moving ("You never know when somebody might need them," Mutti insists,) but the strangest item is an enameled strainer - made from a recycled WWII helmet, with holes for the strap!

Baking there is a bit of a challenge, because the oven also serves as storage space for pots and pans, that have to find another place in a kitchen full of mother flower pots, their numerous offspring, newspaper clippings, and other things my mother likes to have around.

But I am a baker, and where there is a will, there is a way. So one morning we went shopping and purchased Brussels sprouts, limes, graham cookies and sweetened condensed milk (not an easy thing to find in German supermarkets).

Brussels sprouts are the base for a wonderful soufflé that will turn even Brussels sprouts haters into fans. But  it can be also made with broccoli or cauliflower.

 

BRUSSELS SPROUTS SOUFFLÉ     (3-4 servings)
(adapted from Johanna Handschmann: "Aufläufe aus der Vollwertküche")

300 g Brussels sprouts (or broccoli or cauliflower)
 40 g butter
 40 g whole wheat flour
250 ml heavy cream or milk
1/2 cube vegetable broth or tsp. granules
pepper, freshly grated, to taste
nutmeg, freshly grated, to taste
herbal salt, to taste
50 g Emmental cheese, coarsely grated
3 - 4 eggs, separated
butter, for gratin form

Cut large Brussels sprouts in halves, broccoli or cauliflower in florets. Cook in steamer for ca. 5 - 7 minutes until almost done. (Or cook in a pan with tightly fitting lid, with a cup of water and 1 tsp. of lemon juice.) Drain and set aside.

For the Béchamel sauce, cook butter in a large sauce pan until foaming. Add flour and cook over medium heat for 1 - 2 minutes, stirring frequently, until slightly browned. Remove from heat, and whisk in cream or milk in a slow stream. Add herbal salt and spices, then bring to a simmer, stirring constantly, until mixture has thickened. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 400º F/200º C. Adjust rack to middle rung. Place high rimmed gratin form in oven for 5 minutes, to warm up.  

Using a food processor, immersion blender or chef's knife, finely chop Brussels sprouts (or broccoli or cauliflower).

 

Stir purée into butter/cream mixture. Add cheese and egg yolks and mix until well blended. Season with herbal salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste.

Remove hot gratin form from oven, and melt a piece of butter, tilting pan to grease bottom.

Whisk egg whites with pinch of salt until stiff. Fold into vegetable mixture. Pour into gratin form, smooth top with rubber spatula, and immediately place into oven.

Bake gratin for 20 - 25 minutes (don't open the oven door during the first 10 minutes, or the soufflé will deflate), or until top is well browned. The middle can be soft, but shouldn't be totally runny. Let cool for 5 minutes in switched-off oven with door slightly ajar, then serve immediately.

 

My mother loves desserts - she often says with conviction: "The dessert is always the best part of a meal!" We both prefer tart fruits, and don't like it overly sweet. Therefore I chose a citrus-y dessert that is as delicious as it is simple:


KEY LIME BARS  (16 servings)  (adapted from "Cook's Illustrated")

Crust
142 g/5 oz animal crackers or other dry cookies
1 tbsp. brown sugar
1 pinch salt
57 g/4 tbsp butter, melted

Filling
57 g/2 oz cream cheese
1 tbsp. lime zest (1 lime)
1 pinch salt
1 can sweetened condensed milk (399 g/14 oz)
1 egg yolk
½ cup lime juice ( 1-1/2 limes)
lime zest , for garnish

Preheat oven to 325ºF/160ºC. Line an 8 x 8" (20 x 20 cm) square pan crosswise with aluminum foil strips, allowing extra foil to hang over edges of pan. Mist with oil spray.

For the crust, process crackers in food processor until finely ground (or place cookies in ZipLock bag and crush them with roller pin), add brown sugar and salt, and pulse to combine.

Drizzle with melted butter, and pulse until all crumbs are moistened. Press crumbs evenly into bottom of pan.

Bake crust until deep golden brown, 18 - 20 minutes. Let cool on wire rack (don't turn off the oven!)

For the filling, combine cream cheese, lime zest and salt in mixing bowl. Add sweetened condensed milk, and mix until well blended. Whisk in egg yolk. Add lime juice, and mix gently until incorporated.

Pour filling in cooled crust, and smooth top with spatula. Bake until set, and edges begin to pull away slightly from sides (15 - 20 minutes.)

Transfer pan to wire rack, and let cake cool to room temperature. Decorate with lime zest. Cover pan with foil and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, at least 2 hours.

Remove cake from pan by lifting foil extensions. Cut into 16 squares.

  Key Lime Bars

I could never find fresh Key limes, when I baked these, but you can as well use regular (Persian) limes. But don't substitute with bottled lime juice - the bars will not taste the same!

Since the sweetened condensed milk supplies plenty of sugar, I cut down on the sugar when making the crust (from 3 tablespoons to 1 tablespoon.)

"Cook's Illustrated" suggests toasted shredded coconut as garnish for those who don't like it too tart. Mutti and I, of course, love citrus flavor and used lime zest curls as decoration.

The Key Lime Bars keep fresh for several days if stored in the refrigerator - if they last that long!

My mother Gisela, my older sister Ingrid and me - in the Fifties.

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Dan Lepard, master baker from England ("The Art of Handmade Bread"), travels (and bakes) all over the world. He also contributes regularly to the weekend issue of the "Guardian", and is always good for an interesting recipe.

I tried several of them, and never had a bad experience. Whether marmalade, pancakes, pasties, cakes or his "boozy" Ale House Rolls, we liked them all. When I saw his recipe for Stilton Crust Sausage Rolls, I was intrigued by the idea to spruce up simple store-bought puff pastry with layers of blue cheese.

There was still some puff pastry in the freezer, and I overcame my inner Scrooge to purchase real, imported Stilton.

Preparing the crust was easy. I crumbled the Stilton evenly over one sheet of thawed puff pastry, placed the second sheet on top, pressed it down with my hands to adhere, and then rolled it out to two times its original size.

The package is then folded, re-rolled, and folded again, creating several layers of cheese within the pastry. After these turns it needs a nap in the refrigerator for at least half an hour.

While the dough was resting, I prepared the sausage filling. An opened package with Johnsonville's "Stadium Brats" - the only American bratwurst that tastes like a German one - was my sausage choice, and, instead of the ground pork the recipe suggests, I took 80% lean ground beef (another leftover in the fridge.)

The idea of a fennel seasoning didn't appeal to me too much. Though I like fennel, and use it regularly in my breads, I do not care for the pervasive anise-y flavor of American Italian sausages (something never heard of in Italy, as my half Italian husband assures me.)

Bratwurst, ground beef, marjoram and white breadcrumbs are mixed for the filling

With the German type bratwurst a marjoram seasoning instead of the fennel seemed the obvious choice (I used only 1/2 teaspoon.) "Stadium Brats" don't have casings that need removing, and my food processor made mixing a cinch. (I recommend chilling the filling until using.)

The next step was arranging the filling on the chilled pastry. I wasn't quite sure what size of rolls I would end up with - you have to consider that before you roll out the dough - but mathematical imagination is not my forte, and my rolls turned out a bit larger than Dan Lepard's.

 

The blue cheese is visible through the  pastry

I placed the filling on the lower half of the pastry, leaving a free edge for the seam. The upper half is then folded over, and crimped with a fork. To create a neat edge, I used a pizza roller to cut off the excess dough.

Shaped loaf with crimped edges

Since I wanted to freeze some of the rolls, I did not apply egg wash over the whole loaf, but cut it first into slices. My loaf yielded 10 slices/rolls (about 1 1/2 inch wide.)

After brushing the rolls with the beaten egg, I slashed them with a sharp knife, parallel to the cut sides.

The sausage rolls baked for 25 minutes, at 400ºF/200ºC, to be golden brown and sizzling. I realized, though, that a lot of fat was rendered from the filling during the bake, leaving the bottom of the rolls soft. Next time I would follow Breadsong's advice to render the fat from the meat before mixing the filling. Or elevate the rolls with a rack on top of the baking sheet.

We had the Stilton Crust Sausage Rolls for dinner, and LOVED them! The blue cheese in the crust added a pleasant spiciness, and the seasoning of the sausages, plus the marjoram, was sufficient to flavor the whole filling - no extra salt or pepper is needed.

Dan Lepard's recipe in the "Guardian" you can find here.

TO MAKE AHEAD: The cheese pastry and the filling, or the filled loaf (without egg wash), can be kept in the refrigerator for at least a day.

The shaped rolls (without egg wash!) can be easily frozen, individually wrapped in plastic, and placed in a container with lid. They don't need to be thawed, but before baking, brush them with beaten egg, and slash the top with a sharp knife. The baking time will be a bit longer for frozen rolls.

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Long time no see - after I baked four breads from my Equal Opportunity Baking list that I wasn't 100% satisfied with, I got a bit burned out on them. The anal Virgo me didn't want to continue with yet another Fair Baking Bread without having tried to coax and tweak the grade C candidates to a better performance or more satisfying taste.

Slowly I revisited and rebaked (I learned to use the prefix "re" from the creators of our daily crossword puzzle - it is amazing how you can put a "re" in front of any given verb and come up with a new term never heard of before!) the soso breads, Arkatena Bread, Muesli Rolls (both fine now), Camembert Grape Bread, and then the Beer Rye.

I had picked Bill Middeke's contribution to Kim Ode's "Baking with the St. Paul Bread Club" because of the combination stout and rye. In my opinion nothing made with beer can be bad (unless, perhaps, it's made with Bud Light, aka dish wash water, or other beer abominations).

The amount of sweeteners, molasses and brown sugar (both 1/4 cup for two small loaves) seemed a lot, so I reduced them by half, to 1/8 cup each.

The recipe, originally been posted in the "St. Louis Globe-Democrat", had called for lard or bacon fat instead of the shortening listed in Kim Ode's book. As a German accustomed to cooking with lard, and no friend of shortening, I switched back to the original piggy fat.

For the active dry yeast I used instant, my default, and, also employed my preferred S & F, plus overnight cold fermentation, instead of making and baking the breads on the same day.

Everything worked well, only the baking time was a bit longer. The bread looked really pretty, but even with the reduced amounts of sugar and molasses it was still way too sweet for my taste!

Bill Middeke, an ardent bicyclist, surely needs sufficient carbohydrates to fuel him for his athletic rides, but my bike carries me mostly to the nearby supermarket, and I get plenty of extra carbs from chocolate and desserts.

Not only that, the best of all husbands complained about the caraway. While I like it, Richard doesn't care for the taste and always finds it overdosed.

So I had another go at the Beer Rye Bread, this time cutting sugar and molasses again by 50%, adding a little more water, to make up for the molasses reduction, and using only 1 teaspoon caraway instead of 1 tablespoon.

We were eager to try the new bread - the sweetness was just right, but with less sugar the bread was a bit bland, and clearly needed more salt. And my spouse, known to be a delicate little flower, found himself OD'd on caraway again....

Relentlessly adapted to the Andersons' preferences, this final version received the stamp of approval: a tasty bread, slightly sweet, with a hint of caraway, and full of the good stuff: black Ruthless Rye.

 

BEER RYE BREAD

(2 small breads)

1 ½ cups stout, or other dark ale (350 g)

70 g water
34 g lard
9 g light brown sugar
21 g molasses
12 g salt
1 tbsp. orange zest, (ca. 8 g)
1 g caraway seeds, (1/2 tsp), or more, to taste
5 g instant yeast
325 g rye flour
320 g all-purpose flour


DAY 1:

In saucepan, heat beer and water until just starting to bubble. Add lard, sugar, molasses, salt, orange zest, and caraway seeds. Let cool to lukewarm (not more than 95 F.)

Stir yeast into beer mixture, until dissolved. Pour in mixer bowl, and add flour. Mix at low speed (or by hand) for 1 - 2 minutes, until all flour is hydrated. Let rest for 5 minutes, then knead at medium-low speed (or by hand) for 6 minutes, adjusting with more water or flour, if necessary (dough should be soft and still sticky.)

Transfer dough to lightly oiled work surface. Stretch and pat into square, fold top and bottom in thirds, like a business letter, then the same way from both sides. Gather dough into a ball, place seam side down into a lightly oiled bowl, and let it rest for 10 minutes.

Repeat this S & F 3 times, with 10 minute intervals, after last fold cover and refrigerate overnight. (I divide the dough at this point in halves, and refrigerate it in two containers.)


DAY 2:

Remove dough from refrigerator 2 hours before using, it should have doubled.

Preheat oven to 350ºF, including steam pan. Shape dough into 2 boules or bâtards. Place on parchment lined baking sheet, seam side down, and score. Mist with water, sprinkle with rolled rye, cover, and let rise until doubled, ca. 45 - 60 minutes.

Bake breads for 25 minutes, steaming with 1 cup boiling water. Rotate breads 180 degrees, and continue baking for another 25 - 30 minutes. ( temperature at least 195 F.)

Cool on wire rack.

As pretty as it gets - whether as boules or bâtards - here with rye flakes as topping

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hanseata

 When we traveled for the first time to the Yucatan, I wanted (of course) to try some typical Mexican breads. The bakeries in Cancun and Tulum had beautiful displays, and we were very eager to purchase a selection of those pretty little breads and pastries.


But what a disappointment! The attractive exterior was misleading - everything we bought tasted more or less bland and sweet.

   Bakery in Tulum - a pretty disappointment!

I couldn't believe that this was all there is to Mexican breads. Moreover, I remembered having seen once a ghoulishly decorated bread for Halloween, and, back at home, consulted with my trusted advisers on all things food - "Fine Cooking" and "Cook's Illustrated".

Fany Gerson's recipe for Pan de Muerto in "Fine Cooking" seemed promising, and had already some good reviews.

This Bread of the Dead is traditionally baked during the last weeks of October, before the Dia de los Muertos (November 1 and 2), and eaten at the cemetery, at the grave of a family member. The bone decoration is a reminder of the deceased, and the little roll on top represents a tear of grief.

I made some slight changes to the original recipe, substituting 10% of the white flour with whole wheat, and changing the technique to my preferred stretch and fold (S&F), with a slow overnight rise in the refrigerator.

Since other reviewers of the original "Fine Cooking" recipe warned that the actual baking time was shorter than stated in the instruction, I checked early, and found that my breads were done in approximately 36 minutes.




PAN DE MUERTO  (adapted from Fany Gerson's recipe in "Fine Cooking")

127 g/4.5 oz whole milk, (1/2 cup)
  78 g/2.75 oz unsalted butter (5 1/2 tbsp.), cut into small pieces
2  4x1-inch strips orange peel
1 tbsp. orange blossom water (or more)
       3 eggs, lightly beaten
    6 g/0.2 oz instant yeast (2 tsp)
400 g/14 oz all-purpose flour
  47 g/1.75 oz whole wheat
  50 g/1.65 oz sugar (1/4 cup)
    2 g/0.1 oz salt (1/2 tsp)
  14 g/0.5 oz butter (1 tbsp) melted, for brushing
  22 g/0.8 oz sugar (1/8 cup) for sprinkling

Peeling the orange with a vegetable peeler is easy.

 DAY 1
1. Put milk, butter, and orange peel in small saucepan over medium heat; stir until butter melts, 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool until warm. Discard orange peel, add orange blossom water, and whisk in eggs.

  Melt butter in milk with orange peel

 2. In mixer bowl, stir together flour, yeast, sugar, and salt. Add milk mixture, then mix at low speed until dough comes together and all flour is hydrated (1-2 minutes). Let dough rest for 5 minutes.

3. Resume kneading at medium-low speed for 6 minutes, dough should be smooth but still slightly sticky. (Resist the urge to add more flour, it is not necessary!)

4. Place dough on lightly oiled work surface. With oiled hands, stretch dough into a square and fold it in thirds like a business letter. Repeat this folding from both sides. Make a ball, pulling edges underneath, and place it in lightly oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, and let rest for 10 minutes. 

5. Repeat S&F 3 times, in 10 minute intervals. After last fold, place dough, tightly covered, in refrigerator overnight. (Remove from the fridge 2 hours before using.)

DAY 2
6. Cut off lemon-sized piece (100 g/3.5 oz) of the dough and reserve. Divide remaining dough in halves and shape pieces on lightly floured surface into 2 rounds. Place rounds on parchment lined baking sheet and flatten tops with your hands.

7. With some of reserved dough, form 2 small rolls (à 7 g/0.25 oz), cover with plastic wrap and set aside.

8. Divide rest of reserved dough into 6 equal pieces.  Roll into ropes (slightly longer than width of loaves.) Starting in the middle, press and twist ropes with your index and middle fingers about 1 inch apart to make knobs (the pinched parts should be really thin, too keep the pattern when the bread rises.)

Pinched into knobs to resemble bones

6. Arrange 3 ropes on top of each dough round, overlapping in the center and tucking ends under a bit. Mist with baking spray, cover with plastic wrap and let rise in warm place, about 45 - 60 minutes, or until breads are doubled in size. Poke dough gently with your finger, the indentation should not fill back again (if breads don't rise long enough they will burst in the oven and destroy the pattern!)

Decorated breads (without the "tear" on top) before rising

7. Preheat oven to 350°F. Adjust rack in oven middle.

8. Dab a little cold water on top of each round where ropes meet, and put reserved dough balls on top, pressing slightly so that they stick.

Ready for the oven

9. Bake breads for 18 minutes, then cover loosely with tin foil, and continue baking for another 18 minutes, or until they are golden brown (internal temperature at least 190ºF.)

10. Let breads cool for a few minutes on wire rack. Then brush them all over with melted butter. Holding loaves from the bottom, sprinkle sugar over the top, tilting them slightly to help coat them evenly.

 

Variation: Use 147 g/5.2 oz whole wheat and reduce all-purpose flour to 300 g/5.6 oz. Adjust with a little more milk, to keep the dough a bit sticky.

 

 

Orange blossom scented Pan de Muerto - better enjoy it while you are among the living!

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hanseata

When I made my wonderful rose hip jam a month ago, temperatures were in the eighties, t-shirt weather for weeks, and we even used the air condition in our bedroom - in Maine!

The glasses were sitting on the kitchen counter, waiting to be properly tagged before going into the basement. But my husband, immobilized by a broken foot, needed special attention, and, between baking twice a week for our local natural food store, answering student questions online, and taking care of our undeserving critters, I didn't get to it for quite a while.

After a week or so, I noticed that one of the glasses showed ominous signs of frothy activity. Obviously I didn't fill it quite high enough to establish a vacuum, and, with the prevailing heat as incubator, my rose hip jam had started to ferment.

I was pretty annoyed with myself. Why didn't I pay more attention, and place the compromised glass into the fridge, before it could turn itself into booze?

No help for it, this was a goner, and had to be thrown out..... Or not? Suddenly I remembered my experiences with apple yeast water two years ago. Made from fermenting apples, the yeast water had proved to be a powerful leaven, my bread even grew a horn!

But in the end the apple yeast water died a slow death from starvation in a dark corner of my fridge, all but forgotten, since we preferred the tangier taste of sourdough.

Wouldn't it be worth a try to experiment a bit, and see what would happen if I fed the tipsy jam with  flour?

I measured a teaspoon of jam in a little bowl and added equal amounts of water....

....and whole wheat flour to the bowl: 

5 g fermented rose hip jam + 25 g water + 25 g whole wheat flour.

Eleven hours later the reddish mixture had become bubbly and spongy, and emitted a wonderful fruity-sour smell.

I fed it two times more, aways with 25 g flour and 25 g water. It ripened faster each time, first after 3, then even only after 2 1/2 hours.

   Fully developed rose hip mother

I was very pleased and contemplated my next move.

I wanted to make a fairly simple levain, with a bit of whole grain, but not too much. I expected a rather mild taste, but I didn't want the blandness of an all-white bread, nor a too hearty loaf that overwhelmed more subtle nuances.

So I adapted a recipe for Pain au Levain, made with apple yeast leaven, from Jan Hedh's "Swedish Breads and Pastries". I had made this bread before, with apple yeast water, it had been nice, but rather mild.

Hedh's book is gorgeous, with wonderful recipes, though not without some pesky errata - my first attempt of an attractive looking Levain with Bran and Vinegar had ended in a dense, compact brick - thanks to one erroneous Zero too many in the bran department.

Even though it was already evening, I didn't want to wait, and started with 16 g of my newborn rose hip mother - mother, chef and levain are the classic French terms for the 3 steps to make a leaven - to make the second stage: the chef.

 Chef after kneading

I woke up at midnight, went downstairs, eager to see how my starter was doing, and found a nicely grown chef, wide awake, and hungry for more.

  Fully developed chef

After feeding the little guy with more flour and water, I tottered back to bed. The next morning my levain was fully ripened and ready to go!

 Fully developed rose hip levain

PAIN AU LEVAIN  (adapted from Jan Hedh: "Swedish Breads and Pastries")

CHEF
21 g mother starter (it doesn't have to be rose hip, an ordinary mature wheat or rye starter will do)
   8 g water
21 g bread flour

LEVAIN
  50 g chef (all)
  50 g water
100 g bread flour

FINAL DOUGH
200 g levain (all)
 16 g spelt flour
 16 g rye meal
282 g bread flour
219 g water
    6 g salt

DAY 1:
1. Mix together all ingredients for chef. Knead for 2 minutes, then let rest for 5 minutes. Resume kneading for 1 more minute. (Dough should be stiff, but not hard, moisten your hands to incorporate more water, if needed.) Cover, and let sit for 4 hours, or until doubled in size.

2. Mix together all ingredients for levain. Knead for 2 minutes, then let rest for 5 minutes. Resume kneading for 1 minute more. (Dough should be stiff, but not hard, moisten your hands to incorporate more water, if needed.) Cover, and let ripen for 5 - 6 hours, or until doubled in size. Knead briefly to degas, and refrigerate overnight.

DAY 2:
3. Remove levain from refrigerator 2 hours before using, to warm up. Cut into smaller pieces and place with flour and water in mixer bowl. Knead for 3 minutes at low speed, then let dough rest for 5 minutes.

4. Add salt and continue kneading for 7 more minutes at medium-low speed. Stretch and fold 1 x, gather dough into a ball, place it in lightly oiled bowl, turn it around to coat with oil, cover, and let rest for 90 minutes.

5. Transfer dough to lightly floured work surface, place hands in the middle and push out the air, stretch and fold 1 x, gather dough into a ball, return it to the bowl, and leave it for another 80 minutes.

6. Push out air again, and let dough relax for 10 more minutes. Shape into a round, place in banneton (seam side up), or on parchment lined baking sheet (seam side down).

7. Sprinkle bread with flour, mist with baking spray, cover, and proof for 60 - 90 minutes (in a warm place), until it has grown 1 3/4 times its original size.

8. Preheat oven to 250º C/482º F, including steam pan. Score bread.

9. Bake bread for 5 minutes, reduce heat to 200º C/400º F, and continue baking for another 15 minutes. Rotate bread 180 degrees, remove steam pan, and bake for 20 minutes more, venting the oven once to let out steam in between.

10. Leave bread in switched-off oven with door slightly ajar for another 10 minutes. Transfer to wire rack and let cool completely.

  Rose Hip Levain crumb

I changed Jan Hedh's recipe a bit. Instead of long kneading, I added a period of rest (autolyse) while mixing the dough, thereby shaving off some hands-on time.

A total baking time of 60 minutes, as stated in the recipe, was not necessary, my bread was already done after 40 minutes. And leaving it a while longer in the switched-off oven with the door a bit ajar guaranteed a nice crisp crust that didn't soften soon after baking.

Did it taste like rose hips? No. But is was delicious! And not only that: The best of all husbands found it "the crustiest bread you ever made". 

One question remains: what was it exactly that gave the bread its marvelous lift? The rose hips? The apples? Or the red wine the jam was made with?

Bar Harbor Shore Path - where Rugosa roses grow in abundance
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hanseata

1971, when I was a student, I traveled with my best friend, Andrea, through England, Cornwall and Wales. We didn't have a fixed itinerary, we just followed our nose to places we had read or heard about.

We didn't stay in hotels (only once, and that was as dusty as it was expensive), we preferred B&Bs, always looking for interesting old buildings. We slept in grand manor houses, rustic inns, cozy farm houses, and even a water mill from the sixteenth century.

People always complain about the English food - I never had a really bad experience, I would always find something I liked, as long as it started with "apple" and ended with "pie"!

We often ate in pubs, having sandwiches with cheddar and chutney, and I was delighted to try the different beers.

With all these fond memories in mind - no wonder I wanted to try master baker Dan Lepard's Alehouse Rolls. You will find it in his book "Short and Sweet", or here.

I had just bought Newcastle Brown Ale at the Bangor commissary, and thought this was very appropriate for British rolls.

The dough is made with a hot beer soaker - ale and oats are brought to a boil, with butter and honey added to the hot liquid - and the rolled oats are toasted.

It also has some whole grain flour, to make the rolls even heartier (and give health conscious bakers a better conscience!)

Dan Lepard has a nice, minimalistic approach to working the dough, he handles it gently, kneads it very briefly, and allows it to develop while resting (autolyse).

As a psychotherapist this method appeals to me a lot: give the patient dough the means and time to develop, without pushing and hectoring - and it will grow just fine!

I chose rye as whole grain flour, and had to add a little more water to achieve a soft, slightly sticky dough. Instead of letting the dough rest for a final 30 minutes on the counter, I did what I usually do - and put it to sleep overnight in the fridge.



This cold fermentation of the dough fits much better in my schedule than doing it all on one day. Though I like baking in the morning, I don't want to get up in the wee hours, so I prepare everything the day before, and only have the shaping and baking left to do.

Having to choose between large sandwich rolls (à 235 g a piece) or smaller dinner rolls, I opted for the more petite version - 12 rolls à 92 g.

The recipe suggests rolling the rolls first over wet kitchen paper towels and then in oat flakes. I didn't read the instructions thoroughly, and, therefore, dunked only the tops in the oat meal.

Whereas the giant sandwich rolls have to bake for 20 minutes at 210º C/410º F, and then some more at reduced heat, my little rolls were golden brown after 26 minutes (without reducing the heat.)



They tasted just as good as they looked, a semi-soft crust with a little crunch, and a hearty, somewhat nutty flavor.

And, since I am a stickler to etiquette, I didn't dream of pairing them with anything else but traditional Newcastle Brown Ale!


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hanseata

The owner of A&B Naturals, the store that sells my bread, asked me one day: "Can you bake pitas, too?" I had never made them, so I said with conviction: "Yes!"

At least I knew where I could find a pita recipe!

In "Whole Grain Breads", one of my favorite baking books, Peter Reinhart has a recipe for whole wheat pitas - just the right thing for my grain loving customers.

I started my first pita dough. No big deal, until I got to the shaping part. The pitas had to be rolled out no thinner than 1/4 inch (6 mm), and to an 8-inch (20 cm) diameter. But my pitas already reached this thickness at 6 1/2 to 7 inches (16 to 18 cm.)

Pitas are shaped in three steps, first into rolls, then rolled out to 4"/10 cm. Don't skimp on the flouring!

Below: rolling out pitas to a larger round (6 1/2 - 7" or 16 - 18 cm.) Re-flour them, if necessary.

A high oven temperature is key to a pita's proper horizontal separation into two layers. This high temperature has to be maintained during the whole bake, from below as well as from above.

Many cheaper ovens don't heat up to the necessary 550ºF (280ºC.) Without that boost pitas can't produce the large gas bubble that creates a pocket. And without a pocket - no delicious filling!

A baking stone, or a rack lined with unglazed terracotta tiles (like I have), works best for keeping the  temperature stable, even when the oven door has to be opened several time during the baking process. And very hot stones make the best baking surface for pitas, too.

To reheat fast enough after each opening of the door I remembered Peter Reinhart's advice for baking pizza ("American Pie"), where the problem is the same: intermittently switching the oven to broil for a short time.

How many pitas can you bake at the same time? One batch of dough makes 8 (or 6, if you want larger ones.) Peter Reinhart says one at a time, but, of course, being a semi-professional I wanted to do it a little less time consuming.

After some trials, I found that I can put two at the same time in the oven. That's the maximum, with more it becomes very difficult to load and unload them without damage, and to keep control over their baking process.

2 pitas can be baked at the same time. Once out of the oven, they deflate quickly.

Of course, it takes a little bit of experience to slide the pitas into the oven without them folding over in one place, and to extricate them without nicking them with the peel.

But it's not rocket science, a smart child can do it:

  Josh, our carpenter's son, thought it was much more fun to help with my baking than reading his book!

Though Peter Reinhart's original 100% whole wheat pita is very good, I made a few changes to it. I substitute a 7-grain mix for some of the whole wheat flour, and add an overnight bulk rise in the fridge, this is more practical for my baking schedule, and, in my opinion, improves the taste even more. It also has the advantage that I can reduce the yeast amount by 2 grams.

Though I usually cut down on the sweetener in Peter Reinhart's recipes, this whole grain bread needs the full dose.

We like our pita filled with grilled Halloumi cheese, tomato and lettuce - the way we had it in Girne/Kyrenia on Cyprus. And how do my customers at A&B Naturals like them? They fly off the shelf so that I have to bake them every week!

Here is a link to the recipe in my blog "Brot & Bread".

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hanseata

 

A while ago I admitted neglecting some of my baking books, never giving them a second look, while shamelessly favoring others. To atone for my neglect, I pledged to give every book a fair chance with my "Equal Opportunity Baking" list, with one recipe from ALL of my baking books.

After a smooth start - three breads that turned out really well - I got bogged down with recipes that somehow didn't work quite right the first time I made them. It always took me a while before I felt like tackling them anew. The Muesli Rolls was one of them.

Published in 1997, I use "Brot und Kleingebäck" mainly as resource, adapting the old, labor intensive, same day methods to more modern techniques, like stretch-and-fold (S&F) that require less brawn and hands-on work, thanks to longer fermentation and refrigerator sleepovers.

I started the evening before, kneading the dough, then let it slowly rise overnight in the fridge. The next morning I baked my rolls. When they came out of the oven, they looked - and smelled - very appetizing. I couldn't wait to take my first bite, but..... what a disappointment! I found that "the proof was in the Muesli Rolls". They tasted good, yes, but were much too dry!

I was baffled. The dough had been well hydrated the night before, even a little sticky, as it should be with S&F doughs. If I hadn't really liked the taste of the rolls, I would have written off the recipe with a scribbled comment: "not that great!" So I took on the recipe again to find out what had caused this lack of moisture.

Was it the different fat content of German "saure Sahne" and American sour cream (10% vs 12-16%?) Not likely: more fat will make the crumb softer, not drier. American molasses instead of German sugar beet syrup? Nope!

But there was one ingredient that had puzzled me from the beginning - the "hearty muesli mix" ("kernige Müslimischung"). There are many muesli mixes on the market, and they differ quite a bit from one brand to the other.

I looked at the list of ingredients on the package. Bob's Red Mill's "Old Country Style Muesli" had rolled oats, wheat, rye, triticale and barley flakes, dates, raisins, sunflower seeds, almonds, flax seed and walnuts.

Peter Reinhart's S&F method (from ABED) doesn't require any pre-doughs (except for sourdough breads, of course). The understanding is that whole grains and seeds have enough time to soak when they spend the night in the fridge. But I find that pre-soaking coarser grinds doesn't hurt. And whole flax seed I always soak for 24 hours - to make them better digestible.

Even though my dough seemed well hydrated after the last S&F, those whole grain flakes and dried fruits obviously had swallowed every drop of water overnight.

The original recipe even mentions overnight refrigeration as a do-ahead option, but without the muesli mixture. That should be kneaded into the dough in the morning, before baking. But with just 10 minutes rising time for the shaped rolls, the flakes and dried fruits really don't have time to absorb much liquid - and the original recipe requires (besides sour cream) only 5-6 tablespoons water!

I do like chewing on nuts, but on hard chunks of dried fruit? No, thanks!

In a comment, the recipe suggests using a mixture of rolled oats, chopped raisins and hazelnuts, instead of store bought muesli. And that's exactly what I did when I made the rolls again - to have better control over the hydration. I hoped these tweaks would work, and I wasn't disappointed. The second batch of Muesli Rolls turned out just as nice as they looked!

Find the recipe here

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