The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

hanseata's blog

  • Pin It
hanseata's picture
hanseata

The kids no longer living with us, I get late into Christmas mode. No Adventskranz (traditional wreath with 4 candles lit for each Sunday before Christmas) on the table, no calendar window to open. Holiday baking happens usually in a rush on the 23. and 24th, but this year we are invited for Christmas dinner, and nobody's around to eat all the goodies (not counting a dog that would LOVE to help us with that task!).


Having to limit my output I decided on two of the best: Mohnstollen (poppy seed stollen) and Lebkuchen (German spice cookies). Before I came to Maine I never made either of them, stollen I always got from my mother, and I never cared too much for Lebkuchen. If Cooks Illustrated had not published a recipe for German spice cookies last year, I would never have dreamed of making them. Sheer curiosity prompted me to try it ("Americans and German Lebkuchen, haha!").


Reducing the sugar just a little, I followed the recipe, and the result was - incredibly good! Instead of the chewy, dry-ish store-bought stuff I sometimes had at home, this was a delicate, moist cookie, where you could actually taste the toasted hazelnuts; and the spices were spicy in a good way, harmonious, not crude. Last year we ate them so fast, I had to make two batches, and gave some to the nice people from A & B Naturals (the store that sells my breads), too.


Lebkuchen


To find a perfect recipe for Mohnstollen was not easy - there are so many of them. I settled on one whose ingredients I liked best, from a German cooking magazine's website (essen&trinken.de). But I would add an overnight fermentation, reduce the sugar, and exchange half of the raisins with cranberries for a little bit of tartness. So far so good! But what about the poppy seed filling? Germans always use Dr. Oetker's "Mohnback", a ready-made poppy seed mix you can buy everywhere. Fortunately the "internets" yielded a recipe for home made poppy mix, too, with almond paste, semolina flour, milk and eggs.


Our Cuisinart coffee mill that we were about ready to trash - it did a miserable job with the coffee beans - now got it's second chance. And, lo and behold, it ground the poppy seeds as if it were made for just that. The last ingredient I had to find was candied citrus peel. Our supermarket had only some tutti frutti mix left, full of Maraschino cherries (I hate them). Again, Google, helper of the clueless, linked me to a recipe.


Candied orange peel


The Mohnstollen turned out as good as expected, I sold some, too - and I won't tell my mother that it's better than hers.


"Downeast" Mohnstollen with cranberries


 

hanseata's picture
hanseata

During our last trip to Portland I lured my (for good reasons) wary husband to go with me to "Rabelais", with the sanctimonious promise "just wanting to look what's new". Rabelais is cooks' equivalent to an opium den, a famous cookbooks-only store; they carry probably every English language (and several foreign language) cookbook on the market, plus many antique ones. Leafing through all these enticing books, looking at all those mouthwatering photos, leaves the mind boggled and the eyes glazed over...We left the store, I with my broken promise - and Jan Hedh's "Swedish Breads & Pastries" -, and my cautious Richard with a (twice as expensive!) magnificent Vietnamese cookbook.

What had caught my attention in Hedh's book was the leaven used in several Pains au Levain - yeast made of raisins or apples. With all that discreetly fomenting leftover apple yeast water in my fridge - thanks to RonRay - I needed another baking challenge after producing one nice  loaf with this strange homemade yeast. Reading the recipes I was quite astonished to learn that fruit yeast is regularly used by French and Italian (and obviously also some Swedish) bakers as milder sourdough alternative. From Ron's (RonRay) and Akiko's (teteke) discussion on fruit yeast breads I had assumed that this was a (somewhat exotic) Japanese invention!

Following Hedh's recipe I cultivated a "mother" (1. step), "chef" (2. step) and then the levain from about a teaspoonful of apple yeast water. When I placed the Pain au Levain in the oven, it looked to me somewhat flat, and I was a bit concerned about it's oven spring capacities. While we were drinking tea, I kept one eye on the oven. At first the rim rose a bit, the middle seemed to cave in - and then I watched incredulously how my bread started growing a veritable horn!

After some suspenseful minutes the whole loaf began to swell ominously, but fortunately stopped short of exploding.

Pain au Levain from Jan Hedh's "Swedish Bread & Pastry

Holey loaf! Apple Yeast Gone Wild - or only baker's impatience?

 

The bread tasted great, and even with the large holes, we managed to butter the slices and eat them with Südtiroler Speck and Fontina.

This weekend I gave it another try. With the first loaf I had made the dough with brief kneading and autolyse - whereas Jan Hedh suggests long kneading, at low speed, without autolyse. I wanted to see whether it would make any difference if I used his technique, and, also, whether a longer rise in the banneton would affect the bread's "holeyness".

The first loaf I had made with a whole wheat and rye addition, for the second I wanted to use some leftover kamut. The longer kneaded dough got warm faster than stated in the recipe - the water should have been colder - but I didn't notice the slightest difference in dough consistency or performance to the one I made before. And I like the idea with brief kneading and autolyse much better.

This time I tried to catch the exactly right moment of the optimal rise before placing the bread in the oven. And then I watched and - saw another horn growing, though less pronounced than the first one. And the bread had, again, a very strong oven spring.

Pain au Levain with kamut

So I guess it's really The Power of The Apple Yeast

The kamut version tastes as good as the first bread. And now I'm going to have a slice!

 

 

hanseata's picture
hanseata

Looking for a birthday cake for my smart and pretty, but lactose intolerant stepdaughter, I leafed through my German and Austrian pastry baking books. Nearly every one of those gorgeous torte recipes listed cream as main ingredient, especially the Austrian ones, requiring lots of "Obers" (= whipping cream). But I had promised Cat a German "Geburtstagstorte" with all pomp and circumstances - and finally I found one.


Here it comes: chocolate lover's dream and almost lactose free - Nougat Torte for a lactose challenged, chocolate loving, (no teetotaler) birthday girl!


Warning: This cake is highly addictive - consume at your own risk!!!



NOUGATTORTE   (12 - 16 servings)



CAKE
60 g/2.1 oz all-purpose flour
60 g/2.1 oz hazelnuts, ground
50 g/1.8 oz bread crumbs
1 heaping tsp. cocoa powder
1/8 tsp. cinnamon
60 g/2.1 oz butter, softened
20 g/0.7 oz sugar
70 g/2.5 oz almond paste, chopped or coarsely grated
7 egg yolks
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
7 egg whites
70 g/2.5 oz sugar

NOUGAT CREAM
250 g/8.8 oz semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
130 g/4.6 oz whipping cream (whipping cream contains much less lactose than milk, but can be substituted with pureed silken tofu)
250 g/8.8 oz Nutella
200 g/7 oz butter

RUM MIXTURE
60 g/2.1 oz water (1/4 cup)
3/4 tsp. brown sugar
45 g/1.6 oz rum

ADD-IN AND GARNISH
1 nougat bar (or 1/2 bar semisweet chocolate) ca. 75 g
50 g/1.8 oz almond slices, toasted

To make the cake:
Preheat oven to 180 C/350 F. Line bottom of 28 cm/11" springform pan with parchment paper, and grease.

Add flour, hazelnuts, bread crumbs, cocoa and cinnamon to bowl of food processor (or mini chopper), and pulse until nuts are sufficiently ground.

In a large bowl, mix together butter, 20 g sugar, almond paste, egg yolks and vanilla extract until creamy. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites with 75 g sugar until stiff.

Fold first egg whites into butter mixture. Then fold in flour mixture. Transfer to prepared springform pan, smooth top with rubber spatula. Bake for 30 - 35 minutes. Let completely cool on wire rack.

To make the nougat cream:
In a saucepan, cook cream until hot, remove from heat, and stir in chopped chocolate, until melted. Then stir in Nutella, until smooth (place back on switched-off, but still warm stove, if necessary). (If using silken tofu instead of cream, melt chocolate first, then mix with purreed tofu and Nutella).

Let mixture cool to room temperature, then transfer to mixer bowl, add butter, and beat until creamy.

To assemble:
Remove cooled cake from pan and peel off parchment paper. Cut horizontally in three layers. In a small bowl, mix ingredients for rum mixture. With potato peeler, shave nougat or chocolate bar into thin stripes.

Place bottom layer of cake on platter, and brush with rum mixture. Generously spread nougat cream over cake bottom (the amount of nougat cream is enough for covering every cake layer generously. But don't forget to save some of it for the pastry bag!). Sprinkle with 2/3 of nougat or chocolate shavings.


Place second cake layer on top, brush with rum mixture, and cover with nougat cream. Place third layer on top. Brush with rum mixture, then spread nougat cream evenly over top and sides of cake. Fill rest of cream in pastry bag with large star tip, and garnish torte with nougat cream rosettes. Sprinkle top with rest of nougat or chocolate shavings. Then sprinkle toasted almond slices over top and sides.


Keep torte in a cool place. It keeps fresh at least for 3 days.


 


(Adapted from Karl Neef: "Sonntagskuchen & Festtagstorten")

hanseata's picture
hanseata

This weekend was devoted to experimenting with fruit yeast, and a second go at an old favorite. While I was waiting for my apples to ferment, I was also nurturing a levain for David's famous San Joaquin Sourdough. My first trial at the San Joaquin had been okay, but fell short of David (dmsnyder)'s example, leaving room for improvement.


The Apple Yeast Bread was something entirely new, I had never heard of such a possibility before I read RonRay's Blog. Curiosity won over scepticism, and I watched my apples slowly disintegrating in their warm water bath, while producing little bubbles. I also had never tried baking in a Dutch oven, a method for single, "private", breads whereas most of my (professional) baking requires full oven capacity in order to accomodate several loaves at once.


With the results of both endeavours I was quite satisfied. Ron's Apple Yeast Bread proved the possibility of home grown, "sweet" non sourdough yeast, and developed a nice oven spring in its oven within the oven. David's San Joaquin Sourdough had a more open crumb than last time, and both had thin but crackling crust.


I would have loved to keep some - but no bread lasts longer than a couple of days in this undisciplined family. One of the sourdoughs served as the "flowers" at a dinner invitation, much to the delight of our friends. The other two breads, toasted and untoasted, we had for lunch.


Another starter and a soaker are waiting in the fridge for being joined together to "Feinbrot", and my stepdaughter's birthday requires some serious torte baking tomorrow..


.


Apple Yeast Bread



Apple Yeast Bread Crumb



San Joaquin Sourdough (with 60% hydration starter)



San Joaquin Sourdough Crumb

hanseata's picture
hanseata

A while ago I bought a new baking book full with mouth watering photos of gorgeous looking loaves: "Brot", an introduction to Germany's best bakers and their signature breads. Luxurious as this book is, its principal purpose seems to be promoting culinary travels to the featured bakeries, not giving readers understandable instructions on how to make those lovely loaves at home.

The sourdough starter you simply "buy from a bakery" - no mention of hydration levels - and breads are baked "at falling temperatures". And if you obediently follow the recipes' baking temperatures and times you will end up with howling smoke alarms, crazed pets, and charred bread corpses - the instructions are probably meant for wood fired ovens. The publishers obviously printed the recipes in as they came from the bakers, never bothering with having them edited.

So I was up for a great challenge - would I be able to overcome these handicaps?

The first bread I tackled was one from my hometown Hamburg, "Hamburger Kräftiges", a hearty rye sourdough. In the book it looks like this:

"Hamburger Kräftiges" from "Brot - Deutschlands beste Bäcker"

This is the original recipe (2 breads)

520 g rye sourdough (from a bakery)

500 g rye flour type 1150

350 wheat flour type 550

540 g water (25 - 28 C)

 25 g sea salt

 16 g Bioreal-yeast

 

Knead all ingredients for 8 minutes at low speed, adding the yeast after 2 minutes. Cover and let rest for 1 hour. Shape into a round loaf, place on a baking sheet and proof for 1 - 2 hours, in a draft free location.

When surface shows distinct tears, place in 260 C/500 F preheated oven (no slashing). Pour 50 - 60 ml water on another hot baking sheet or oven floor. After 20 minutes, drop temperature to 220 C/425 F. Overall baking time: 60 - 70 minutes.

 

Wanting to start with one bread only, I took half of the recipe. To make the rye starter, I used the 3-step build from Martin Pöt Stoldt ("Der Sauerteig - das unbekannte Wesen) with 60 g ripe rye starter, 100 g rye flour and 100 g water and had a pleasantly sweet smelling active rye sour (100%).

A cold retardation seemed a good idea, and working with P.R.s stretch and fold technique, also. All went well, but when I took the dough out of the refrigerator I wasn't quite sure whether it had overproofed, it seemed to have grown more than I expected.

I shaped a boule and proofed it on a parchment lined baking sheet, waiting for the "distinct tears" to appear. The loaf grew, showing a little cracking, but not anything dramatic. I didn't want to wait until it overproofed, and put it in the oven. I knew that the baking temperatures and times had to be off, so I reduced the heat after 10 minutes, and checked the bread after a total baking time of 40 minutes, the internal temperatures registered already 210 F.

The bread didn't look bad, but not at all like the one in the book:

Was the photo in the book photoshopped? It looked much lighter than my loaf. And why didn't I get those pretty tears in the crust?

The bread tasted pretty good, too, but I wasn't satisfied - I wanted the one from the stupid book!

I posted those pictures, and friendly TFLers made some helpful comments, but nobody could figure out why my bread looked like a disadvantaged sibling.

Revengefully I didn't touch the book for a while and worked on other projects. But since I usually don't give up easily, and so far had managed to adapt many German bread recipes to American ingredients (and better techniques), I started pondering over the recipe again.

What made my bread look so different? Why had it almost overproofed in the fridge? And then, belatedly, I did some research in the "internets". I started with the mysterious "Bioreal" yeast. No wonder it had risen so much - this organic instant yeast contains less yeast cells than regular one, therefore 8 g was too much. For the amount of flour 6 g should be enough.

For the wheat in the recipe i had used bread flour - I know it's approximately the equivalent to German type 550. But what about the rye? Without thinking I had taken what I had: whole rye flour. And there it was! With help from Wikipedia I found out that German rye type 1150 was an "in between" white and whole rye. After some calculations I believed I could substitute type 1150 with a mix of 52% whole rye + 48% white rye. (I had some white rye from testing NYBakers recipes, but didn't use it).

Finally, why had the bread on the photo such dramatic cracks, and mine only puny little tears? I found the answer to this question in a TFL post, about proofing a boule on a baking sheet seamside up, not down - to achieve just such a distinct pattern!

So I tried the "Hearty Rye from Hamburg" again, with these modifications. I also changed the temperatures and baking times to the ones I use for "Feinbrot" and many other lean German mixed rye wheat breads.

I liked this result much better:

It also tasted better - according to my husband this was: "the best bread you ever made"! (He is the best of all husbands - he says that every time, when he likes a new bread).

Hearty Rye from Hamburg - crumb

This is my recipe adaptation:

HEARTY RYE FROM HAMBURG

STARTER
60 g rye sourdough starter (100%)
100 g water, lukewarm
100 g whole rye flour
 
DOUGH
270 g water (95 F)
6 g instant yeast
all starter
110 g whole rye flour
140 g white rye flour
175 g bread flour
13 g salt

 

DAY 1
Prepare starter.

DAY 2
Dissolve yeast in warm water. Add to all other ingredients in mixer bowl. Mix at low speed for 1 - 2 min. until all comes together. Let rest for 5 min.

Knead at medium-low speed for 2 min., adjusting with water, if necessary. Dough should still be sticky. Resume kneading for another 4 min., the last 20 sec. at medium-high speed.

Transfer dough to lightly floured surface. Stretch and fold 4 times, with 10 min. intervals (total time 40 min.) After last S & F, refrigerate overnight.


DAY 3
Remove dough from refrigerator 2 hours before using.

Preheat oven to 500 F/260 C, including steam pan.

Shape dough into boule, place seam side UP on parchment lined sheet pan. Proof at room temperature for 45 - 60 min., or until dough has grown 1 1/2 times, and surface shows distinct cracks.

Bake 10 min. at 475 F/250 C, steaming with 1 cup boiling water, then reduce heat to 425 F/220 C and bake for another 10 min. Rotate bread and remove steam pan. Continue baking for 20 - 30 min (internal temperature 200 F/93 C).

Let cool on wire rack.

UPDATE 10/15/11: in the meantime I made a side by side comparison with American medium rye (a lighter variety, not a medium grind!) and imported (so to speak) German Typ 1150. American medium rye is a perfect substitute for German medium rye types 1150 or 1370, and my sample tasted even better: http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/25482/who-winner-medium-rye-comparison


hanseata's picture
hanseata

Last week we bought a bag full of assorted apples from a farmer. Not only the bag was huge, the size of some of the apples (Macoun) was gigantic, too. What to do with all these beautiful apples? A dreary day makes you think of comfort food, and there's that old saying: "Life is uncertain - eat the dessert first". I'm never one to resist the craving for dessert, anyway, and the oven was still warm from baking bread in the morning.


Among my cookbooks is one exclusively on apple cakes (Dr. Oetker: "Apfelkuchen"). I made already a few of them, but wanted to try something new. Many of the cakes are baked on a sheet pan, the kind Americans call "bars" and Germans "Schnitten". I wanted it to be simple, with a lot of apples, some nuts and, preferably, some liquor in it.


This is what I came up with:



Apfelkuchen with Almonds and Apfelkorn Cream


My cake has more apples than the original one, and, also, different kinds for a more complex taste. The original recipe calls for Amaretto, but I didn't have any and my husband doesn't care too much for it, either. Also, I liked the idea of an additional apple flavor, so I took the Apfelkorn I had in my cupboard (I'm sure Calvados would have been a great choice, too). I used brown sugar instead of white, and, also, reduced the overall amount of sugar - it's still sweet enough.


It turned out really nice, with a fresh, strong apple taste - and just a hint of booze.


 


APFELKUCHEN WITH ALMONDS AND APFELKORN CREAM


DOUGH
125 g all-purpose flour
50 g whole wheat pastry flour (or more all-purpose flour)
1 tsp. baking powder
75 g butter
1 egg
30 g sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 pinch salt
25 g almond meal
 
FILLING
750 g apples, mixed, (I used Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, Macoun)
juice of 1 lemon
150 g butter, softened
75 g brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 egg
1 tsp. lemon zest, grated
20 ml Apfelkorn or Calvados
100 g all-purpose flour
250 ml whipping cream
25 g almond slivers


 


DOUGH:

Preheat oven to 400 F/200 C. Butter a 1/4-sheet pan.

In mixer bowl, sieve together flour and baking powder. Add butter, egg, sugar, vanilla extract, salt and almond meal. Knead at low speed until all comes together, then switch to medium speed (KA 6) and continue kneading until smooth. Wrap dough in foil and refrigerate for 30 min.

Roll out dough to size of sheet pan. Transfer to pan and press dough up around sides to shape a small rim. Prick with fork several times.

Bake 12 - 15 min.


FILLING

Reduce oven heat to 350 F/180 C.

Peel (only green ones) and slice apples Toss with lemon juice. Set aside. (Red apple skin looks nice when baked, the green turns brownish).

In mixer bowl, beat butter until creamy. Add sugar, vanilla extract, egg, lemon zest, Apfelkorn (or Calvados) and flour, mixing well after each addition.


Whisk whipping cream until stiff. Fold into filling, and spread evenly over pre-baked crust. Top with apples and sprinkle with almonds.

Place in lower third of oven. Bake ca. 35 min. (if top browns too much, cover with aluminum foil).


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 

hanseata's picture
hanseata

Now and then I need toasted bread. The supermarket varieties are, of course, off limits. A loaf that yields without putting up any resistance to my probing finger is not worthy of a Schwarzwald ham or Fontina topping. I want my toast delicately softening when I spread it with butter - not disintegrating into mash!


One of my favorite breads for toasting is the Multigrain Bread Extraordinaire from Peter Reinhart's "Bread Baker's Apprentice". But it does need some adjustments! As usual the original is much too sweet for my taste - I use either 19 g honey or brown sugar, as the mood strikes me, not the suggested 28 g honey plus 42 g (!) sugar. Also, I found that 6 g instant yeast works just fine, it doesn't need 9 g.


Another curious thing - the original recipe calls for too much liquid: 113 g buttermilk plus 230 g water. Even though I substitute 100 g of the bread flour with whole wheat the dough is still far too wet for this kind of bread. Today I added only 170 g water, the dough was very tacky, soft, but firmed up nicely.


I also changed the technique a bit, including buttermilk and more flour in the soaker, and either pre-fermenting most of the bread flour in a biga, or doing stretches and folds. And, as usual, I bulk retard the dough in the refrigerator overnight.


The result is a very tasty, unsquishy bread that really deserves the goodies I put on top - even when it's untoasted.



 

hanseata's picture
hanseata

One of the breads I bake regularly for sale is the Swedish Limpa Rye from Peter Reinhart's "Whole Grain Breads". The word "Limpa" sounds intriguing - but it simply means "round" in Swedish - I asked my Finnish friend Melita. Therefore, of course, my Swedish rye breads are always round.

I made some changes to the original recipe, though. I use less water for the starter - I found 142 g water results in a really wet dough: 127 g is sufficient. I also cut back on the molasses, adding only 37 g. The recipe amount with 57 g is, like many of the WGB recipes, too sweet for my taste.

As with all my breads I bulk ferment the dough overnight in the fridge - I need only 4 g instant yeast (instead of 7 g) - and bake it the next morning.

SOAKER
142 g rye flour
85 g whole wheat flour
4 g salt
170 g water
 
STARTER
64 g whole wheat mother starter
191 g whole wheat flour
127 g water
 
FINAL DOUGH
all soaker and starter
57 g whole wheat flour
5 g salt
4 g instant yeast
37 g molasses
14 g canola oil
9 g anise, fennel, cardamom, cumin, (cumin less than others)
7 g orange zest ( 3/4 - 1 orange)


DAY 1

In the morning, prepare soaker and starter.

In the evening, prepare final dough, place in lightly oiled container, cover and refrigerate overnight.


DAY 2

Remove dough from refrigerator 2 hrs. before using.

Preheat oven to 425 F/220 C, including steam pan.

Shape boule and proof in floured banneton (seam side up) for 45 - 60 min., until it has grown 1 1/2 times its original size. Place on parchment lined baking sheet. Score (I like a windmill pattern).

Bake 20 min. at 350 F/175 C, steaming with 1 cup boiling water, rotate 180 degrees and continue baking for another 25 min. until bread is a rich reddish brown and sounds hollow when thumped on the bottom (internal temperature at least 200 F/93 C).

The breads I sell are a little smaller (80%), to fit into the oven - and to cost a little less!

Updated 11/4/14

hanseata's picture
hanseata

German Feinbrot


When I moved to Maine in 2001, to get even - with the guy who had sold me a houseful of furniture - but refused to give me a rebate - I knew I would be in big trouble. And I was right, after two days my stomach started complaining and my brain kept sending "gag" signals, when I walked the supermarket aisles and encountered nothing but row after row of "wonderbreads".


Poking so-called rye, multigrain, oat nut or wheat breads with my finger, I found no resistance. I could squeeze them through their plastic bags and they would  spring back to their original size when I let go. Even when toasted they retained their squishyness and would not tolerate butter or jam without getting soft and soggy. 


The only place that sold some good bread in Bangor was (and still is) the "Bagel Factory". This bakery cafe was my oasis in the desert, and still, whenever I go to Bangor I take a bag of poppyseed bagels home. But great as these bagels are, they are white, a bit sweet and soft, and not dark, tangy and crusty, like the everyday rye sourdoughs I craved.


Having two warm meals a day was another thing my stomach refused to adapt to. German families usually eat bread and cold cuts either for lunch or for dinner.  German schools don't offer lunch, and Mother cooks at home. As a working mom I used to see this daily cooking as chore and a bad idea - until my daughter went to Bangor High, and had to eat at the school cafeteria (this experience made her learn how to cook, and gave birth to a career as chef!).


Finally I couldn't take my stomach's growling anymore. I started seeing bread Fata Morganas by day, and dreamt of crusty loaves by night. So I went on the quest to make "Feinbrot". The first step was, of course, a recipe. That was already a big hurdle. Nobody in Germany bakes Feinbrot at home, you can buy several varieties in every bakery and supermarket. There was none in my baking books, and none in the internet, only specialty breads, but not the simple loaf I was looking for.


And then, how to make sourdough? I didn't have the slightest idea. At a gift shop in Bangor, I found the "French Farmhouse Cookbook" and there was a recipe for Pain au Levain, with soudough. Full of enthusiasm I started my first starter, and, also, as backup and comparison, I mixed a starter from a store bought package.


My first breads, two twin loaves from the different starters and the recipe from the book, resulted in two almost identical bricks. Saving always a cup of dough to use as starter for the next bread, I kept on baking, producing more bricks on the way - my husband suggested keeping a supply next to our bed in case of a home invasion - and experimented with different amounts of rye, bread flour, temperatures and baking times, using the original recipe only as initial guideline.


After several weeks - and bricks - my homemade starter was way ahead of the store bought mix, in flavor and activity. Slowly, in trial and error, I figured out what bread flour/rye ratio I liked best, and what temperature settings and baking times gave the best results. Finally my bread had the right taste and right crumb - but the crust was either thick and and hard, or thin but too soft. Nevertheless, that was all I thought I could do - and Richard, the best of husbands, ate it all!


An open house tour with my daughter at the New England Culinary Institute in Burlington, left me green with envy. Valerie was going to learn how to make baguettes - from a real French pastry chef! I went home, and, since I couldn't be one, at least I could buy one "Bread Bakers' Apprentice".


Reading the instructions I was struck by an epiphany! I had always (as stated in my recipes) just placed a cup with cold water together with the bread in the oven. And now I learned how to set up my oven for hearth baking - with stone and STEAM. Finally I was not only able to bake French bread, but my humble everyday Feinbrot was transformed, too!



Feinbrot crumb


Recipe:    http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/20242/karin039s-german-feinbrot


 


 


 


 


 

hanseata's picture
hanseata

There's no doubt about it - Pflaumenkuchen (German Plum Cake) is my birthday cake. In the beginning of September the first prune plums show up on the market just in time for my birthday.

My birthday party was always arranged by my grandmother, my Omi, who invested all her love and imagination in coming up with games and other entertainment for me and my friends. She definitely was my role model on how to make a child's birthday party a huge success!

"Hide-and-Seek" (in the dark), "Choose-the-Right-Candy" ( with nail biting suspense) , "Say-Whom-You-Love" (good for many giggles) and "Unwrap-the-Chocolate" (with hat and mittens, fork and knife!) were some of the games that raised excitement and noise levels to heights that called for quiet intervals of soap bubble blowing, or story telling, to calm down all the boisterous little guests.

Of course my grandmother also baked my birthday cake, a large sheet brimming full of prune plums resting on a bed of sweet yeast dough, generously sprinkled with almonds and cinnamon sugar. I loved that cake, and could eat a lot of it (though not quite as much as on those memorable occasions when my cousin Thomas and I would compete at wolfing down Omi's famous yeast dumplings!).

Nowadays, if I don't have to entertain a horde of hungry cake monsters, I bake a smaller plum cake version, either with a short or a streusel crust, in a springform pan. They taste as good as the large yeasted cake - especially with Gifford's award winning vanilla ice cream...


 



There are hundreds of German plum cake recipes, this cake here is easy to make and tastes best slightly warm, with vanilla ice cream.


You'll find the recipe here: http://hanseata.blogspot.com/2010/09/german-plum-cake-pflaumenkuchen.html


 

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - hanseata's blog