The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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I'm not dead, I've just been hiding from the temptations of the current ITJB items...

Plus, I haven't done anything interesting other than my usual weekly sourdoughs that we live off of, with maybe the following exceptions:

I made a bunch of marbled, braided loaves for people that I didn't get pictures of. At the end, I had a handful of strands left over and I was tired of braiding, so I shoved them into a lidless pullman pan...

The second picture is my new favorite condiment. Sourdough with toasted sunflower seeds, toasted, a little bit of garlic butter, sprinkle with parmesan, then toast. Top with the cherry pepper mix. I am drooling thinking about it. I normally don't go in much for pre-prepared condiments, but this was under $3 and looked good, so I gave it a shot. Yum.


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It's week 8 in the Inside the Jewish Bakery Challenge - Semester 1. This week is Onion Rolls. Sadly, I'll be sitting out the next few dessert-heavy weeks.

Once my confusion over how to deal with the onion mix was clarified (thanks all) this proved to be an easy, fast bake (in terms of actual prep). My notes follow:

  • I used 1 oz of the onion water and 9 oz plain water
  • My egg was almost a full ounce heavier than called for
  • I used 100% milled wheat, a 50/50 mix of hard red and hard white.
  • My cooking time ended up being around 25 minutes.

These are tasty and the outside is crunchy. They aren't overpoweringly onion-y, which I'd been concerned about. I think the flavor would be improved if I make a soaker with the whole wheat next time and let it sit in the fridge overnight prior to adding yeast. I'll make them again for sure.

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There seems to be some missing information in the Onion Rolls recipe on p. 114.

  • In Step 2, you spread out 1/4 of the onion filling, and push out the discs of dough. This is the last mention made of the onion filling, leaving me with 3/4 of the recipe unused. 
  • In Step 3, do you put them onion-y side up or onion-y side down to proof? 
  • In Step 4, we poke down a hole in the center. Is this when we add the rest of the filling? If so, I assume we leave the onion-y side down during the proof?





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Had a physical yesterday, I've gained 18 pounds since Thanksgiving, and my blood pressure is up as well. I'm going to have to pass on all the sweets baking scheduled for ITJB I think, just out of self defense...



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It's week 6 in the Inside the Jewish Bakery Challenge - Semester 1. This week is Polish Potato Bread.

By procrastinating my bake until the end of the week, I can learn from the experience of those who have their act together and baked earlier! A common theme seemed to be "dough too wet," so I was meticulous about my measuring. The biggest opportunity for adding moisture seems to be during the process of boiling the potatoes. I weighed them prior to boiling, and again after draining, and they had gained a half-ounce. I reduced the potato water in the recipe accordingly.

For the flour, I milled hard red wheat and sifted it to ~80% extraction through a #30 sieve.

As you can see, the dough was still wet, but it wasn’t the batter that some folks have gotten. I was able to more-or-less wrangle it into a shape with well-floured hands.

I would change the following things next time I made it:

First, I would allow the proof to continue until the loaf was higher than the top of the pan. Like many others, I got no oven spring at all. I had gotten such a vigorous rise in the fermentation, I think I could have easily gotten another inch during the proof.

Second, I got burned (almost literally) by putting the pans into the top third of the oven rack. The tops were starting to get really dark at the 40 minute mark, so I pulled the pans. I left the bread in the pan for 15 minutes, then moved to a cooling rack. The bottoms were very undercooked. If you look at the bottom of the slices in the last picture, you see no crust at all. Next time, I’ll put them lower in the oven, and tent with foil if necessary to get a longer bake.

And there will certainly be a next time. The bread is unbelievably soft – the softest milled wheat bread I’ve made. I made potato soup to go with it, and they paired perfectly. I would imagine I’ll make this every time I make potato soup in the future – I’m already boiling them, it’s really easy to add a couple extra for the bread.








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I'm almost caught up! It's week 5 in the Inside the Jewish Bakery Challenge - Semester 1. This week was Honey Cake.  

This called for white rye flour. To make it, I milled whole rye and then sifted to 80% extraction. I think the walnuts were a little heavy, the centers never really rose even after 3 hours of cooking. Almonds may have been a better choice.

In spite of it being a really runny, gummy, goopy batter, it baked up incredibly light, and not nearly as sweet as I would have anticipated from the pound of honey in it. There is no gumminess at all.

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I'm not dead, it just feels that way. I spent the holidays either travelling or cooking for New Year's, so didn't get around to the challenge until 2012. I made a fatal error, as well, relying on memory instead of looking at the schedule. Thus, we have Almond Horns instead of Almond Buns.

Let me start by saying that I think there's an error in the Almond Horn recipe in that it calls for zero flour. Without flour, as written, it makes a soupy, almondy-eggy batter. I ended up adding 1.25 cups of AP, and it was still flat and runny. If it's not an error, then the egg weights are too high or something.

These ended up tasting fabulous -- but they are more like flat almond sugar cookies than anything else.

I'll work the actual challenge -- almond buns -- into the schedule this month hopefully. :)



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Today was the final stretch before heading to the in-laws for Christmas. I spent pretty much the whole day in the kitchen, minus a trip to the grocery store. The takeaway:

First, this was week 3 of the Inside the Jewish Bakery challenge. I haven't actually gotten to taste the results, so my comments are limited. I did a four-high braid, and had a little trouble getting the ends to stick together. I ended up wetting my fingers and kind of blending it, which seemed to work. There are some shots of the initial braiding and the final rise at the bottom. On top of the two challah loaves, I also did a pullman pan full of PR's pannetone recipe. I used dried strawberriers, dried orange-infused cranberries, and dried sour cherries that I soaked for a day in apple brandy (plus the vanilla and orange extract). For the nuts, I used 5 oz of macadamias and 2 oz of almonds. Finally, another pan of Mohn bars from week one of the ITJB.



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These were tasty, I enjoyed the chewy butterscotch and chocolate. I have to agree that I liked them just as much without any chocolate at all. I think if I were to do it again, I'd get some orange-infused bittersweet chocolate for them - my 66% bittersweet/33% milk choc. was too sweet IMO -- I liked the Mohn bars better.

Baking Notes:

  • Panning these up required every flat cooking surface I owned. Fortunately, it was really cold and windy outside, so I could put an (empty) fresh-out-of-the-oven sheet pan on the back porch, and it was cold within 3-4 minutes.
  • I ended up adding an extra half cup of flour to get the batter out of the 'runny' stage
  • Don't put them in a sealed container for the wife to take to school, or they end up adhering to one another...


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I used to have a problem with my crackers, but then I took an arrow to the knee...

For the last month or so, I've been turning all my extra sourdough starter into crackers. With a couple of exceptions, they've been disappointing: not crisp enough, too crisp and burnt, no flavor, too much salt, etc. etc. That all changed a couple of days ago, mostly by accident. I've since successfuly reproduced the recipe three times, and may have it down now.

When I play Skyrim, I play it *loud*. What's the point of hurling your enemies off of a mountaintop with the power of your Shout if it doesn't make the pictures on the wall shake? As a result, I didn't hear the kitchen timer, and only remembered I had crackers in the oven when the smell of "Hey, that smells like something baking" penetrated my dragon-killing frenzy. Instead of the 15 minutes I'd intended to cook them, I ended up cooking them 40 minutes. Fortunately, I'd been experimenting with the pasta machine, and had both made them thicker than normal, and set the oven cooler than normal (350 degrees F instead of the 375 I'd been using). They were perfect.

So I set out to make them again, this time intentionally.

Start with a cup of leftover starter at 100% hydration. Add 1/4 cup oil (I use walnut oil), a tablespoon of softened butter, a teaspoon of salt, and roughly 5 oz of whole wheat flour. You're shooting for fairly stiff. Spray it with olive oil and let it set under plastic for anywhere from 3-6 hours.

Roll it out to about 1/4 inch thick, then sprinkle with a pinch of kosher salt, and a pinch of whatever dried herb takes your fancy (I used dill in one batch, thyme in another). Then fold the dough over on itself and roll out again.

Add the seeds of your choice on half of the dough. I used black seasame seeds and brown mustard seed. Fold over again and roll out.

 Chop into smaller pieces, and run it through a pasta machine on the widest setting (#0 on my Atlas). Fold again.

Run these through on #0 again, then on #1, then finish on #2.

Put them on parchment paper, spray with olive oil, and sprinkle with kosher salt and more seeds. Gently roll them again with a pin to seat the seeds, then dock many, many times with a fork.

Cook for 30-40 minutes at 350 degrees F. Then turn the oven off, crack the door, and let them sit for another 10-15 minutes, watching to make sure they don't overbrown. The picture shows them at the end of 30 minutes. The final color can be seen on the plate, above.

Move to a cooling rack and let sit (the ones on the rack below are the ones from the original Skyrim batch. The ones on the plate at top are from a subsequent test batch.) Break into smaller pieces as desired.



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