The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

SusanMcKennaGrant's blog

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SusanMcKennaGrant

the version with figswith figs

If you happen to be going to a farmer’s market this weekend you’re likely to find some fresh local grapes. Here’s a great way to enjoy them. This is my version of the delicious grape bread made every fall in Tuscany to celebrate the vendemmia (grape harvest). 

Over the years I’ve refined my process. I layer the grapes into the dough now, rather than just spreading them on top, which is the usual method. This way the delicious jammy juice produced by the combo of olive oil, grapes and sugar is preserved inside the dough rather than oozing out all over, burning the crust and ruining our baking sheets. I’ve also discovered if you turn the finished schiacciata upside-down to cool on a rack the juice gets distributed evenly. As it cools it turns into a light film of grape jelly, beautifully marbled throughout the crumb, not congealed into soggy pockets on the bottom as is usually the case.

Wine grapes are traditionally used and rosemary is the classic seasoning but sometimes I use cinnamon instead, especially if I’m serving the bread for breakfast. The seeds in the grapes give the bread a delightful crunch. When our figs are in season, just before our grapes start ripening, I get a head start with a delicious fig version. Post-harvest, I use the late-harvest viogner grapes we dry into plump raisins to enjoy a raisin-studded focaccia all year round.

I use a simple straight dough (no pre-ferment or biga). If you have a favorite pizza dough recipe you could use that. I mix the dough the day before and retard it overnight in the refrigerator. Recently I’ve discovered the semolina flour from Sicily or Puglia (semola di grano duro rimacinata) produces a sunny yellow, nutty tasting crumb that is a lovely marriage with the grapes, but all purpose flour is traditional here in Tuscany. Sometimes I make schiaccata con l’uva with egg-enriched pan brioche dough. That’s very special, especially for breakfast or to serve toasted with foie gras or a chicken liver mousse.

Making this dough is a little like making puff pastry, a series of folding and stretching, but instead of butter the filling is enriched with grapes, olive oil and sugar. I spread the dough out on an oiled parchment lined baking sheet and densely populate half of it with grapes. Then I drizzle EVOO and sprinkle sugar over that, along with finely chopped rosemary or a dusting of cinnamon. I fold the other half of the dough over the grapes and repeat the stretching and folding process using up the remaining grapes, more sugar and EVOO. Then dough gets stretched, drizzled and sprinkled again before baking.

  

FOR THE DOUGH
  1. 300 grams all finely ground semolina flour (semola di grano duro rimacinata)
  2. 240 ml tepid water
  3. ⅛ tsp instant yeast
  4. 6 grams salt
  5. 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
FOR THE FILLING
  1. a nice big bunch of red wine grapes, or if you can't find them use black concord grapes (or fresh figs or seeded raisins as described above)
  2. olive oil
  3. sugar
  4. finely chopped rosemary or cinnamon (optional)
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. The day before you intend to bake the focaccia mix all the dough ingredients together in a large bowl using a spatula. Make sure all the flour is incorporated and using wet hands form the dough into a ball. Cover the bowl with a plate and let it sit for 1 hour at room temperature.
  2. Using your hands, remove the ball of dough and stretch it out until it is about 8 inches long then fold it over itself two or three times until you have a package the size of the original ball of dough.
  3. Repeat this process two or three more times, you should notice that the dough has become quite elastic and strong.
  4. Oil a plate lightly and place the ball of dough on the plate, cover tightly with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 1 hour before transferring to the refrigerator.
  5. The next day, remove the dough at least an hour before you wish to bake to let it come to room temperature.
  6. Preheat the oven to 200 C (400 F)
  7. Brush olive oil lightly over a parchment lined baking sheet and place the dough on it. Stretch the dough to form a 15 by 8 inch rectangle.
  8. Densely populate half the dough with half the grapes, drizzle olive oil over evenly and sprinkle with sugar. Sprinkle rosemary or dust cinnamon on top if using.
  9. Fold the empty half of the dough over the grapes and repeat the stretching and folding process using the rest of the grapes, more sugar and rosemary or cinnamon.
  10. Stretch the dough out one last time, until it is the thickness of one layer of grapes. Drizzle with more oil and dust with more sugar.
  11. Transfer to the oven and bake for about 35 or 40 minutes or until the focaccia is nicely browned. Check the bottom to make sure it is cooked through.
  12. Let the dough cool upside down on a rack so that the grape juice can penetrate the focaccia. 
  13. Once cool, reverse the dough (dust with icing sugar if you wish) before slicing and serving.
NOTES
  1. You can use all purpose flour, but reduce the amount of water by 30ml (1oz)  
  2. A version of this post originally appeared here, on my blog,  in September 2015.
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SusanMcKennaGrant

These past two years I haven't baked much sourdough bread. Since I left Petraia I've been working with a pretty poor oven. But recently a friend inspired me to try baking with a cast-iron combo-cooker. After testing the technique the first thing I did was to pay a visit to the Mulino Marino in Italy's Piedmont region where I have been sourcing flour for over 20 years.  I picked up a supply from their wonderful stone ground range including farro, enkir, macina di grano, burrata, and rye.

Here's a look at my first effort and a few pictures I took at the mill. The bread is my whole grain sourdough from Piano, Piano, Pieno.  It is made with a liquid levain, 72 % hydration, 70% macina (whole wheat) and 30 % burrata, retarded 17 hours. My long dormant starter was a little over-excited to be back in business so the loaves ended up slightly over-proofed. Since my banettons and lame are deep in storage it was scored with a dull blade and proofed in makeshift paper towel lined plastic bowls (the paper towel worked surprisingly well). Lots of room for improvement, but I am really excited to be producing decent loaves again. I've also included a picture of my chia "crack", the flatbread I've been making for years to use up leftover starter and some sea lettuce maltagliati.

I don't always retard but when I do its always immediately after shaping and for somewhere between 12-18 hours. I bake straight from the refrigerator. I would love to have some feedback about this because there are so many different opinions out there. For instance, after shaping, do you get the best results from retarding? If you retard, do you put the loaves straight into the refridgerator after shaping or do you let them sit at room temperature a bit first? If so, how long? How long do you usually retard?  After retarding, do you bake straight from the refrigerator or do you let the loaves sit at room temperature? If so, for how long? Thanks in advance to everyone at the Fresh Loaf for all of your inspirational posts, generosity of spirit and for any light you can shed on this subject! 

 

and by the way, its hazelnut harvesting time in Piedmont right now!

 

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SusanMcKennaGrant

This post is about the typical rye bread of the Swiss Valais where I live. This wonderful bread has its own AOP status (appellation d'origine protégée), a certification which guarantees that everything used to produce it comes from the Valais. This is the French/German-speaking Swiss canton that is home to most of the highest peaks in the Alps and the source of  the Rhone River. The AOP protection helps preserve the landscape by ensuring the continuing cultivation of rye, something that grows well in the difficult mountain terrain, high altitudes and harsh climates that make growing most other grain impossible. 

Pain de Seigle Valaisan is a rustic, round loaf with a dense crumb and is much heavier than it looks. It must contain at least 90% whole rye flour and is usually made with a sourdough starter. It keeps well for a very long time. Traditionally it was baked in village ovens, which would be fired only two or three times a year, so it was important to have bread that would last for several months. Today it is mostly made in commercial bakeries, but many mountain villages still maintain their communal ovens and hold special bread baking days to celebrate this ancient Alpine tradition.

I have worked on this bread for a while now and finally found a formula I really like. It uses a rye sourdough starter, a rye soaker and an optional 10% wheat preferment. I found it here at Bernd's Bakery blog. Bernd's formula makes two huge loaves weighing one kilogram each. I plan to keep one loaf around awhile to see how it matures. If you want to try it you will need an active rye sourdough starter.  

This bread is delicious sliced very thin and enjoyed with a platter of Valais raclette or other Swiss cheese, air dried beef, gherkins and salami. Often it is studded with walnuts or the dried apricots that are so famous here in the Valais. It takes very little effort over a couple of days to build the starter and, once that is done, things move fast. Rye ferments quickly and once the dough is shaped the final rise is just one hour at 29 degrees Celsius.

And a few pictures from the region

See more at http://www.susanmckennagrant.com/2017/04/08/rye-bread-from-the-swiss-valais-pain-de-seigle-valaisan-or-walliser-roggenbrot/

 

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SusanMcKennaGrant

As one ventures into the mezzogiorno or southern Italy, bread takes on a golden aspect as if it has spent more time in the sun than its northern cousins. This is especially true in Sicily where much of Italy’s hard durum wheat is grown. Milled into a sunny colored yellow flour called semolina, durum wheat is used to make the dried pasta for which Italy is famous. When mixed into bread dough it produces a beautiful yellow loaf with a sweet, nutty flavor that has wonderful keeping qualities.

In Sicily, yellow bread dough is shaped into fanciful snails and reptilian forms, sprinkled with sesame seeds and frequently baked in wood burning ovens.

Durum wheat is strong and it is easy to overdevelop dough made with it. It is best to under mix and let your dough gain strength during the fermentation.

-For the recipe: http://www.susanmckennagrant.com/2014/01/11/sicily-revisited-part-3-pane-casereccio-siciliano/#sthash.Ttp7yDsd.dpuf

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SusanMcKennaGrant

As usual, one thing leads to another in the kitchen. I was not entirely comfortable publishing a Kouign Amann recipe because I live a sugar-free life and those delicious pastries contain a fair bit of the white stuff. I even tried laminating the dough with honey to see if it might make a good sugar substitute (it almost always does). But working with soft butter and runny honey made the lamination process very messy. The honey-filled pastry also didn’t turn out as flaky as it should. It had a cakey texture, which I suspect has to do with the hygroscopic quality honey has. So I decided to leave the sugar out of the recipe entirely to find out what a savory version of this pastry looked like. I figured the result should be a reasonable stand-in for puff pastry.

A few days ago, finding myself with a bag of Kenji Lopez-Alt’s excellent Neapolitan pizza dough fermenting in the refrigerator, I gave it a go. Using 100 grams of dough I followed the recipe for Kouign Amann in my last postsans sucre. It worked like a charm, puffing up beautifully in the oven. I rolled out the leftover scraps very thin and sprinkled them with seeds and salt. Those crackers were so deadly I asked my husband to hide them somewhere. (He ate them.)

So if you are like me and don’t like the idea of a sugar-laced pastry,  just leave it out and enjoy some of these savory preparations. The possibilities are actually pretty endless for this pastry. NeopolitansBouchées à la reinePain au chocolatPalmiers? Turnovers? Apple dumplings? CroissantsPourquoi pas

 

- See more at: http://www.susanmckennagrant.com/2017/01/17/kouign-amann-followup-an-easy-puff-pastry-dupe-and-crackers-too/#sthash.4i3z39ip.dpuf

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SusanMcKennaGrant

I've been making Kouign Amann for a long time but it wasn't until I visited their homeland of Brittany I realized I had completely misunderstood this delicious pastry. In Brittany I discovered Kouign Amann is not the sophisticated laminated pastry made from croissant dough I thought it was. It is a rustic treat with humble pedigree and it tasted tasted better, much better, than anything I’d ever made. And to add insult to injury it was also much easier to produce! As usual, to really understand a beloved traditional food it can be enlightening to make the pilgrimage to its homeland. 

Kouign Amann is a pastry that traditionally was made quickly and easily in Breton farmhouses on baking days or on Sundays as a special treat using scraps of leftover bread dough and the delicious demi-sel butter for which the region is famous. Today the pastry appears to be mostly produced in bakeries, but the concept is the same. Bread dough is rolled out thin, slathered with a decadent amount of that insanely good soft cultured butter and sprinkled with sugar. The buttered dough is folded into an envelope shape and then rolled out before it is baked in a hot oven. It’s that simple. Sometimes the mix might contain some blé noir, Brittany’s stone ground buckwheat flour, but mostly it is made from wheat flour. 

- See more at: http://www.susanmckennagrant.com/2017/01/10/kouign-amann-demystified/#sthash.Q0cUCmW5.dpuf 

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