The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

pmccool's blog

pmccool's picture
pmccool

My work schedule is set up so that I get every other Friday off.  Or, as my employer puts it, I'm on a 9/80 work schedule.  That means Mondays through Thursdays are 9 hours a day, one Friday is 8 hours, and the following Friday is off.  I love it.  Having a 3-day weekend every other week is a wonderful thing.

So, this past Friday, I got to play with some new recipes.  The first bake was an Irish soda bread.  It turned out wonderfully, in a craggy sort of way, with plenty of spring in the oven.  We took it to a neighbor whose mother had died a couple of days previously.  Consequently, there are no pictures.  It was well received; so much so that I’m not sure any of the extended family actually knew of its existence.

The second bread that day was something I'll call an Irish oatmeal porridge bread.  It features cooked steel-cut (or pinhead, or Irish, or Scots) oatmeal, some bread flour, some whole wheat flour, plus some molasses to help boost the flavor.  If you aren't acquainted with steel-cut oats, they are fairly analogous to cracked wheat.  Each oat kernel is broken into 3-5 pieces as they pass through a set of rollers at the mill.  The texture is quite different from rolled oats, even the old-fashioned variety.  The cooked porridge is more nubby, a bit more al dente. 

The dough was a bit drier than I expected.  There are two factors that may have been in play.  The first is that much of the liquid in the bread is contained in the porridge.  If one were to measure the pre-cooked and cooked weight of the porridge, they’d know how much water is lost during the cooking.  Of course, one would have to think of that in advance.  The second factor is the AP flour in this particular batch of bread.  It’s the Eagle Mills Ultragrain flour, which contains 30% white whole wheat flour along with the usual patent flour.  The extra fiber content makes it more absorbent than a typical AP flour.  Which of those was the greater influence, I can’t say.  What was clear was that the dough required more water, probably another 50-60 grams worth before it softened to something less than bagel dough.  Note that the dough didn’t feel particularly dry but it was quite stiff to knead. 

The dough was bulk fermented in a covered bowl, then shaped into a loaf that went into an 8x4 loaf pan.  The final proof, covered, went until the dough crested about ¾ of an inch above the pan rim, at which point it went into the preheated oven for baking.   

The first impression is favorable:

 

Hmm, perhaps a bit lopsided:

 

Well, yes, a longer final proof would have been a good idea:

 

And the crumb:

If you look closely enough at the crumb, you will notice a compression zone where the dough was in contact with the pan.  It appears that the outer extent of the loaf suffered some compaction before the top tore loose and released the pressure.  The rest of the crumb is very uniform and is a splendid base for my sandwiches this week.  The bread is firm and moist, probably an artifact of the moisture in the porridge, as well has having a degree of chewiness that is definitely due to the steel-cut oats.  The molasses, which is one of my favorite flavors, is front and center in both fragrance and taste.  I suspect this would also be very good toasted, with nothing more than butter spread on it.

I also managed to squeeze in a batch of sandwich rolls on Saturday, yielding 6 hotdog buns and 6 hamburger buns.  All in all, it was a fun time in the kitchen this past weekend.

Paul 

pmccool's picture
pmccool

One of the all-time favorite recipes here on TFL is the Blueberry Cream Cheese Braid that Floyd posted clear back in 2005.  If you haven't yet, or haven't recently, read that post and the long string of comments that follow, I suggest that you have a look.  There are a lot of good ideas in that thread.

Not being one to leave well enough alone, I've been twiddling with that recipe.  And, since the ingredients for that recipe were measured entirely in volumetric units, I've recast them grams.  If you compare this version to the one that Floyd posted, you'll notice that the dough for this one isn't quite as rich (one egg instead of two) and that it has been converted from a sponge and dough approach to a straight dough.  

Four fillings have also been cadged from the original string and each has received its share of tinkering.  

Note that I have retained the original two braid yield for the recipe.  More often than not, though, I make three braids instead of two since I find the smaller braids easier to handle.  The smaller braids are also a great size for gifting.

Herewith my "regifted" version of the Blueberry Cream Cheese Braid:

 

Blueberry Cream Cheese Braid

Profile: Enriched dough

Recommended equipment: two small mixing bowls, medium mixing bowl, sturdy mixing spoon (or stand mixer), whisk. saucepan, measuring cups and spoons (or scale), bench knife, bowl scraper, rolling pin, half-sheet baking sheet, baking parchment or Silpat, pastry brush, cooling rack

Yield: 2 braids

Dough:

 

Ingredient

Volume (U.S.)

Weight (metric)

Milk, warm

1 ½ cup

300g

Yeast, active dry

2 ¼ teaspoons (1 packet)

7g

Sugar, granulated

¼ cup + 2 tablespoons

75g

Eggs

1 each

50g

Salt

1 ½ teaspoons

9g

Butter, unsalted, softened

½ cup

110g

All purpose flour

3 ½-4 cups

500g

Pour the milk into a medium mixing bowl and scatter the yeast on the milk.  Allow the yeast to soften, about 5 minutes; it will sink. 

Mix in the sugar, eggs, salt, and butter until all are evenly distributed.

Add the flour to the bowl. Mix vigorously until all ingredients are combined in a rough dough.  Knead the dough on a lightly floured countertop until it is smooth and satiny; 6-8 minutes.

Place the dough back in the bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap and let the dough rise until it is doubled in bulk.  This may take an hour or so if kitchen temperatures are in the mid-70s.  (You could also put the bowl in the refrigerator and let the dough rise overnight, if you wish.)

 

Egg Glaze:

 

Ingredient

Volume (U.S.)

Weight (metric)

Egg, large

1 each

50g

Milk

1 tablespoon

15g

Beat the egg and milk together.  Cover and refrigerate until needed.

 

Cream Cheese Filling:

 

Ingredient

Volume (U.S.)

Weight (metric)

Cream cheese, softened

¾ cup

174g

Sugar, granulated

2 tablespoons

25g

Vanilla extract

½ teaspoon

2g

Egg glaze (see above)

1 tablespoon

15g

While the dough ferments, mix the cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, and egg glaze in a small bowl until uniformly combined.

 

Blueberry Filling:

 

Ingredient

Volume (U.S.)

Weight (metric)

Blueberries*, fresh or frozen

2 cups

260g

Sugar, granulated

¼ cup

50g

Cornstarch

3 tablespoons

24g

Lemon juice

2 tablespoons

30g

*Raspberries, blackberries, or pitted cherries could be substituted for, or combined with, the blueberries.

Combine all of the ingredients in a small saucepan.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens to a spreadable consistency.  Remove the pan from the heat and let the filling cool to room temperature.

When the dough has doubled in volume, remove it from the bowl and divide in half.  Cover one half with the bowl or plastic wrap.  Lightly flour the counter top and roll the first half into a 9x12 inch rectangle.  Slide the rectangle onto a sheet of baking parchment or a silicone pan liner.  Arrange the dough so that the short edge is facing you.  Starting at the top of the rectangle, cut the right-hand third into a series of ½-inch wide strips that angle toward you, chevron style.  Then repeat the process on the left-hand third of the dough to complete the chevron, making sure to cut the same number of strips that you did on the right-hand side.  Leave the center third untouched.

Cover the center third of the rectangle by evenly spreading one-half of the cream cheese filling.  Then spread one-half of the cooled fruit filling evenly over the cream cheese base.

Fold the top edge of the rectangle over the filling, then criss-cross the first set of strips across the filling; left to right and right to left.  Repeat criss-crossing each left-right pair of strips across the filling until reaching the next-to-last pair.  Fold the bottom edge of the dough over the filling, then finish criss-crossing the last two pairs of strips.  For maximum neatness and leak prevention, tuck the end of each strip into the edge of the filled area.  Use the parchment or pan liner as a sling to pick up the braid and place it on a baking sheet.  Brush the surface of the braid with some of the egg glaze.

Repeat the shaping process for the second braid.  Cover both braids with plastic and let them rise until they double.

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.  Uncover the braids and give them one final coating with the remaining egg glaze.  Bake the braids in the center of the oven for 35-40 minutes.  If needed, turn the pan midway through the bake so that the braids bake evenly.

Remove the braids from the oven and place them on a cooling rack.  Cover them with a towel and let them cool for at least one hour.

 

Berries aren’t the only choice for filling the braids.  Some additional options are shown below:

 

Peach Filling:

 

Ingredient

Volume (U.S.)

Weight (metric)

Peaches, fresh or frozen, chopped

3 cups

500g

Cinnamon, ground

1 ½ teaspoons

4g

Butter

1 tablespoons

14g

Sugar, granulated

¼ cup

50g

Cornstarch

3 tablespoons

24g

Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan.  Cook and stir over medium heat until the mixture achieves a spreadable consistency, then cool to room temperature before spreading the filling on top of the cream cheese layer.

 

Apple Filling:

 

Ingredient

Volume (U.S.)

Weight (metric)

Apples, peeled and chopped

2 cups

360g

Lemon juice

2 tablespoons

30g

Sugar, light brown, packed

¼ cup

55g

Cornstarch

2 tablespoons

16g

Cinnamon

1 teaspoon

3g

Nutmeg

1 teaspoon

3g

Butter

1 tablespoon

14g

Nuts, chopped (optional)

1 cup

115g

Put the butter, brown sugar, and nuts (if using) in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring to combine.  When the butter/sugar mixture has melted, add the apples, cinnamon, nutmeg, lemon juice, and cornstarch to the saucepan.  Continue to cook and stir the filling until it thickens to a spreadable consistency.  It is not necessary to fully cook the apples, since they will continue to cook as the braid is baked.  Cool the filling to room temperature before using.  Just before placing the braids in the oven to bake, sprinkle some cinnamon sugar over the last coat of egg glaze.

 

Cranberry Filling:

 

Ingredient

Volume (U.S.)

Weight (metric)

Cranberries, chopped

2 cups

199g

Orange zest and juice

1 orange

--

Sugar, granulated

½ cup

100g

Cinnamon

1 teaspoon

3g

Grand Marnier or Cointreau or Triple Sec

¼ cup

59g

Cornstarch

3 tablespoons

24g

Combine the cranberries, orange juice and zest, sugar, and cinnamon in a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer the cranberries until they are tender.  Make a slurry of the liqueur and cornstarch.  Whisk the slurry into the berry mixture and cook while stirring until the filling reaches a spreadable consistency.  Cool to room temperature before using.

One last hint:

If you are really pressed for time, canned pie fillings work well in place of the home-made fruit fillings.

pmccool's picture
pmccool

Lots of decorating throughout the house, plus some stollen for when family visit for the holiday.  Maybe some for gifting, too.  Fortunately, the white stuff hasn't shown up outdoors, yet.  

Paul

pmccool's picture
pmccool

Since receiving my copy of The Rye Baker, I've been baking and savoring its breads on a virtual basis.  It is a beautiful book with many intriguing breads to try; far more than I sampled during the test bakes.  Good as all that has been, the time has come to do some real baking.  Actually, the time came last weekend but I hadn't made the necessary preparations, so I ran out of weekend before getting to bake anything from the book.  Consequently, I made sure to have everything on hand and my schedule laid out so as to get serious about baking this weekend.

For my first bread from the book, I chose the GOST Borodinsky bread.  Before leaving for work Friday morning, I set up the rye sour.  Since my normal starter is maintained with a combination of bread, whole wheat, and whole rye flours, I wanted to do at least one build with rye flour only to serve as the basis for the bread's sponge.  With kitchen temperatures in at an un-Octoberish 70-75F, the sour was fully developed by the time I returned home that evening.

The sponge requires rye meal, water, and rye sour.  The ingredients were mixed as required, covered with plastic, and left to ferment overnight.

This bread also calls for a scald consisting of rye meal, red rye malt, ground coriander, and boiling water.  The first step was to toast the rye malt in a dry skillet from its diastatic state to the red, nondiastatic state.  Once it cooled, it was run through a coffee grinder that I keep on hand for grinding small quantities of materials and ground to a powder.  The coriander seeds were ground to a powder in the same mill, including the portion required later in the final dough.  LIke the sponge, the scald is covered and left to sit overnight.

The next morning, it was apparent that a small amount of the sponge had escaped its confines.  The rest had fallen back, leaving a sudsy froth trapped between the surface of the sponge and the plastic wrap.  I can't say that I've seen anything quite like that previously but there was no doubt that the sponge was ready to do some heavy lifting.

The sponge and the scald were combined in a pre-dough, whch was allowed to rest until doubled in volume.  This took just under an hour with kitchen temperatures in the mid-70s.

The final dough consists of the sponge/scald combination, bread flour, medium rye flour, molasses, salt, and ground coriander.  Once mixed, this was kneaded about 9 minutes with the KitchenAid mixer's spiral dough hook.  The bowl was then covered until the dough had approximately doubled in volume.  Upon removing the covering, the most delightful fragrance emanated from the dough.  There were the roasty, toasty notes from the malt, the dark sweetness of the molasses, and lemony/citrusy overtones from the coriander.  All this before it had baked!

The dough was carefully packed into a well-greased 9x4x4 inch Pullman pan.  Dough height in the pan was approximately an inch below the rim.  When I cam back to check on it about an hour later, it was nearly 1/4 inch above the rim; with small bubbles just beginning to burst at the surface.  I scurried to set up the oven and get it preheated.  By the time the oven reached the 550F baking temperature, the dough had risen to almost 1/2 an inch above the rim. 

After pouring boiling water in the steam pan a nd closing the oven, I wet my hands with tap water and gave the dough surface one last smoothing as carefully and gently as I could.  Crushed coriander seeds were scattered on top of the loaf and then it went into the oven.  From there, it was 10 minutes of watching the loaf for signs of deflation until taking the steam pan out of the oven and dropping the temperature to 350F.  By that point, it appeared that the loaf wasn't overproofed so I went back to my yard work while the bread baked for the next hour or so.  As directed, I depanned the loaf and put it back into the oven until the sides and bottom firmed up.  This is how it looks:

 

The top settled slightly as it cooled but has retained its domed cross section.  The crumb is about as open as you could ask for with a mostly-rye (81%) bread:

Since the crumb is still slightly gummy, I'll let it sit another day before cutting any more slices from it.  That's going to be hard to do, since we sampled the one slice.  Talk about a bread with complex flavors!  Everything I mentioned earlier about the dough fragrance is still there in the baked bread.  In addition, there's a firm but gentle sourness, combined with the earthy/spicy flavors inherent in the rye itself.  This is a spectacularly delicious bread!  I only hope that I can do so well whenever I make it next.

About the only deviation I took with the bread was to use white rye in place of the medium rye, since that was what I had on hand.  The Hodgson Mills rye flour I had in my pantry worked well as the recommended rye meal, since it has a fairly coarse texture.

The second bake from The Rye Baker was also this weekend.  We had dinner guests last evening and my wife prepared a pork roast as the meat for dinner, along with roasted white potatoes and sweet potatoes, and a salad.  After some discussion about the various merits of various rolls in the book, we settled on the rye biscuits.  These are quick and simple to make.  They have a mild, grainy flavor so the option of using various seeds is understandable.  However, since two of our guests were under the age of 10, mild seemed like a better option.  Since one of the girls ate two of the biscuits, that was apparently a good choice.  They make an excellent base for things like apple butter or pumpkin butter, too.  They are appealing to the eye, as well, with the pattern on the docking visible on their surface:

I'm not sure what my next bake might be but I'm leaning in the direction of one of the breads I baked when the recipes were being tested, just to see whether the published version was modified noticeably from the test version.  The Christmas Zelten will definitely make an appearance this year, even if I don't get around to making a stollen.

Paul

pmccool's picture
pmccool

Back in March, Stan (elagins) posted about a Lithuanian black rye bread that he had made.  It looked absolutely lovely and worthy of a bake.  However, my baking over the past three months has gone in other directions.  Worse, I've taken about as much bread out of my freezer as I have out of my oven.  It's a wonderful tool, the freezer, but baking is much more satisfying than thawing.

Originally, I intended to follow Stan's schedule for the bread but two things conspired against that plan.  First, I didn't think to refresh my starter Friday morning.  Second, temperatures in my kitchen were 77-78F, several degrees higher than the room temperature in Stan's write-up.

Plan B, then, was to set up the sponge and the scald on Saturday mornining, make up the opara Saturday evening and refrigerate it overnight, then allow it to warm up Sunday morning before making up the final dough.  That all sounded good until I realized that the warmer temperatures in my kitchen were effectively halving the fermentation times that Stan had noted. That led to Plan C.

Plan C was "Maybe this will move so fast that I can bake Saturday evening."  Plan C1 was "Man, I'm going to be up really late by the time this comes out of the oven. Maybe I should go back to Plan B."  Plan C2 was "I'm going to cheat a little and add a gram of ADY to the final dough."  As it happened, Plan C2 carried the day.

Another difference that I encountered with the final dough was that it behaved slightly differently than Stan's did.  Mine never did clear the sides of the mixer bowl.  It just formed a layer around the interior of the bowl as thick as the gap between the dough hook and the bowl wall.  The inner surface of that layer received a good massage from the dough hook but there was very little kneading going on unless I used the spatula to nudge the dough back towards the center of the bowl.  Why mine behaved differently than Stan's will be a matter of conjecture.  My guess is that the flour I used (Hodgson MIlls Whole Rye) behaved differently at that hydration level than the flour Stan used.  Two other potential differences are that I made enough dough for two loaves, rather than one, and my mixer has a 7-quart bowl.  A different size dough mass in a different (?) size bowl could have behaved differently, too.  In the end, it really didn't matter.  The dough, paste really, got enough mixing/kneading.   

Following directions, I dumped the dough onto a dry countertop, portioned and shaped it into two roughly equal-size loaves.  [Stan, we need to talk about the definition of "slightly sticky".  This is almost pure rye.  By just about any baker's experience, that translates to "really, really sticky".  'Nuff said.]  I chose to put the shaped loaves on a Silpat in a half-sheet baking pan instead of playing with parchment and peel and stone.  Because the evening was drawing on, I took the covered loaves to an upstairs bedroom that was even warmer than the kitchen.  At about the one-hour mark, they started showing some pinholes in the top surface even though there were no cracks yet evident.  I took that as the cue to preheat the oven.  While I think that was the right decision, I may have been able to get away with another 15 minutes of fermentation.  Maybe.  I just wasn't brave enough to find out.

This bread smells sublime while baking!  If someone could figure out how to bottle and sell that fragrance, they would be very, very rich.  The only thing better is the flavor of the bread.

As you can see, Stan's shaping beats mine:

The cracks occurred during baking, which is why I think the final fermentation might have safely gone a bit longer than I allowed.  The coloring isn't quite as dark as I expected, although some of that may be due to the pictures being taken in sunlight.

One picture of the crumb:

And another:

Before you get all excited about the big holes, the largest are less than 1/4 inch or 6mm across.  This is a dense bread with a tight crumb, which is perfectly fine for a 90% rye bread.

I mentioned the flavor.  It is extremely complex.  Due to the shortened fermentation times, this batch is undoubtedly less sour than if it had fermented longer in the temperature range mentioned by Stan.  That said, there is an underlying hint of sourness that provides structure for the rest of the flavors.  The sweetness of the malt and the honey really shine.  The natural spiciness of the rye takes a back seat but is still very much there; Stan mentioned licorice while I perceive allspice.  There are also hints of coffee and toasted almonds and a lot more that beggars my vocabulary for flavors.  This is seriously good bread.  There's an enormous range of foods that could be paired with it, from salty ham or sausage, to tangy marmalades, to mellow or sharp cheeses.  I think it would play nicely with witbier/weissbier, or a shandy, or a maibock, too.

This is definitely on the "to bake again" list, although I may wait for cooler temperatures to see how they change the flavor profile.

Thank you, Stan!

Paul

pmccool's picture
pmccool

Hey, it's a baking site; enough with the sniggering already.

So I had this post about half-written and managed to blow it away with an ill-placed click of the mouse.  Since I don't feel like recreating it, this will be the condensed version.

It's warm enough for grilling and smoking to begin in earnest.  That means buns are coming to the fore again.

Sunday's bake featured Kaiser rolls, built from the Medium Vienna dough from Inside the Jewish Bakery.  One small lapse of attention resulted in using too much diastatic wheat malt but the rolls came out wonderfully in spite of that.  If anything, the aroma and flavor benefitted from the malt and I dodged a bullet in that it did not cause gumminess in the crumb.  Shaping is a whole 'nother story.  Despite the illustrations and instructions in the book, not to mention a video on TFL of Norm klopping out some Kaiser rolls, mine look messy.  Ah, well, it was the first attempt.  The next one will be better.  The remarkable thing was how fast the dough fermented at every stage; during kneading, the bulk ferment, and the final ferment.  The malt is apparently a turbo booster for the yeast because my kitchen temperature was only 72F.

The brioche rolls were a derivative of a post on Flour Arrangements, which is itself an adaptation from The Joy of Cooking.  I opted to reduce the eggs in the dough from three to two and to reduce the butter from 3/4 cup to 1/2 cup, as well as using all bread flour.  Since I chose to make this by hand instead of using the mixer, the butter additions (I did four at 2 tablespoons each, rather than eight at 1 tablespoon each in the instructions) made for some interesting times as the dough came apart and then started absorbing the butter.  With each addition, the dough got more and more jiggly.  The gluten was developed well enough that it held its shape but the texture felt increasingly pillowy.

Here's a picture of the finished rolls:

The brioche buns benefit cosmetically from an egg wash and a steadier hand with such a basic shape.  The Kaiser rolls, well, did I mention that they taste really good?

I'm sure that there will be more of each as the summer rolls along.

Paul

pmccool's picture
pmccool

Although it was supposed to have been...

We've had some remodeling done in our basement recently and Valentine's day weekend was when we plunged headlong into the painting of the remodeled space.  (I know how to show a girl a good time, yes I do!)  The ceiling, which had had the popcorn texture scraped down, required a coat of primer and a coat of ceiling paint.  Because it is a basement space, there are a lot of boxed out areas in the ceiling for heat ducts, plumbing runs, etc.  So, lots and lots of cutting in to do before the actual production painting could begin.  The walls got a new color which, fortunately, only required a single coat to cover.  All of the trim got a new coat of enamel.  Oh, yeah, there was much spackling and caulking to do before any paint cans were opened.

So, in and around all of this activity, I decided to make some rye bread.  What could be easier than a sourdough that is essentially set it and forget it, right?  That leaves plenty of uninterrupted time for painting, with just a few breaks to tend to the bread.

Friday evening, I put together the sponge and the soaker.  As I was putting the flour away before heading back to the painting, I noticed the label on the canister said "Whole Wheat".  Uh-oh.  It hadn't even registered that I didn't have the rye flour while making the sponge and soaker.  That's no small oversight, since the color, texture, and aroma are all different than the whole wheat flour.  Maybe it was the paint fumes.  Maybe I was tired.  Maybe I was just too distracted to have paid the requisite attention.  No matter, the flour was the wrong type and, after much muttering, I decided to forge ahead by making the bread with the rye and whole wheat flours reversed.

Saturday morning came and I made up the final dough.  It rose more or less as predicted in my proofer (house temperature was about 68F, which would have slowed it considerably) for both the bulk and final fermentations.  Into the oven for the allotted time at the recommended temperature and then out when the internal temperature reached 205F.  And this is what I had:

The scoring's nothing to write home about but the color and aroma were very attractive.

Another view:

And a closer view of the crumb:

Oddly enough, the first thing I thought when I had a taste was "Rye!"  Even though the rye flour is a small component, it has an outsize effect on the flavor.  The soaker/scald also produced a heavier texture and moisture content that is very much in keeping with high-rye breads, even to the point of being just slightly gummy when sliced.  It might have benefitted from a slightly longer bake but it has been thoroughly enjoyable to eat as is.

If all blunders came out this well, no one would ever be afraid of making a mistake.  

Paul

pmccool's picture
pmccool

While in South Africa this past December, we had the chance to spend a few days in the Stellenbosch area; not far from Cape Town and in the middle of South Africa's winelands.  Stellenbosch is a picturesque town in its own right, replete with many examples of the Cape Dutch arhictectural style.  It is surrounded by vineyards and mountains and olive groves and lavender fields and is so beautiful as to make the flatlander tourist gape in wonder.  You could, for instance, have lunch or dinner at a vineyard's restaurant and enjoy scenery like this:

Or you might, as we did, happen upon a delightful place for lunch while strolling about town:

The Oude Bank, or Old Bank, building houses Schoon de Companje, a group of artisans who make products ranging from breads/pastries to coffees to ice cream to meat and produce and a few others.  It all began when Fritz Schoon started the Oude Bank Bakkerij in the Oude Bank building.  Mr. Schoon learned the baking craft at the Ile de Pain bakery in Knysna, South Africa.  Fritz runs the bread side of the bakery and his wife runs the pastry side.  Over time, the Schoons determined that they wanted to foster a community of artisans and found friends who wanted to be part of that community.  

My guess is that Schoon de Companje will probably continue to nurture additional artisans.  Mr. Schoon is already encouraging local farmers to produce the grains that he mills on site for his flour, including rye which is not commonly grown in South Africa.  He had previously purchased his flours from Eureka Mills, which I had blogged about here.

We, of course, were more interested in lunch than in history or provenance, so we made our way past the display of breads

to the cafe seating area which is housed between the retail area in front and the bakery in back:

The cafe features equal measures of rusticity and whimsy, finding expression in everything from the floor pattern to the tree reaching toward the skylight.

While waiting for our order to be filled, I looked around the bakery in the back:

 

The massive wood-fired oven, built from local stone, is visible in the first and last of these four photos of the bakery. Mr. Schoon, in the blue t-shirt and apron, is visible at the left in the second photo if this sequence.  Sadly, I did not get an opportunity to speak with him.

When lunch arrived in the form of two sandwiches, we were ready to enjoy it.  And enjoy we did!  The breads are hearty and full of grainy flavor.  The sour was present but not assertive.  The crust and crumb were each firm but not tough.  Mine, on the left, was made with the sourdough.  My wife's, on the right, featured the pain rustique.

We did manage to find room for an ice cream cone before we left.  Much of the "ice cream" one encounters in South Africa is the dairy (or not so dairy) equivalent of Wonder Bread.  Fanny Chanel's ice cream is the real thing and an absolute delight.  I'll have to admit that our pace back to the guest house was even more leisurely than our pre-lunch pace.  

If you find yourself in South Africa, visit Stellenbosch.  And if you find yourself in Stellenbosch, visit Schoon de Companje.  You'll be happy with both.

Paul

pmccool's picture
pmccool

Weekends, the times that I do most of my baking, have been rather full of late.  There have been seminars to attend, a class to teach, a grandson's out-of-state (for us, not him) cross country meet to attend and all of the other "normal" stuff that makes up life.  Still, I've found ways to weave in some baking with the other things going on.  Posting here on TFL has taken a bit of a back seat to the other activities, though.

The class three weeks ago was titled Harvest Breads.  In assembling the day's curriculum, I wanted something that would speak to the bounty of the season.  After some thinking and experimenting, the breads presented that day included a multigrain pain au levain and a golden wheat bread.  These choices also gave the opportunity for the students to work with a sourdough bread and a yeasted bread.  Each student also received some starter to take home with them.  Because these recipes were developed specifically for the class at the Culinary Center, I won't post them in full but will provide a general outline for those of you who want to put your own twist on the concept.

The multigrain pain au levain is primarily bread flour with small percentages of whole wheat and whole rye flours, very much like a pain de compagne.  The bread also includes a hot soaker.  For ease of preparation, and to make things as accessible as possible for the students, I used Bob's Red Mill 7 Grain hot cereal mix for the soaker.  One could obviously make their own custom blend of grains or seeds to fit their particular tastes.  The bread was baked as batards, simply because I find the shape more conducive to fitting in toasters or sandwiches.  If you like boules, there's no reason not to shape the loaves that way.  Baked at 460F for 30 minutes, with initial steam, the bread looks like this:

The flavor has lots of grainy notes and some of hazelnuts and caramel.  The crumb is quite moist but still firm, flecked with bits of the grains from the soaker.  I barely got to taste the bread in class and the loaf that I made at home (above) went to a friend (which netted a dozen cookies from her shop) so I have no crumb photo.

The golden part of the Golden Wheat bread is due to the inclusion of half a can of solid-pack pumpkin.  The bread itself is approximately 75% whole wheat, with the remainder being bread flour.  The bread also includes toasted pepitas for some additional crunch. There are beaucoup sweet pumpkin breads but I wanted to steer this in a savory direction.  Remembering that sage makes a good counterpoint to squash, I played around with various combinations until I hit on using rosemary and thyme as supporting players for the sage note.  The bread was baked in a pan as a sandwich loaf:

No crumb shot of this loaf, either.  The crumb was very even and rather close, instead of open.  It makes a great base for a turkey sandwich and my wife already has a request in for some of this for use in her Thanksgiving dressing, since the seasoning is tilted in that direction.  The pumpkin provides a subtle background flavor that balances the herbal notes, rather than announcing its presence with a megaphone.

I managed a mid-week bake of some bagels, using the New York Water Bagel recipe from ITJB, for a fundraiser at work.  Oddly enough, people preferred the fluffier doughnut-shaped rolls purchased from a local bagel shop, so I wound up bringing about half of them home, much to my wife's delight:

Since I hadn't gotten any of the multigrain pain au levain from the previous weekend for my own use, that was the choice for the next weekend's bake.  The only thing I did differently was to extend the baking time to 35 minutes, since the crust wasn't quite as dark as it could have been.  Here's how it looked with that extra 5 minutes bake time:

Oh, yeah, there was also the small matter of not turning the temperature down from the 500F preheat to the 460F bake temperature.  It looked a lot darker to the eye than it does in this photograph.  My wife's first comment was "That looks burnt."  I demurred, saying that it was merely boldly baked.  She wasn't entirely convinced.  After having eaten some, the next iteration might accidentally-on-purpose get that baked that way again.  The flavor from the darker crust was much richer than the "blonder" sibling of the week before.  And the crumb was still moist and cool, despite the longer, hotter bake.  This time there is a crumb shot:

There was a pleasingly random distribution of larger and smaller bubbles; none so big that my clothes were at risk of becoming a condiment landing zone.

A friend recently opened a coffee shop.  While she is presently serving muffins and scones, she'd like to be able have some lunch offerings, too.  The young fellow who is baking for her on site is dong a very good job with those products but does not have any experience with yeasted breads.  They have limited work space and a small convection oven, so there are some challenges to deal with.  Consequently, as we were batting ideas around for things like paninis and other sandwiches, I volunteered to work up some breads for their consideration this weekend.  

One idea was for focaccia.  It will require some additional tweaking to make it sandwich-ready but the current version could accompany a soup:

Another idea was for ciabattini.  Dee and her crew will play around with filling ideas and we can work out a preferred size/shape, depending on what they think will work best.  These are from a Ciril Hitz formula, scaled at 90g per roll:

A memory from our days in Birmingham, Alabama surfaced while working through possible breads for the shop.  The Club (yes, that's its name; emphasis on THE) in Birmingham is famous for its orange luncheon rolls.  No one, to my knowledge, serves anything like them in the KC area.  If Tee has something on her menu that is unique, that will give her a competitive advantage.  So, while making up the focaccia and the ciabattini yesterday, I also prepped a batch of orange rolls through the shaping stage, then retarded them overnight in the refrigerator so that they could be baked off fresh this morning.  Even though just slightly overbaked (there isn't supposed to be any browning) they were an immediate hit with the volunteer tasters at the shop today.  The orange glaze, no doubt, was a factor:

Now I need to get the recipes sent off to Tee and her crew so that they can do some experimenting of their own.

Paul

pmccool's picture
pmccool

We recently enjoyed a marvelous cruise from Vancouver (didn't get the opportunity to say hi to Floyd) up through the Inside Passage of Alaska.  We had port calls at Ketchikan, Juneau (emphasis on the 'eau', with 320 days of rain a year), and Skagway.  From there we sailed to Glacier Bay and spent a day marveling at the immensity and beauty of several glaciers.  Then it was on to our debarkation at Seward.  From Seward, we opted for the train excursion to Anchorage, then another train excursion to Denali, then a coach excursion to Fairbanks, and our flight home.  I will exercise massive self control and limit myself to one photo (of the more than 500 taken) that shows Denali on a clear day:

Since getting home, I've been futzing about with a couple of bread recipes, working the kinks out of them so that I can teach a class in September.  Trips and classes are nice events but work, and lunches, continue on.  In my case, that means bread for sandwiches.  

It's been a while since I've made a pain au levain, which remains one of my favorite breads.  This time I wanted something a bit grainier, so I went searching through the TFL archives, certain that someone would have posted something that fit the bill.  Sure enough, there was a post from Franko with just the type of bread I was looking for.  Even better, Franko included a link to the spreadsheet he had created for the bread which allowed me to scale it down for a single 750g loaf, just perfect for a chunky batard.

Having refreshed my lonesome starter, I set up the levain and the soaker on Friday night.  Knowing that I had some substantial yard work to do on Saturday, I was up early to mix the dough and let it autolyse while I fixed breakfast.  This marked my first departure from Franko's formula: I included the soaker as part of the autolyse rather than waiting to knead it in after the salt.  The Bob's Red Mill multigrain mix that I had was the texture of a coarse meal, so I wasn't concerned about larger flakes or other bits disappearing into the dough, rather than remaining identifiable.

After breakfast, I gave the dough a short knead to incorporate the salt, shaped it into a ball, placed it in the bowl, and covered it.  Then I headed out to deal with the crabgrass and dandelions and other weeds that seemed to have invaded while we were away.  After about 45 minutes, I came back in, washed thoroughly, then gave the dough its first stretch and fold.  Then it was back outdoors to continue the fray.  Forty-five minutes later, give or take a few minutes, back in again to wash up, then another stretch and fold.  Roughly 45 minutes later, I was back in to check on the dough.  Because of the warmth of my kitchen at this time of year, about 78F, the dough was moving along nicely and I judged it ready to shape.

At this point, Franko put the shaped dough in the refrigerator for a cold retard.  I elected to leave it out at room temperature so that I could bake it the same day.  And that was a good call because it made a delicious, if unorthodox, base for patty melt sandwiches just now.

The bake was exactly per Franko's timetable and temperatures.  I suppose it could have stayed in a little longer to put on some darker color but there's absolutely nothing wrong with it as is.  For once I caught the fermentation at just the right time, giving plenty of oven-spring while baking, a lovely ear, and a moderately open crumb.  

The loaf:

And the crumb:

The flavor, because of the shorter room-temperature final fermentation, is full bodied grain with only a hint of sourness.  The crust, which initially was quite hard, has softened to a very chewy texture.  The crumb is firm, moist, and cool, with a pleasing resistance when chewed.

Thank you, Franko, for sharing such a delightful bread.

The yard?  Well, the weeding is about half done.  I'll finish that next weekend when my quadriceps have stopped screaming at me.

Paul

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - pmccool's blog