The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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PMcCool

After a 3 week stretch with no baking, I finally caught up a bit this past weekend.  With the exception of some crescent rolls for Thanksgiving dinner from a recipe in Southern Living magazine, everything was from the Bread Bakers Apprentice.

My wife volunteered me to bring cinnamon rolls to a brunch with friends.  I decided to try Reinhart's formula from BBA and it was a big hit.  I made a double batch so that I could try both the cinnamon roll and the sticky bun variations.  Plus, we needed a bunch anyway.  The dough is fabulously rich and sweet.  The inclusion of the lemon zest adds both a fragrance and a flavor that are still identifiable in the finished baked goods.  Because it was for a Saturday brunch, I made the dough Friday evening, shaped it into rolls and put them in the refrigerator to retard overnight.  That gave me time to bake them in the morning and convey them, still warm, to the brunch. 

I did take a few liberties with the rolls.  Reinhart calls for spreading a cinnamon sugar mixture on the dough before rolling it up, using white sugar.  I replaced the white sugar with brown sugar for some additional flavor.  And, remembering a delightful twist from my college days, I scattered some chopped apple and chopped walnuts on the cinnamon rolls before rolling up the dough.  (That idea comes from the enormous cinnamon rolls that are still available from the Hilltop Restaurant in L'Anse, Michigan, just up the hill from Lake Superior.  They will even ship the rolls to buyers in the U.S. if you want to order them from their website at http://www.sweetroll.com/.  And no, I don't get any commission, just a bit of nostalgia.)  The other variation was to add some chopped pecans on top of the glaze for the sticky buns.

Here are the cinnamon rolls, after coming out of the refrigerator:

Unbaked cinnamon rolls

You can see that the dough is so soft (I didn't even need a rolling pin to spread it into a rectangle; just patted it out) that some of the rolls have partially collapsed, even though they were refrigerated.  If I have to use the overnight retard again, I think that I will allow them to rise to nearly full size before putting them into the refrigerator.  That way they will hold their shape better.  As it was, I had to nudge them back into shape as they completed rising at room temperature.

Finished, they looked like this:

Baked and glazed cinnamon rolls

The sticky buns looked like this after being taken from the refrigerator:

Unbaked sticky buns

As with the cinnamon rolls, I had to straighten these up as they rose.  You can see the layer of caramel topping in the bottom of the pan, with the bits of pecans.  Reinhart notes that any excess topping can be refrigerated.  Silly man!  We used it all!

After baking and inverting onto another pan to let all of that wonderful caramel coat them, the sticky buns looked like this:

Baked sticky buns

Oh, yeah, they are good!  One friend said that although the cinnamon rolls were the best she had ever had, the sticky buns were over the top.  My wife has already told me that these will be on the menu when everyone is home for Christmas.

It also occurred to me that my sourdough starter had been neglected recently, so I started feeding it on Friday morning.  After four feedings, one of rye, it was ready to go to work Saturday afternoon.  Since there was enough to fuel two batches of bread, I started with the New York Deli Rye from BBA.  When I made the deli rye previously, I used fennel seeds in place of the optional caraway seeds.  This time, I remembered just how well dill gets along with onion, so I added dill seed to the dough.  It may not be original, but it is absolutely delicious in this bread.  What a great foundation for sandwiches!  The dill seed, I think, will be a standard part of this recipe going forward.  Because of the yeast that Reinhart includes in this formula, I was able to complete this bread before going to bed Saturday evening.  Here are the finished loaves:

Sourdough NY Deli Rye

I'm not entirely certain what caused the lighter blotchiness on the top crust, unless maybe it was the spray oil on the plastic that I used to cover the loaves while they fermented.

After setting the deli rye dough to bulk ferment, I started a batch of the basic sourdough bread, also from BBA.  After bulk fermenting and shaping at room temperature, the loaves went into the refrigerator.  On Sunday, after getting home from church, I pulled the dough out of the refrigerator and allowed it to finish fermenting at room temperature.  Then I baked it on a stone, with steam, starting at 500F and then dropping to 450F after 10 minutes.  When the internal temperature reached 205F (love that instant read thermometer!), took them out of the oven.  At that point, they looked like this:

BBA Basic Sourdough

I still need to practice slashing, although one loaf came out better than the other.  They also formed small ears along the slashes.  I have no idea what the crumb looked like, since I gave them to friends.  Apparently the flavor was alright, since they reported that one loaf was half-eaten by the time they got back to their house.

It was a real treat to get that much baking in over the course of a few days, especially since a couple of recipes were new to me.  And it was a pleasure to find some new favorites.

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PMcCool

With bread in the freezer, there wasn't much reason for baking this weekend, so I contented myself with some sourdough English Muffins.  After all, the starter was due for another feeding, right?  Now that they are cooling on the rack, I suppose that I really do need to get to work in the basement. 

 

Baking is so much more fun!

 

PMcCool

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Variety is good.  Even with all of the different types of bread to try and to enjoy, sometimes it's nice to do something a little different.  So, when my wife asked if I would make some Rocky Road Fudge Bars, I was happy to oblige.  This recipe was a Pillsbury Bake-off winner some mumble-mumble years back.  I've been making ever since I was in college.  It starts with a brownie base:

The base is then topped with a cream cheese filling:

The pan is then put into a preheated oven.  At the end of the baking period, 2 cups of miniature marshmallows are scattered over the top of the bars and the pan is put back in the oven for 2 more minutes to soften the marshmallows.  It comes out looking like this:

A warm, fudgy frosting is then poured over the marshmallows.  After swirling the frosting and marshmallows together, it looks like this:

This is when things get difficult.  Unless you want to eat it with a spoon, you have to let the bars cool until everything is solid enough to cut into bars.  Best to just put it somewhere out of sight until it is cool so that you aren't seeing it every time you look toward the kitchen counter.  Oh, and cut the bars small.  One is enough to induce a sugar rush and two could push you in the direction of a diabetic coma, even if you aren't insulin-dependent.

You can find the recipe at the Pillsbury site, here: http://www.pillsbury.com/recipes/ShowRecipe.aspx?rid=10098

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It's been a long week already, and it's only Thursday! I actually did bake last weekend, but am only now getting around to posting about it.

Beatrice Ojakangas' book, Whole Grain Breads by Machine or Hand, has been languishing on my bookshelf for nearly a year and I finally got around to trying one of her recipes. Ms. Ojakangas hews mainly to straight yeasted breads and does not appear to have an interest in or experience with artisanal breads. That isn't a slam, just an observation, since I didn't happen to see any references to baking on a stone or using steam during baking. If the recipe I tried is any indication, her breads are definitely worth making.

I selected a buttermilk rye with fennel seeds. During a recent trip to the store, I had picked up some buttermilk with no particular recipe in mind, so I had some on hand. My wife does not enjoy caraway, but she does like fennel and it goes well with rye. So, when I happened across that recipe, it was an easy pick. Here are a couple of pictures of the finished loaves:

Buttermilk Fennel Rye

Buttermilk Fennel Rye

And another of the crumb:

Buttermilk Fennel Rye

As can be seen in the photos, I should probably have given it a little longer to rise, although it was already doubled in size. That may have reduced some of the splitting. It might also have helped to use some steam during the first few minutes. The recipe calls for baking the bread on a baking sheet but I baked it on a preheated stone, which probably contributed to a larger than expected oven spring. Whether in spite of, or because of, my tweaking, the bread is delightful to eat. The crumb, while close-textured, is not dense. The bread is moist and chewy and makes a great base for sandwiches. The fennel contributes a pleasing crunch, in addition to it's fragrance.

I'm looking forward to trying more recipes from this book.

PMcCool

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PMcCool

We're leaving town today to visit our youngest daughter and son-in-law for their birthdays.  One of the requests was "Could Dad bring some bread?"  So Dad got busy and baked some sourdough bread from the King Arthur cookbook.  I tweaked the recipe by substituting 2 cups of rye for some of the AP flour.  I also made a batch of sourdough english muffins as well.  Picture below:

Sourdough bread and muffins

Luckily, the TSA is allowing foods in carry-on luggage, so we don't have to worry things getting smashed or stolen in the checked luggage.

PMcCool

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In case you are thinking that there is no way that particular sequence of dots can be connected, stay with me. You may want to send for the nice men in the white coats when I'm done explaining, but until then, think of it as a case study in aberrant psychology.

It began, innocently enough, with Floyd's suggestion (challenge?) to submit some ideas for harvest breads. Some of the things that I have long associated with Autumn are the late-season vegetables like winter squash, pumpkins, and parsnips. Squash can add moisture and texture to breads, as well as a low-key sweetness. Combine that with something savory, like sage, and you have the flavor foundation for a knock-out loaf of bread. Ah, you begin to see where this is going . . .

As I was rummaging around on the internet to see if there was a recipe that I could adapt or just plain steal, I came across a couple of interesting possibilities. Here is one of them: http://www.recipelink.com/mf/0/58698. And here is another: http://www.cookadvice.com/recipes/winter_squash_herb_bread-54827-recipe.htm.

The thing that really grabbed my eye, though, was this recipe: http://www.stephencooks.com/2005/09/roasted_buttern.html. I hadn't been aware of the StephenCooks.com site previously, but I'll definitely be back to browse some more. Sorry, sidetracked again. Anyway, I had a new recipe to try, a fresh-from-the-farmers-market butternut squash on the counter, and a note with the recipe that suggested serving the carbonara with ciabatta. Hmm, ciabatta. That's been on my list of things to try for a while now. There was a stiff starter in the refrigerator that would serve well as the biga for the ciabatta recipe in BBA . . . (Are you paying attention to the dots?)

Saturday dawned, rife with possibilities. My wife was away all day, conducting a seminar. The grass was in need of mowing and there were bare patches to reseed, now that the weather has cooled. And bread to bake. Actually, there was enough starter, after doing 3 builds, to do two batches of bread. First things first: run to the lawn and garden center for 5 pounds of grass seed. Get home, prep the squash and put it in the oven to roast. Mix the ciabatta, set it to bulk ferment. It's definitely a sticky dough, but not nearly as wet as I expected from others' descriptions. First time to follow a recipe by weights instead of volumes.

Back outside to mow the yard. Pop back in to check on progress of ciabatta and do first stretch and fold. (Yes, I washed my hands first!) Took squash out of oven. Decided to make just a plain sourdough bread from BBA. After further looking, decided that one loaf would include walnuts and blue cheese, since my wife loves blue cheese. Mixed mixed and kneaded the dough for that and set it to ferment.

Back outdoors to rake and seed the front yard patches. Headed back in for second stretch and fold with ciabatta. Sourdough rising slowly but steadily. Decided to break for lunch. After lunch, devised couche from heavily floured dish towel and shaped ciabatta loaves per Reinhart's pictures in BBA. Wound up looking like this:

Before heading back out, I put the stone and a steam pan in the oven to preheat. Oh, and separated the squash flesh from the skin and innards now that it was cool enough to handle. Put it in the refrigerator for later.

Then I went back outdoors to rake and seed the patches in the back yard. Afterwards, back in to check on breads. Oven was ready, so gave the ciabatta a final stretch, per BBA instructions and popped them onto the stone, riding on some parchment paper. Filled the steam pan and winced to see some of the spatters landing on the oven window. Somehow escaped causing any damage. Shaped sourdough loaves and placed them in the now-vacant couche.

Went back outside to make sure the seed was properly covered and then started the sprinkler. Next, started putting up new hangers for tools in the garage (that's a follow-up from last weekend's project. Checked the ciabatta when it was close to time. Internal temp read at 202F, so whisked them out of the oven. Sourdough loaves were still rising, so shut off the oven.

My wife got home about this time, so after chatting about our respective days, I ran to the store for carbonara ingredients that weren't on hand at home. (Pancetta isn't part of my standard batterie de cuisine.)

On returning home, after reading the carbonara recipe again, decided that it might take a while to pull everything together, so started working on that. A couple of notes from that process: 1. The recipe calls for 2/3 of the herbs at one point, 2/3 of the herbs at second point, and the reserved herbs in yet a third step. I suspect that the amounts should have been 1/3, 1/3 and 1/3, respectively. 2. The recipe directs you to "sizzle" some of the sage leaves in butter and olive oil as a garnish. I managed to scorch them (literally too many things in the fire at that point), but wound up not missing them in the finished dish. They are a garnish, not an integral part of ingredients, so if you want to simplify by skipping this step, go for it. Fortunately, everything else came to gether successfully. 3. Although the recipe specifically calls for butternut squash, I don't see why other winter squash (buttercup, Hubbard, acorn, etc.) or pumpkin or even sweet potatoes couldn't be substituted.

In the middle of all of this, I noticed that the sourdough was about ready for the oven, so I started the preheat. Since it hadn't cooled completely yet, it got up to temperature fairly quickly. Eventually, the carbonara came together and the bread baked as it should.

The carbonara was fantastic and, yes, pinot grigio is a very good accompaniment. This recipe is definitely in the "keeper" category. It will probably also be a once or twice a year event, because of its complexity.

The ciabatta, however, is going to require some further practice. I don't know if it was the use of the stiff starter for the biga, a too-low hydration, my inexperience with and/or mishandling of this bread, or some combination of those elements, but it wasn't a thing of beauty. Like most sub-par bread experiences, it was, at least, delicious. The crumb was, well, bready. I was looking for an open and big-eyed crumb and wound up with a relatively close-textured, soft crumb. And the shape--well, I'll keep trying.

Here's a photo:

 

The two ciabatta are on the right. You might be able to make out part of the crumb of the nearer loaf. Sorry that the view isn't clearer. The front loaf on the left is the plain sourdough; the rear loaf on the left is walnut/blue cheese sourdough. I was braced for a strong cheese flavor in the walnut/blue cheese loaf, since I'm not especially fond of blue cheese, but was pleasantly surprised that the cheese flavor was subtly blended with the other flavors. I haven't cut into the plain loaf yet.

A long day, lots of work done, good bread and a fantastic dinner to wrap it up. Not bad at all. And, needless to say, Sunday was a quiet day. Thanks, Floyd, for triggering my pinball progression.

PMcCool

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It started simply enough.  I needed to make bread this weekend for sandwiches this week.  Since I hadn't gotten my starter out of the refrigerator and activated soon enough, it had to be a yeasted dough.  And there are so many formulas to try in BBA . . .

After taking stock of time requirements and ingredient availability, the winner was Reinhart's Multigrain Extraordinaire Bread, a successor to his Struan bread.  With a few modifications, as it turned out.  Cornmeal was on hand, although not the coarse polenta grind.  No wheat bran, but I figured that substituting 1 cup of whole wheat flour for the white flour ought to get me fairly close.  No brown rice, either.  However, there was some whole flax seed available, so why not crush some of that and put it in the soaker?  Perhaps most unusual, I actually had buttermilk in the refrigerator.  That doesn't happen often.

So, the soaker was constructed with crushed flaxseed in place of the missing wheat bran.  Note to self: next time try using the blender to chop or grind the flaxseed.  It has to be easier than using the mortar and pestle.  (I don't have a grain mill on hand.)  The following day I put together the rest of the dough pretty much per instructions, other than substituting in whole wheat flour for one of the 3 cups of bread flour and omitting the brown rice.  The dough was stickier than I anticipated and absorbed nearly a cup of flour during the recommended 12-minute kneading.  Toward the end of the kneading, the gluten was becoming very well developed.  Has anyone tried using an autolyse with this recipe?  It seems that it might cut down on the time required to knead the dough.

The dough was nearly doubled in about 60-70 minutes of bulk ferment and then shaped into loaves and put into pans for the second ferment. The baking instructions had about the widest latitude that I have seen for recommended baking time: 40 to 60 minutes for loaves in pans.  When checked at 45 minutes, the internal temperature was about 175F, so back into the oven for another 10 minutes.  At the second check, the internal temperature was between 185F and 190F.  They also had a nice hollow sound when thumped that was missing at the first check. 

Observations: 1) This bread is fairly forgiving of modifications.  Replacing 1/3 of the bread flour with whole wheat flour doesn't appear to have had an ill effects on texture or flavor; I should probably admit to enjoying whole-grain breads to all-white varieties.  2) The addition of the flaxseed lends a nice crunch in the finished bread.  3) This bread is sweet!  That isn't a complaint, although probably the brown sugar or the honey alone would be adequate for sweetening.  I think dropping the brown sugar entirely and adding a tablespoon of dark molasses in combination with the honey would make for an interesting flavor.  4) Even with all of that sugar and honey, the bread really didn't develop a dark crust.  Apparently the 350F temperature isn't high enough to drive a lot of caramelization on the crust.

All in all, a very pleasing outcome, especially in view of the liberties that I took with the ingredients.  And yes, today's sandwich at lunch time was delicious!

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This weekend's baking exercise focused on sourdough Enlish muffins, using the recipe from King Arthurs Flour.  The taste is wonderful!  Even my 4-year old grandson polished his off and he is at a stage where he is developing some very strong opinions about what flavors are or aren't acceptable. 

The crumb was moist, tender and fine-textured.  I had hoped for a more open texture with large, open cells.  A couple of observations: First, with 1 cup of starter (mine is approximately 100% hydration) and 1.5 cups of milk providing the moisture for 5.5 cups of flour, this isn't exactly a slack dough.  Would a wetter dough be more likely to produce a more open crumb?  Second, would the use of water, or a water/milk combination, be more likely to produce a more open crumb?  (The milk I used was 1% milkfat.)  Third, this dough gets a lot of handling, especially since it is rolled out before the muffins are cut.  Would portioning out balls of dough and then gently flattening them into rounds by hand be better for open crumb formation?  Any ideas or suggestions will be cheerfully accepted.

The notion of leaving the sponge overnight, even in a cool basement, when it contains that much milk had me somewhat concerned.  Thankfully, it did not develop an off flavor or odor from any milk spoilage, as I had feared it might.  Could it be that the sourdough starter prevents other not-so-welcome bacteria from getting a toehold?

One adjustment that I will make for future batches is to lower the amount of salt.  The recipe called for a tablespoon of salt, which made the flavor rather more salty than I enjoy.  I think that I will try cutting it in half the next time and see how that works.

I will need to focus on balancing the temperature and time on the griddle in future batches.  While I managed to avoid burning them, the griddle was probably at too low a temperature for the first group; it took a l-o-o-o-o-n-g time for the first side to brown.  So I turned up the heat a little and was surprised at how quickly the second side baked.  Practice, practice, practice!

This recipe makes a large number of muffins.  In this case, 16 muffins that are approximately 4 inches in diameter.  We'll be freezing some of these for use later.  And when they are gone, I'll be making more.

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My wife purchased a copy of BBA as a birthday present some weeks back and I finally got around to using a formula from the book; in this case, the New York Deli Rye sandwich loaf. It is a definite keeper. I have been admonished to put a big star next to that particular formula.

The bread is a wonderful base for a corned beef and swiss cheese sandwich, to start with. We'll keep experimenting and see what else works, too. The onions in the bread are a a delicious complement to other savory flavors, but somehow manage not to overwhelm the other components.

Since it was my first attempt for this formula, I made sure to follow the instructions closely. I opted out of the use of caraway seeds, since my wife does not enjoy that flavor. Next time I may try either dill or fennel seeds, since it seems either of those would make a good flavor complement.

The use of commercial yeast, brown sugar and buttermilk in the formula were a bit surprising. I think that the buttermilk (and the shortening) contributed to the finished bread's moistness. For the next attempt, I will probably skip the yeast. My starter seems to have plenty of boost, so the yeast really isn't necessary to ensure an adequate rise. I do need to follow some of JMonkey's recommendations for increasing the sourness of the starter. Mine is more mild than wild in the flavor department, even with having refrigerated the second build of the starter overnight. A longer, cooler rise with no commercial yeast would probably increase the sour flavor.

The other thing that I should have done was keep a closer eye on the dough during the final rise. When I came back in from some outdoor chores to check on it, it was almost 2 inches above the edge of the pan, instead of the recommended 1 inch! Warm day plus commercial yeast--who'd have thought it? Anyway, I got lucky in that there aren't tunnels and that the bread holds together instead of crumbling in the middle of the slice, like some other over-risen breads that I have made.

All things considered, this was a very satisfactory experiment with a new recipe. And it will definitely be back for an encore.

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The sourdough starter recipe provided by SourdoLady worked wonderfully. Having had some less than satisfying results with previous sourdough attempts, I was unsure of what to expect with this starter. Since first mixing it up a couple of weeks ago, it has been bubbling happily and smelling deliciously tangy. Since orange juice was on hand, I used that instead of pineapple juice. It sounded peculiar when I first read it, but I'm happy to report that it proved itself (pun intended) this weekend.

I took it out of the refrigerator Thursday morning and gave it three feedings at 12-hour intervals to make sure that it was sufficiently active. I wound up with enough on hand for two batches of bread, so went ahead with a sponge for a simple white loaf from King Arthur's 200th Anniversary cookbook and another for a whole-wheat loaf from Bernard Clayton's book before going to bed Friday.

After breakfast Saturday, I finished the dough for each bread and set them to rise on the countertop while I did other chores around the house. They took about 2 hours to double in size. I was careful to deflate them gently and then fold the dough before shaping. I decided to shape the white into 2 batards. After shaping, they went on a piece of parchment paper to rise while sitting on the peel. Happily, and probably because they didn't have an extremely high hydration, they didn't sprawl too much while rising. The whole wheat bread went into a bread pan, per instructions.

Since the whole wheat bread wound up rising slightly faster than the white, so it went into the oven first, having had the top slashed and brushed with water. I parked the pan on top of a baking stone to get as much oven spring as possible. However, with it being virtually 100% whole wheat and a relatively dry dough, it didn't grow much more. It started at 425F for the first 20 minutes, then finished at 350F for the last 35 minutes. Then out of the oven and onto the rack for cooling.

After bringing the oven back up to temp, it was time to put the white loaves in. They were also slashed and brushed with water immediately before going into the oven, with a pan of water on the bottom rack for steam. These loaves had great oven spring, probably because they were in direct contact with the stone and because their moisture content was higher. They even have ears at the edges of the slashes! That is a first in my baking experience. I wish I had a digital camera so I could show them off instead of just carrying on about them.

Both breads taste wonderful. The white bread was very fragrant, with a well-rounded tang. The crumb has a fairly open structure, though nothing as big as a ciabatta. The whole wheat bread, not surprisingly, has a rather dense crumb with uniformly distributed small cells. In addition to the sourdough tang, it also has some of the bitterness that is inherent to the red winter wheat. It could be off-putting to some, but it made a great base for a ham and cheese sandwich! I suspect that it will be good toasted, too.

So thanks again, SourdoLady. I'll be baking more sourdough now that I have a starter that tastes so good.

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